MANILA – State lawyers on Tuesday defended the implementation of the no-contact apprehension policy (NCAP) for traffic violators in Metro Manila before the Supreme Court (SC), which held oral arguments into petitions filed by transport groups questioning the measure.

Speaking before the high tribunal, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, representing the concerned government agencies, said the regulation of road use to ensure safety and efficiency directly affects the economy.

"We reiterate the right to use vehicles on public roads is a privilege. That privilege comes not only with a duty to ensure the safety of pedestrians and travelers, but also with our collective obligation to ensure that our roads continue to serve the ends of our national economy and benefit each and every one of us," Guevarra said.

"Our concerned national regulatory agencies and local governments have joined hands to ensure that this privilege is not abused. Through the NCAP, they have established a mechanism to manage traffic and hold accountable those who abuse their privilege to use our roads. We, therefore, implore this Most Honorable Court to find the NCAP in accord with our laws," he added.

The SolGen explained that NCAP ordinances provide the notification of the registered vehicle owner so that he/she may contest his/her violation and identify the actual driver of the vehicle who committed the traffic violation.

"This mechanism not only affords the notified party of his due process rights; it also implements the very purpose for which the registered owner rule was established," he said.

In 2010, the road network in Metro Manila covered 3,091 kilometers. 

By 2019, Metro Manila’s road network had expanded to 4,889 kilometers. This dropped to 23.38 kilometers per hour in 2019, the government said. Despite the expansion of the road network in Metro Manila, the average travel speed stood at 32.86 kilometers per hour in 2013.

According to the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an estimated PHP3.5 billion is lost daily due to traffic congestion in Metro Manila roads.

Based on projections from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), economic losses could swell to PHP5.4 billion a day in 2035 if traffic congestion is not addressed. This traffic congestion is traceable to the ballooning number of vehicles found on the roads of Metro Manila.

In 2002, the total number of vehicles in the National Capital Region (NCR) registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) was at 1,372,622. As of October 2022, NCR vehicle registration was at 3,122,884 – an increase of 127 percent in just over 20 years.

Traffic violations have also been increasing exponentially. In 2002, there were 162,364 traffic apprehensions in the NCR handled by the LTO. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, traffic apprehensions in the NCR reached 250,767.

Last August, the SC issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) effective immediately against the NCAP. The TRO stops the implementation of NCAP-related programs and ordinances and any apprehensions through the said policy and ordinances "shall be prohibited until further orders from the Court."

The order also stops the LTO "and all parties acting on its behalf from giving out motorist information to all government units, cities, and municipalities enforcing NCAP programs and ordinances."

Transport groups Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon Inc., Pasang Masda, Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines, and Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations filed petitions before the court.

Named in the suit were Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Parañaque City, Muntinlupa City, and the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

In the 47-page petition, the groups said the system which uses close-circuit television cameras places motorists “under constant threat of being arbitrarily apprehended remotely and issued notices of violation for alleged traffic offenses committed without any contact whatsoever.” (PNA)