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MANILA, Philippines – The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) cannot apprehend, impound, and dispose of “colorum” vehicles, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“We advise that LTFRB has no power to apprehend, impound, and dispose ‘colorum’ vehicles. Its authority extends only in the coordination [and] cooperation with other government agencies in the apprehension, impounding, and disposal of such vehicles,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla stated in a legal opinion dated May 31, 2023.
Instead, the DOJ declared, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Traffic Management Unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are the agencies authorized to enforce traffic rules and regulations under Section 4(5) of Republic Act 4136, also known as the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, and Section 35(b)(8) of RA No. 6975, otherwise known as the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990.
“Even without the power to enforce the provisions of EO No. 202, the LTFRB may still coordinate and cooperate with these government agencies to enforce the provision of the aforementioned issuance and other related laws,” the DOJ said.
DOTr and LTFRB’s position
The issue was first raised by former Department of Transportation secretary Arthur Tugade in March 2022. Two transport cooperatives – the Liga ng Transportasyon at Operators sa Pilipinas and the National Federation Transport Cooperative – had written to the DOTr to clarify the limits of the LTFRB’s power. The DOTr then requested the DOJ for a legal opinion.
Current Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, however, is of the position that the LTFRB does possess the power to apprehend and impound vehicles.
The DOTr pointed out that Commonwealth Act. No. 146, or the Public Service Act, authorizes the agency to make “reasonable rules and regulations for the operation of public services and to enforce such rules and regulations.” The department also argued that Executive Order (EO) No. 202 – which created the LTFRB – mandates the LTFRB to “promulgate, administer, and enforce policies, laws, and regulations of public transportation services.”
The DOTr also said that Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 2014-01 affirms the LTFRB’s enforcement power. It contained penalties for violations related to franchise, including the apprehension and impounding of vehicles, but it didn’t explicitly state whether the LTFRB was the agency authorized to apprehend and impound the vehicle.
The LTFRB, which leads the apprehending and impounding efforts of the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic against “colorum” vehicles, also shared DOTr’s position.
“[The] President’s directive to conduct a nationwide crackdown on all ‘colorum’ vehicles, including the arrest of drivers and seizure of vehicles and approval by Congress of budgets for acquisition of impounding areas for this purpose, reinforces, if not affirms, LTFRB’s authority to apprehend and impound vehicles,” the LTFRB was quoted as saying in the legal opinion.
However, the DOJ rejected this position and pointed out that EO No. 202 “does not contain any express provision which authorizes LTFRB to apprehend, impound, and dispose ‘colorum’ vehicles.”
The DOJ clarified that, although EO No. 202 gives the LTFRB the power to enforce its rules and regulations, it only applies to specific purposes expressly written in the provision.
The relevant section enumerates the following purposes: “To formulate, promulgate, administer, implement and enforce rules and regulations on land transportation public utilities, standards of measurements and/or design, and rules and regulations requiring operators of any public land transportation service to equip, install and provide in their utilities and in their stations such devices, equipment facilities and operating procedures and techniques as may promote safety, protection, comfort and convenience to persons and property in their charges as well as the safety of persons and property within their areas of operations.”
According to the DOJ, “nothing therein can be remotely used to justify the power to apprehend and impound ‘colorum’ vehicles.”
“It is a fundamental rule that an administrative agency has only such powers as are expressly granted to it by law and those that are necessarily implied in the exercise thereof,” the DOJ added.
Addressing DOTr’s argument that JAO No. 2014-01 gives the LTRFB enforcement power, the DOJ said that if the EO did not expressly grant to LTFRB the power to apprehend, impound, and dispose “colorum” vehicles, then such powers can’t be inferred from the JAO.
“Under the foregoing premises, we are of the opinion that, unless duly deputized by the LTO or PNP, the LTFRB has no power to enforce the provisions of EO No. 202 and other related laws and, hence, cannot legally apprehend and impound ‘colorum’ vehicles,” the DOJ said in its legal opinion. – Rappler.com