SC asked to junk PISTON-led petition vs PUVMP

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
SC asked to junk PISTON-led petition vs PUVMP
This photo shows the facade of the Supreme Court in Padre Faura St. in Manila.
Philstar.com / Erwin Cagadas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and its attached agency, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petition of the PISTON-led transport groups assailing the implementation of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

In a comment on the December 19 petition of the transport groups submitted to the high court on January 5, the DOTr said that the petitions should be dismissed due to the lack of merit. They cited that the assailed department order and memorandum circulars do not violate due process, equal protection and the right against unreasonable seizures. 

"Wherefore, premises considered, it is respectfully prayed that the petition for certiorari and prohibition with urgent application for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction dated 19 December 2023 be denied for lack of merit," the transport regulators' comment read.

An order to comment is part of the SC's procedures in handling cases or petitions.

The comment was also submitted through the Office of the Solicitor General.

PISTON-led transport groups first filed a petition before the SC on December 20, which assailed the constitutionality of the PUVMP as it violated certain constitutional rights. The transport groups also asked for a temporary restraining order on the PUV consolidation deadline. 

The high court, however, did not issue a TRO to halt the implementation of the PUV consolidation and the PUVMP, which prompted the transport groups to file another petition on December 28.

The DOTr and the LTFRB argued that they have the legislative mandate to issue the following circulars concerning the PUVMP as the agencies' mandate involves regulation of the country's public transportation.

"Specific to petitioners' claim on the alleged lack of authority of respondents to issue D.O. No. 2017-011 and LTFRB Issuances, E.O. No. 125, Ε.Ο. No. 202, the Administrative Code, and R.A. No. 11659, which all modified CA No. 146, clearly grant respondents the authority and power to establish and prescribe the corresponding rules and regulations to enforce laws governing public transportation," the comment read. 

The transport regulators also said that the petition should be outright dismissed, citing procedural grounds. They alleged that transport groups did not follow the hierarchy of courts and did not satisfy the requirements of judicial review.

"It is a settled rule that petitioners are not granted unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefore will be directed, and the immediate and direct recourse to this Honorable Court is frowned upon, following the doctrine of hierarchy of courts," the comment read. 

DOTr and LTFRB also justified in their petition why the country needs to modernize its transport sector, especially the jeepneys.

The government agencies cited the existence of more than 43,000 jeepney franchises and over 830 bus franchises, operating in more than 900 routes, in Metro Manila alone.

The transport industry is also said to contribute to 34% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, with jeepneys accounting for 40% of all vehicle trips, according to the transport regulators' comment.

"Consequently, the government launched the PUVM program designed to improve and consolidate the local public land transport service towards a restructured, modern, well-managed, and environmentally-sustainable transport sector," the comment read.

PISTON and Manibela held a protest against the PUVMP on Tuesday. The transport groups were supposed to march to the Mendiola Peace Arc in Manila, but were blocked by the Philippine National Police at the border of Quezon City and Manila in Welcome Rotonda.

The PNP, however, denied the reports that they blocked protesters bound for caravan. 

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