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High court stops RFID, tells LTO to refund fees

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:07:00 01/13/2010

Filed Under: Technology (general), Judiciary (system of justice), Transport

MANILA, Philippines ? The Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped the Land Transportation Office (LTO) from implementing the radio frequency identification (RFID) system for motor vehicles.

In an en banc session, the Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order?or one applying the existing situation before the implementation of the contested program?on the RFID.

Deputy Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, Supreme Court spokesperson, told reporters that Bayan Muna?s and Piston?s petition against the RFID remained pending before the Supreme Court.

Bayan Muna and its allied party-list groups, Anakpawis and Gabriela, and the transport group Piston questioned the constitutionality and legality of the RFID, saying it would violate one?s privacy. Moreover, the LTO project did not go through a public bidding, they said.

Marquez said the high tribunal ordered the Department of Transportation and Communication to file its comment on the petition in 10 days.

He added that the Supreme Court granted the motion to intervene filed by transport groups supporting the RFID.

Marquez said the tribunal also accepted the opposition to the Bayan Muna petition by the other transport groups, including the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers? Association of the Philippines (Fejodap).

?[The status quo ante order] means that the prevailing situation prior to the implementation of the RFID would be implemented in the meantime until further orders from the Court,? Marquez said at a news conference.
He said the high court issued the order ?to prevent ? irreparable injury to the parties.?

Reimburse payment

Marquez said it would be up to the LTO to reimburse motorists who had registered their vehicles and had paid P350 for the RFID gadget.

?[Motorists] can seek reimbursement,? he said.

The Supreme Court decision did not contain an order compelling the LTO to reimburse payments. However, the decision, Marquez said, was clear in stating that the situation should revert to the status quo before the implementation of the system.

To generate P1.6B

The country has more than 4.76 million vehicles in the country. The RFID stands to generate more than P1.6 billion in revenues.

The LTO expressed surprised over the decision.

LTO Chair Arturo Lomibao was unavailable for comment, but LTO spokesperson Jason Salvador said: ?Honestly, we haven?t seen the Supreme Court?s decision itself, so we cannot comment.?

?As soon as we received a copy of the decision, we can issue an official statement,? Salvador added.

It was Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo who led the party-list groups in filing the petition questioning the constitutionality and legality of the RFID system.

Procurement laws

Last December, Ocampo filed a petition arguing that the system didn?t go through the required public bidding under the country?s procurement laws.

The groups also argued that the system was an unnecessary burden on motorists and was an invasion of a motorist?s privacy.

?Colorum?

In an urgent motion, Fejodap and other groups claim they have a legal interest as they stand to benefit from the RFID program.

?There is an urgent need to solve the colorum problem (public utility vehicles without a franchise). With the price of fuel increasing, there is pressure to increase transport fare,? said the petition filed by the groups? counsel Donald Diaz.

?If the colorum vehicles can be drastically reduced, if not totally removed, from the streets, this pressure to increase transport fares will be mitigated, as the passenger load of legitimate franchise holders will increase, thus increasing their income,? it added.

Aside from Fejodap, the other groups that favored the RFID were the Alliance of Transport Operator and Drivers? Association of the Philippines, Land Transportation Organization of the Philippines, NTU-Transporter, Pasang-Masda Nationwide Inc. and the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations.

?[The] RFID reader will be able to detect those public utility vehicles without valid (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board certificate of public conveyance/franchise), and those that are privately owned, thereby providing enforcers an effective tool in the physical identification of colorum vehicles on the road,? the groups said.

With a report from Paolo G. Montecillo


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