MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Around 700,000 license plates can now be released to motorists after the Supreme Court (SC) lifted the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued in 2016.
The TRO had prevented the Land Transportation Office (LTO) from releasing the license plates. With the lifting of the TRO, there is no hurdle at this point to the release of the plates.
SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said in a news conference on Tuesday, January 23, that the en banc denied the petitions to declare as illegal the donation of the 700,000 license plates to the LTO.
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) confiscated 300,000 license plates for motor vehicles and 400,000 plates for motorcycles in 2016 after the manufacturer failed to pay taxes. Instead of disposing of these, the BOC donated the plates to the LTO to address the latter’s backlog in issuing plates to motorists.
Petitioners questioned the legality of the donation, saying it would be in conflict with the notice of disallowance that was issued against the LTO-Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program (LTO-MVLPSP).
In lifting the TRO, the SC en banc unanimously ruled that the budget for the standardization program in the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA) was constitutional.
“The appropriation, both for procurement and implementation, has been examined and decided by the Court and may not be assailed anew under the present petition based on the same grounds,” Te said.
The modernized license plates include new safety features such as tamper-resistant locks and bolts as well as reflectorized sheeting.
Millions more waiting for license plates
With the green light from the SC, Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday, January 24, called on the government to “step on the gas” to clear the license plates backlog, and provide a clear timetable for this.
“There were two million motorcycles sold over the past two years. Car sales from 2016 to 2017 totalled almost 800,000. These don’t even include the old units because all vehicles are covered by that ill-advised plate replacement program,” said Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public services.
That is why the 700,000 license plates freed up for distribution “will hardly make a dent on the demand.”
While there’s a “a myriad of legal and budgeting concerns must be threshed out” to restart the plate procurement process, the senator pointed out that the government had sounded like a broken record with its usual excuses.
Senator Ralph Recto welcomed the SC decision, but said that it could be “too little, too late,” because the surge in vehicle sales in the past 3 years “has ballooned the deficit” on the demand for vehicle license plates.
He said he also hopes that the ruling would now lead to the resolution of legal and budget issues.
“I agree that those who bungled this must be sanctioned. But in the meantime, for the sake of the car owners, and in the interest of motoring safety, can we not legally expedite the issuance of plates?” the senator added. – Rappler.com
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