A lawyer has filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) challenging the constitutionality of the “No Contact Apprehension Program” (NCAP) of the City of Manila.
Atty. Juman B. Paa, the petitioner, said that on June 29, 2022 he went to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to register his vehicle. However, he was informed by the LTO that his vehicle cannot be registered because of unpaid fines for four traffic violations he allegedly committed in 2021 which were captured through the NCAP of the City of Manila.
The violations include “Obstruction of the Pedestrian Lane,” which he allegedly committed in four separate occasions on Orosa (P-Burgos Northbound) and the fines he was made to pay totaled P13,000, but due to penalties, the amount ballooned to P20,2360.
The lawyer said the penalty imposed is P7,320.00 which is equivalent to approximately 56% of the fine imposed or roughly, 4.6% penalty interest per month.
Paa said he has not received any Notice of Violation with respect to these traffic incidents. Paa said in fact, it appeared that the said notices were sent to an incorrect address. But despite the apparent error, Paa said he was still made to pay the fines and penalties.
One of the grounds of Paa’s petition includes Violation of Due Process, because he was not given the proper notice. He also questioned the exorbitant amount of the fine for his alleged traffic violations.
The lawyer also said there is an apparent Violation of Privacy Rights because the NCAP website will readily show the violations committed by motorists just by searching the database using the vehicle plate number. In Congress, Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo earlier filed a resolution calling on three House committees to jointly investigate the NCAP implemented by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
The SC also earlier granted a petition from four transport groups to suspend the program, which uses video surveillance and digital cameras to capture and penalize traffic violations.
“Our sense is, in their haste to deploy the NCAP to build revenue from traffic fines, cities are haphazardly rolling out the technology at the expense of motorists,” Rillo, vice-chairperson of the House committee on Metro Manila development, said in a statement.
“We are also worried that motorists may be wrongfully burdened – not by the cost of violating traffic laws, rules and regulations – but by the cost of the technologies used in the NCAP,” Rillo said.
In House Resolution 237, Rillo cited the need to safeguard the rights and welfare of motorists against potential abuses in the NCAP’s implementation, including the risk that they may be subjected to excessive and unreasonable fines and penalties.
Rillo said he expects the House inquiry to proceed even if the Supreme Court issues an injunction against the NCAP.
The other two committees that will take part in the investigation are the transportation and local government panels.
Four transport groups, in a petition, earlier asked the Supreme Court to restrain and declare as unconstitutional the policy that employs video surveillance and digital cameras to capture and penalize traffic violations.
“The House inquiry will identify and resolve all the issues surrounding the NCAP,” Rillo said.
Rillo’s resolution also pressed for the NCAP’s temporary suspension amid widespread complaints from motorists.
The MMDA and the cities of Manila, Muntinlupa, Paranaque, Quezon City and Valenzuela operate the NCAP.
San Juan City has also signed an agreement to run the NCAP starting this month.
The transport groups did not get immediate relief from the Supreme Court after the 15-member bench held in abeyance its resolution of their plea to issue a temporary restraining order on the NCAP.
SC Public Information Office head Brian Keith Hosaka confirmed the petition of four transport groups — Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon Inc. (KAPIT), Pangkalahatang Sanggunianng Manila and Suburbs Drivers Association Nationwide (Pasang-Masda), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), and Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO) – was tackled by the justices during their regular en banc session on Tuesday.
But the 15-member bench did not immediately act on the plea for a TRO, but instead resolved to give the respondents an opportunity to comment on the petition.
“The Court has required the respondents to file their respective comments to the said petition and application for TRO within a non-extendible period of 10 days from receipt of the written notice from the Court,” Hosaka said.
In its petition, the various transport groups assailed the legality of the implementation of NCAP considering that it has no basis either in the Republic Act 7924 that serves as the enabling charter of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the RA 4136, which created the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
The MMDA, LTO, the City of Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela City, Paranaque City and Muntinlupa City were named respondents.
The petitioners argued that the MMDA, which is composed of the 17 Metro Manila mayors, has no legal authority to come up with a resolution adopting the implementation of NCAP.
They said that at the time the resolution was passed, there was no valid law or ordinance adopted by local city councils allowing MMDA to expand traffic rules and regulations.
The petitioners added that the ordinances of the LGUs allowing NCAP are invalid since there are no existing laws passed by the Congress that allows the implementation of such regulation.
R.A. 4136, according to the petitioners, allows only face-to-face apprehension of traffic violators and that traffic violations are the liability of the erring drivers and not the registered owners.
Transport groups are also complaining against the unreasonable provisions of the NCAP that include non-renewal of the vehicle registration until such time that the fines are settled and for including innocent third persons liable for traffic violations.
Despite the widespread criticism of the program, an MMDA official pushed for the nationwide implementation of a no-contact apprehension policy.
MMDA Task Force Special Operations chief Bong Nebrija said at a public briefing that a nationwide implementation would mean cities would have a uniform policy.