TRO on NCAP correct and proper | Inquirer Opinion
With Due Respect

TRO on NCAP correct and proper

Legally correct and proper, IMHO, is the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO), dated Aug. 30, 2022, prohibiting (1) the local government units (LGUs) concerned (particularly Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Parañaque, and Muntinlupa) from implementing the no-contact apprehension policy (NCAP) contained in a resolution of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) issued on Feb. 16, 2016, and (2) the Land Transportation Office (LTO) from “giving out motorist information to all local government units enforcing the” NCAP.

THE TRO IS LEGALLY CORRECT, though issued ex parte or without notice to the respondents, because it is based on the two petitions’ cogent allegations made under oath (and therefore can be sanctioned criminally and with contempt of court, if false) that the continued enforcement of the NCAP violates, firstly, the constitutional right to due process given that it does not allow the alleged traffic violators sufficient time and opportunity to contest the violations before the penalty is imposed.

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Secondly, the petitions clearly alleged, again under oath, that the NCAP is oppressive and unfair because it penalizes the registered owner of the vehicle instead of the driver who actually committed the supposed traffic offense. Thus, it punishes a non-participant, an innocent person in an alleged crime.

Thirdly, the NCAP crosses the right to privacy because it enables access to the sensitive personal information of the registered vehicle owners without their prior consent in violation of the Data Privacy Act. Petitioners, particularly lawyer Juman Paa, showed that by just typing and entering the plate number of their vehicles in the NCAP website of the LGU concerned, any person can view the name of the vehicle’s registered owner, address, and the number of traffic violations committed.

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Well-settled in jurisprudence is the rule that when violations of constitutional rights are seriously alleged under oath—violations that, on their face, appear to be truthful and valid—courts are granted sound discretion to stop the continued transgressions immediately particularly if such stoppage will not cause irremediable damage to public interest.

THE TRO IS LEGALLY PROPER because the petitions, on their face, show that the petitioners will suffer irreparable injury by the continued enforcement of the NCAP. Under the Rules of Court, a TRO (or a status quo ante order) is issued to protect substantial rights and to prevent continuous irremediable injury to the parties before their claims could be fully heard, studied, and decided.

Note that by its very terminology, the TRO is “temporary” and was issued in “the interest of expediency, and without necessarily giving due course to the Petitions.” These qualified wordings simply mean that at any time the respondents can show that the petitioners were not entitled to this immediate relief, the Supreme Court can also moto proprio and without notice to the petitioners revoke, modify, or change the TRO.

Such revocation, modification, or change can be made, if the “Comment” that the Supreme Court required the respondents to file “within a NON-EXTENDIBLE period of ten (10) days from notice” would show the fallacy of the petitioners’ sworn allegations, or if, during the Oral Arguments set on Jan. 24, 2023, the respondents can demonstrate that the feared constitutional or legal violations are baseless, and/or a more overriding public interest would be served by the continued enforcement of the NCAP.

THE FOREGOING DISCUSSION, may I stress, is relevant only to the issuance of the TRO and does not constitute a prejudgment of the legality or propriety of the final decision. Like the petitioners, the respondents are entitled to due process. Thus, they will be heard both orally and in writing before such final judgment would be issued with, I hope, deliberate speed.

The respondents, especially the LTO, will be pleased to know that they have a well-respected counsel in the person of new Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra who has a distinguished track record of serving our people as a nonpartisan justice secretary in the Duterte administration and as a deputy executive secretary for legal affairs in the P-Noy Aquino administration. This will be his first “baptism of fire” as the tribune of the people.

I am aware of the laudable intentions of the NCAP—instilling discipline among motorists, minimizing physical apprehensions that often lead to corruption, and digitalizing traffic enforcement already used in many advanced countries.

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However, as I have written several times in the past, there is a right way to do the right thing at the right time by the right person and for the right reasons. Truly, laudable purposes and programs should be accomplished within the parameters of the rule of law. Autocratic shortcuts done in violation of basic rights are abhorred in democratic societies, for as the adage goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Comments to [email protected]

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