THE Supreme Court (SC) issued a status quo ante order, effectively stopping the implementation of the controversial Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) program by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and Land Transportation Office (LTO).

Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said at a press conference that the status quo ante order would restore the prevailing situation prior to the RFID’s implementation, which started last January 4.

For updates from around the country, follow Sun.Star on Twitter

Marquez said the court directed the respondents DOTC and LTO, and private contractor Stradcom Corp. to comment within 10 days on the petition filed by militant groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).

He said the SC issued the order after finding merit in the arguments presented in the petition that petitioners would suffer irreparable injury should the program would be implemented.

The high court likewise noted the intervention of various other transport groups led by Fejodap supporting the enforcement of the RFID.

Under the RFID project, all vehicles would be required to install stickers containing a microchip that stores vehicle information. For a one-time fee of P350, the LTO plans to install the RFID tags on some 4,760,593 vehicles, which is expected to raise P1.6 billion in revenues.

The RFID tag that is intended to last for 10 years will be procured from Stradcom.

Marquez however said it is up to the LTO whether or not to reimburse motorists who have already paid for the installation of the RFID stickers.

He said vehicles owners can seek reimbursements since the Court’s order is to restore the situation prior to its implementation. “Bahala na ang LTO on the reimbursement (but) there is no order for LTO to reimburse the motorists because the issue on the merit of the case is still pending.”

Petitioners also asked the Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining DOTC and LTO officials from enforcing the program for being contrary to the provisions of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act requiring all government procurements to be done through competitive public bidding.

According to petitioners, the RFID program should also be scrapped for putting unnecessary burden on motorists.

In their opposition to the petition, Fejodap and other transport groups through their lawyer Donald Diaz claimed that their daily income will greatly increase with the implementation of the RFID tag program as it will immediately diminish colorum operations.

With the RFID Tag program, the interveners said RFID reader will be able to detect colorum vehicles even if it is moving at the speed of over 100 kilometers per hour and is situated so many meters away.

Contrary to claims by critics, the interveners said the RFID program is beneficial to them as it will also simplify and speed up the registration process.

The transport groups also said the implementation of RFID program will promote clear air as vehicle owners will be obliged to bring their vehicles for smoke emission testing as the subject’s vehicle has to be read by the hand-held reader operated by the smoke-emission tester, for proper motor vehicle identification. (JCV/Sunnex)