Party-list for OFWs asks SC to stop LTO license card project

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The Supreme Court in Manila. FILE PHOTO BY PHIL. STAR

MANILA – The ACTS-OFW partylist has asked the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) driver’s license card project for being unconstitutional because no allocation for it was set aside in the budget act.

The petition for certiorari and prohibition was filed by Rep. John Bertiz and Atty. Leo Romero in a bid to declare the project illegal.

Bertiz also asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order on the project, and a cease and desist order to stop officials from implementing it.

The petition alleges that the project is unconstitutional because no budget or appropriation was set aside by Congress for it. This means the item for the project is not stated in the General Appropriations Act.

Petitioners alleged the project was also tainted with corruption, as the third lowest bidder was chosen, and some officials could have profited from it.

The petitioners claimed the project has caused motorists a huge inconvenience for which the LTO should be blamed.

Among the respondents in the petition are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon, LTO Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante, Commission on Audit chairman Michael Aguinaldo and winning bidder and supplier Dermalog.

The petitioners also asked President Duterte to look into and stop the project.

During the budget deliberation, said Bertiz, “we found out that the Executive exceeded its power over the legislative. Yung ginagamit nila ngayon ay there is no appropriated fund for driver’s license, which is for 2016 and 2017. Napakapalinaw naman na wala siya sa GAA. Nakalagay sa batas na [The law is clear that] any amount which is not appropriated by law can be considered as unconstitutional. Ang sinisilip natin ang budget na P836-million which is ang winning bidder ay 829-M. We dont care who wins or loses. Ang usapin dito ay ang unconstitutional na ginawa particularly [What is at issue here is the unconstitutional act].

Bertiz added, “Nakita natin na wala talagang appropriated o specified item in regards of the procurement of the item. Kung meron man na sinasabi nila, they are going to use the general fund. Pero nakalagay pa rin kulang, eh,” he added, noting that only P686 million is in the General Fund while the bid award is P800 million. “So [it’s] null and void outright].”

He said the LTO’s failure to provide drivers licenses in timely fashion has disadvantaged the OFW sector that he represents, particularly the ones hired to work as drivers. “When they get to their host country, they cannot work because license cards are required and they are forced to work as janitors.”

It was unconscionable to think that, on top of this terrible inconvenience, the LTO has committed an unconstitutional act, he noted. “They have all time to submit and prepare for the budget. We are not questioning anything about the bid. But it is unconstitutional” for it not to be based on an appropriation, he said.

Atty. Leo Romero, Bertiz’s co-petitioner, said if the clear provision of the Constitution is not followed, “we will have anarchy.” The Executive has effectively usurped the powers of the legislative branch, and “that cannot be. When we say something is unconstitutional, [it’s] null and void from the beginning,” he added, speaking partly in Filipino.

The LTO has a serious problem because people badly need their licenses, Romero stressed. At the same time, however, “hindi naman natin pwedeng saklawan ang nakalagay sa Saligang batas. Kung hindi ay anarkiya na ang mangyayari sa Pilipinas.”

As a possible remedy, the President can order “the production of license cards coming from his funds.” But what LTO has resorted to, i.e., getting it from the general fund,” cannot be done, said Romero. “Hindi pwede ang ginawa ng LTO.”

He ended with this: ‘We call upon the President. He has been saying that ‘I hate corruption’. But the other officials are singing another tune. It is ‘I love corruption’, he concluded.