Transport agency urged to follow court order-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Thursday, October 11, 2012
EXORBITANT and extortive.
This was the stand of militant transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston)-Cordillera on the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Order 2008-39 on increased fines and penalties for various traffic violations.
Piston-Cordillera chief Carlito Wayas led more than 50 organization members in storming the DOTC regional office along Session Road on Tuesday, calling for the implementation of the court order of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 5 Judge Antonio Esteves declaring the department order imposing higher fines as null and void for being unconstitutional.
Piston members claimed the excessive fines are an added burden to drivers also affected by surging prices of fuel and spare parts.
Wayas said the excessive fines for traffic violations cannot be justified as it has been drafted to add additional revenues to the government, which the group averred is not a function of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and DOTC.
Piston also conducted several rallies nationwide to denounce what they claim as DOTC’s wanton disregard of the court order issued by Esteves last May 2, and affirmed in the denial of the agency’s motion for reconsideration last month.
Department Order 2008-39, which imposes a 400 to 4,000 percent increase in penalty and fines on jeepney drivers for various traffic violations, was declared by Esteves as unconstitutional.
In a five-page decision penned by Esteves, he ruled “that at first glance, the order appears to be in the stature of a valid exercise of police power BY the LTO but a careful perusal and reading reveals otherwise.”
“Clearly, LTO Department Order 2008-39 was neither promulgated to be a disciplinary, nor punitive or preventive measure in the exercise of police powers by the LTO, but rather aimed to generate funds for the government coffers,” he said.
Esteves said the order “is an exercise of the power of taxation, one that is beyond the power of the respondent government agencies.”
Last September 10, the local court maintained its earlier decision with the denial of the DOTC’s motion for reconsideration.
The court found merit upon reading the order’s intent which is a product of Executive Order 218 issued by former President Joseph Estrada where revenue collection was emphasized in the revision of fees and charges.
Esteves added that, “the power of taxation is vested under the legislative branch under the Constitution, a power the executive branch cannot arrogate unto itself.”
The RTC decision stemmed from a Special Civil Action case filed by the Maria Basa Express Jeepney Operators and Drivers’ Association against the LTO after three of its members were apprehended by an LTO flying squad for alleged “out of line” and “deviation” violations.
However, in an earlier press conference, the DOTC, through its legal officer Brenda Poklay, maintained it is still to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals through the Office of the Solicitor General who will act as the government agency’s legal counsel.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 12, 2012.