CA Upholds LTFRB Order On GPS Installation In Public Buses

The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the memorandum issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) which orders all public utility buses in the country to install Global Positioning System (GPS) to ensure road safety.

In a five-page resolution dated June 21 penned by Associate Justice Rafael Antonio Santos and concurred by Associate Justices Ramon Bato Jr. and Apolinario Bruselas, Jr., the CA Special Twelfth Division denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Nagkakaisang Samahan ng mga Nangangasiwa ng Panlalawigang Bus sa Pilipinas (formerly Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines) assailing the LTFRB order.

The CA found no merit in the arguments filed by the transport group which sought to set aside its earlier ruling.

On Feb. 27, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) declaring as constitutional LTFRB’s Memorandum Circular Nos. 2015-021 and 2015-026 issued on June 26, 2015 and November 16, 2015, respectively.

The CA held that contrary to the claim of the petitioner that the project is arbitrary, the GPS project is actually based on a “well-thought out and carefully deliberated plan” by the LTFRB.

“After a careful scrutiny of the arguments raised in the instant motion, this Court finds that the same must be denied for lack of merit. The instant motion does not raise new and substantial issues that would warrant the reversal of this Court’s decision dated February 27, 2018,” read the CA resolution.

In denying the petitioner’s MR, the CA did not give credence to the group’s contention that an administrative issuance cannot amend an act of Congress.

The CA maintained that the power and authority of LTFRB to issue memorandum circulars is clearly provided under the Administrative Code of 1987.

“The installation of a GPS device in public utility buses is in furtherance of the respondent-appellee LTFRB mandate to ‘formulate…rules and regulations requiring operators of any public land transportation service to equip, install and provide in their utilities and in their stations such devices, equipment, facilities and operating procedures and techniques as may promote safety, protection. Comfort and convenience to persons and property in their charges as well as the safety of persons and property within their areas of operation’,” the CA said.

The CA noted that requiring operators to install GPS device in their units is within LTFRB’s power and functions to prescribe the appropriate terms and conditions for the grant of franchises to PUV operators.

“Clearly, in ascertaining the legal, financial and technical capacity of operators to perform the service may impose requirements before granting franchises to public utility vehicle operators,” the CA explained.

On the imposition of penalties, the appellate court said the Department of Transportation, through the LTFRB, is also vested with the power under the Administrative Code of 1987 to “establish and prescribe the corresponding rules and regulations for enforcement of laws governing land transportation, air transportation and postal services, including the penalties for violations thereof.”

It also noted that the contrary to the claim of the petitioner, the memorandum circulars issued by the LTFRB did not amend Republic Act 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code or any other existing laws.

Likewise, the CA did not give weight to the group’s contention that the subject circulars are not fair and reasonable because they penalized only the operators and not the drivers of the public utility buses.

The CA added that the penalty being imposed is for the non-installation of the GPS device which is clearly the responsibility of operators.

“The penalties for over speeding or erring drivers, which is a different matter and not the subject of the questioned memorandum circulars, are governed by another laws, rules and regulations,” the CA clarified.

The LTFRB said the overall objective of the GPS Project is to promote road safety and improve land transportation services.

It aims to lessen road accidents by monitoring the speed of PUBs through a GPS device.

At the same time, the GPS Project will also improve the services of PUBs because bus operators can now track the routes of their PUBs, monitor the location and flow of buses, and inform the passengers of the waiting time at the stations.

Under the circulars, operators are prohibited from allowing their buses to ply their routes if they know or have a reasonable belief that the GPS device is not functioning or defective.

Non-installation of the GPS device will be penalized PHP5,000 per unit and an additional of PHP1,000 per unit per month after a grace period of 30 days is granted counting from the end of the compliance period will be imposed.

The tampering of the GPS device will also be penalized under the circulars with PHP5,000 for the first offense, PHP10,000 for the second offense, and P15,000 and the suspension of their certificate of public convenience for 30 days for the third and subsequent offenses. (PNA)

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