“(LTO chief Teofilo Guadiz III) has also called on the mayors to sit down with the agency and the MMDA to come up with a standard set of guidelines favorable to their cities, motorists, and agencies implementing the policy”
We discussed in this space last month our concern over what appears to be a hastily implemented traffic discipline program through the No Contact Apprehension Policy (NCAP) now implemented by five local government units (LGUs) and by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
What the NCAP does, for those unfamiliar with it, is to utilize closed-circuit television systems (CCTVs) and state-of-the-art digital cameras to catch motorists committing traffic violations, who are then sent via mail a notice of violation and required to pay P2,000 for the first violation and higher fines for subsequent ones.
The MMDA and LGUs are saying the scheme seeks to instill discipline among motorists and compel them to strictly observe traffic rules. Besides, as it eliminates direct contact between traffic enforcers and motorists, it can also prevent bribery.
While the NCAP has a grievance mechanism that allows motorists to contest the mailed notice of traffic violation via an adjudication system, this involves the inconvenience of personally going to the Traffic Management Office of LGUs or the MMDA and waiting in line to be able to talk to them or to file a counter-affidavit.
It’s not surprising therefore that there is now a growing clamor from various quarters for its suspension.
Three transport groups–the Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon Inc., Pasang Masda, Alliance of Concerted Transport Organizations, and Altodap – have filed a 47-page petition before the Supreme Court asking it to declare the NCAP as unconstitutional.
The transport groups argued that motorists were “under constant threat of being arbitrarily apprehended remotely and issued notices of violation for alleged traffic offenses committed without any contact whatsoever.”
Lawyer Juman Paa, who was reportedly fined P20,360 for traffic violations in Manila, has filed before the Supreme Court a petition, the second the high court received thus far, to stop the NCAP.
He wants the SC to declare as unconstitutional Manila City Ordinance 8676 series of 2020 and, while the case is still pending, for the SC to issue a restraining order against NCAP.
His violation was Obstruction of the Pedestrian Lane on four instances from May to July 2021. He said he did not receive any Notice of Violation despite claims of the Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau (MTPB).
He argued that since there was a failure to provide him with notice of violation, he should not have been subjected to excessive fines and penalties. He said the scheme violates a person’s right to due process and is “unfair and oppressive” because it penalizes the owner of the vehicle and not the driver.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda has also weighed in on this issue and described the scheme as “oppressive.”
Land Transportation Office chief Teofilo Guadiz III also wants the NCAP suspended in the meantime.
He has also called on the mayors to sit down with the agency and the MMDA to come up with a standard set of guidelines favorable to their cities, motorists, and agencies implementing the policy.
“Once well-defined guidelines are drafted, this can perhaps be emulated by other cities who may want to implement their own NCAP,” he said.
Even the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board have asked the MMDA to suspend the NCAP for public utility vehicles.
The two agencies said this ensures that PUVs will be able to accommodate passengers amid the expected surge both in traffic volume and passengers in Metro Manila due to the start of face-to-face classes.
The mayors of Parañaque, Valenzuela, Quezon City, Manila and Muntinlupa where the NCAP is being implemented are adamant in their stand that the scheme is working and has helped them improve traffic conditions and reduce corruption among enforcers.
Valenzuela Mayor Wes Gatchalian has said that without a court order, they fully intended to continue the program while also studying how to craft uniform guidelines to improve its implementation.
But we’ve heard enough horror stories regarding NCAP implementation. Take the case of a taxi operator who complained on TV news that she has been slapped with fines reaching P1 million for supposed traffic violations of her taxi drivers.
Another complained that he was slapped with a P2,000 fine after his car’s front wheels managed to touch the white painted lines of a pedestrian crossing in an intersection, after he stopped to give way to an emergency vehicle.
The list of violations under NCAP is very broad. It includes beating the red light; occupying pedestrian crossings, yellow boxes in intersections and bike lanes; and disregarding traffic signs and road markings, among others.
That gives traffic enforcers watching CCTV screens with eagle eyes carte blanche authority to rack up millions of pesos in fines for both real – as well as imagined – traffic violations.
The NCAP is a traffic trap that amounts to institutional extortion. It should be declared unconstitutional by the High Tribunal. (Email: email@example.com)