The Supreme Court has denied a petition filed by an anti-corruption group seeking to stop the Land Transportation Office from pursuing its P836-million deal with a driver’s license manufacturer for allegedly being disadvantageous to the government.
In a 26-page decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the SC’s Second Division ruled that petitioner Anti-Trapo Movement (ATM) has no legal standing to question the legality of the deal between the LTO and NEXTIX, Dermalog Identification Systems, and CFP Strategic Transaction Advisors Joint Venture (Dermalog) for the procurement of more than eight million plastic license cards with a five-year validity for 2017.
“The Court will only exercise the power of judicial review if the action is brought by “a party who has legal standing to raise the constitutional or legal question’,” the SC held.
The high court stressed that legal standing pertains to “a personal and substantial interest in the case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result of the governmental act that is being challenged.”
The SC rejected the ATM’s assertion that its petition raised issues of “transcendental public importance,” which is one of the exceptions to the rule on legal standing.
The ATM claimed that it filed the petition to protect the government from an anomalous contract, which is “manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the Filipino people.”
The petitioner also claimed that the LTO gravely abused its direction when it awarded the contract to Dermalog after the lowest bidder Banner Plasticard, Inc. was disqualified for being non-responsive to the bid requirements.
It noted that the LTO failed to resolve Banner’s request for reconsideration before awarding the contract to Dermalog.
The petitioner also argued that the cost of a single driver’s license card is P89.71 under Banner’s bid, while the cost under Dermalog’s bid is P99.16, which is higher by 10.53 percent.
Since 8.36 million driver’s license cards are required to be produced, the difference between the two costs would amount to P79,668,053.55, the ATM said.
According to the ATM, this overpricing would have to be shouldered by the Filipino drivers.
But the SC ruled that a petitioner’s claim of transcendental importance must be backed by proper allegations as its plain invocation does not suffice for the Court to set aside procedural technicalities.
“While a substantial amount of public funds was involved in the procurement of driver’s license cards, petitioner fell short of establishing that respondent blatantly disregarded relevant constitutional and statutory prohibitions in awarding the contract to Dermalog,” the SC stressed.
The submission by Banner of the lowest calculated bid, according to the SC, does not automatically warrant an award of the contract in its favor, considering that it was found to be no-compliant during the mandatory post qualification.
The Court also noted that the petitioner erred in filing a petition for prohibition, seeking to enjoin LTO from proceeding with the contract with Dermalog.
“Even before the petition was filed before this Court, a notice to proceed has already been issued in favor of Dermalog directing it to proceed with the project within seven days upon issuance of the receipt of notice.
“Injunctive remedies do not lie against ‘acts already accomplished’,” the SC said.
Even if the procedural defects of the petition would be ignored, the Court said it should still be dismissed as the LTO did not commit grave abuse of discretion in awarding the contract to Dermalog.
The Court noted that Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Act) or its Implementing Rules does not prohibit the procuring entity from granting the award unless it acted upon the report submitted by observers. ATM served as an observer from a nongovernmental organization during the bidding process.
“Finally, we note that petitioner attached newspaper columns insinuating purported anomalies that attended the procurement of driver’s license cards. These, however, do not prove petitioner’s allegations. Newspaper articles are hearsay. Not only are they inadmissible as evidence, but they also lack probative value except if offered for a reason other than establishing the truth of the matter stated,” the SC emphasized.