SUPREME Court Justices concurred on the order, stopping the 12-percent value added tax on tollways and the implementation of the 250-percent increase in toll rates at South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).

During its full-court session Tuesday, SC justices found no reason to disturb Chief Justice Renato Corona’s issuance of a temporary restraining order last Friday.

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Under the rules, the Chief Justice is authorized to issue a TRO on behalf of the entire High Court when it is not in session.

The toll increases, which were originally scheduled to be implemented on August 16, were temporarily shelved until after the SC resolved theses cases.

“As you know the TROs issued by the Court are valid until lifted. It does not lapse,” said lawyer Gleo Guerra, assistant chief of the SC Public Information Office.

VAT on tollways

In issuing the TRO, the SC had required respondents, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, (BIR) to comment on the petition filed by former Nueva Ecija Representative Renato Diaz and former Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Aurora Ma. Timbol.

Purisima and Henarez were given a 10 days upon receipt of the order to respond to the petition.

Court spokesman and administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the TROs were issued due to the “urgency of the matter,” considering that the VAT on toll and toll rate increase in SLEx was to be implemented last Monday.

Marquez, however, clarified that there is still a possibility that the TRO will be lifted after hearing the side of the government through the comments of Purisima and Henares.

“The court knows that taxes are the lifeblood of the government that’s why we are very careful on restraining taxes. But then again there are equally important arguments that we have to take into consideration,” he said.

The BIR earlier directed the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) to implement the VAT on toll rates starting August 16. It said the new tax measure will add P1 billion monthly to government coffers.

On SLEx

With regards to the SLEx toll hike, the SC also resolved to consolidate various petitions against the toll hike, including those filed by Albay Governor Joey Salceda and lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr.

In their petitions, Salceda and Francisco sought a restraining order directing TRB, South Luzon Tollway Corp. (SLTC), and Manila Toll Expressways Inc. to desist from enforcing the new increase in toll rates at the SLEx.

They also sought to nullify the Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement (STOA) for the rehabilitation, widening and expansion of SLEx.

Marquez said the SC is already deliberating on the petitions and it is expected to resolve it “within a month or two.”

The petitioners in this case have asked the SC to declare that toll rates are not included in the sale or exchange of services under the Comprehensive Tax Reform Act of 1997 and whether it is covered by the Expanded VAT Law.

They also want the High Court to declare that VAT cannot be imposed on toll fees without the approval of Congress, pointing out that the BIR’s act was an “invasion of legislative powers.” (JCV/Sunnex)