SC stops release of 700,000 seized license plates
THE SUPREME Court on Tuesday stopped the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) from releasing some 700,000 license plates which were turned over by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) last April.
Theodore Te, the high tribunal’s spokesperson, said in a press briefing that the temporary restraining order was issued “pending the final adjudication of the matter [and] effective immediately and until further orders from the court.”
The petitioners in the certiorari and prohibition suit, congressmen Jonathan dela Cruz and Gustavo Tambunting, contended that the BOC and the Department of Finance (DOF) turned over the license plates despite the notice of disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) in July 2015.
Irregular and Illegal deal
The bureau seized and confiscated the 300,000 license plates for cars, buses, jeepneys and trucks, and another 400,000 for motorcycles from Power Plates Development Concepts Inc. and J. Knierem BV Goes joint venture for alleged non-payment of taxes and customs duties.
The supply for the license plates was part of LTO’s P3.8-billion Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program won by the joint venture. The COA, however, disapproved the deal for being irregular and illegal.
The auditing body required DOTC, LTO and the joint venture to return and deliver to the Bureau of Treasurer the advance payment made by LTO to the joint venture amounting P477,901,329.
Notice of disallowance
The congressmen said the confiscated plates cannot be donated or transferred by the DOF and BOC to the LTO in view of the notice of disallowance.
In their petition filed in August last year, De La Cruz and Tambunting said pertinent provisions on the use of government funds and budgeting were violated when LTO bid out the license plates project in 2013 despite having no sufficient appropriation.
They claimed the LTO sourced the funds from two distinct items in the General Appropriations Act that were declared as savings and then transferred as augmentation for the project.
The LTO chief had no authority to order such transfers because only the President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice and heads of constitutional commissions can exercise such power under the Constitution, the petitioner said.
Respondents in the case include Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and National Treasurer Robert Tan.
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