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Monday, February 26, 2024

SC sides with LTO on card project

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The Supreme Court has ruled that the Land Transportation Office (LTO)’s use of the P341.7 million left in its 2016 budget to augment the P528.7 million appropriated in 2017 for the driver’s license card (DLC) project was constitutional.

In an en banc decision written by Justice Rodil V. Zalameda, the Court dismissed the petition filed by then party-list Rep. Aniceto D. Bertiz III assailed the legality of the agency’s use of the balance of its 2016 budget for the driver’s license card project.

Bertiz asked the Court to declare the move unconstitutional and asked it to stop the driver’s license card project.

The lawmaker also claimed that the LTO’s bids and awards committee (BAC) conducted a “rigged and manipulated” bidding, which resulted in the award of the contract to Dermalog (Dermalog, CFP and Nextix, Inc. joint venture).

“The use of the Land Transportation Office of the amount appropriated under ‘Issuance of driver’s license and permits’ in the General Appropriations Act of 2016 to supplement the amount appropriated under ‘Issuance of driver’s license and permits’ in the General Appropriations Act of 2017 is not unconstitutional,” the Court said.

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However, it clarified that the “ruling in the present case will not include a determination of the propriety of the bidding process conducted by the LTO as well as the subsequent award of the contract to Dermalog… as the resolution of such issues necessarily involves settling questions of fact. This Court is not a trier of facts….”

In dismissing the petition, the Court said that Bertiz’s assertion “is belied by the text of the law itself.”

Section 65 of the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA) “explicitly authorized and prescribed the limits on the use of appropriations in 2016 for 2017,” the Court said.

It pointed out that Section 65 states that appropriations authorized for maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlays shall be available for release and obligation for the purpose specified… “for a period extending to one fiscal year after the end of the year in which such items were appropriated.”

The Court said the provision in Section 65 “is an example of ‘existing or continuing appropriations’ or ‘appropriations which have been previously enacted by Congress and which continue to remain valid as an appropriation authority for the expenditure of public funds.’”

“The LTO therefore was acting well within the bounds of law when it supplemented the appropriation for its 2017 DLC Project with the balance of its 2016 appropriation for the same purpose,” the Court said.

In December 2015, the 2016 GAA under Republic Act No. 10717 budgeted P587.49 million for the 2016 DLC project.

Eventually, the LTO spent P187.08 million in the procurement of 3 million driver’s license cards through a direct contract with AllCard Plastics Philippines, Inc. There was a balance of P341.7 million from the 2016 budget for the project.

In December 2016, the government budgeted P573.4 million for the DLC project under the GAA for 2017.

For 2017, the LTO’s BAC pegged the approved budget for the contract (ABC) at P836 million. In 2017, after bidding, the contract for the DLC project was awarded to Dermalog. This prompted Bertiz to file a petition before the Court, which ruled against it.

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