Two months after the Commission on Audit (COA) disallowed the controversial P3.8-billion car plates standardization program of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), lawmakers filed a petition asking the Supreme Court (SC) to nullify implementation of the program on constitutional grounds.
In a 54-page petition for certiorari, prohibition and prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order, Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz and Paranaque City (Metro Manila) Second District Rep. Gus Tambunting claimed that officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) adopted a DAP-like arrangement in procurement of new vehicle plates under the Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program (MVLPSP).
The DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), a brainchild of the Department of Budget and Management and Malacanan g, had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The lawmakers, through their counsel Leo Romero, also asked the SC to prohibit the respondents–Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.; Budget Secretary Florencio Abad; DOTC Secretary Emilio Abaya; and National Treasurer Roberto Tan–from further collecting any amount from vehicle owners for the new plates as well as from using public funds to pay the supplier, the joint venture of Knieriem BV Goes and Power Plates Development Concept Inc. (JKG-PPI).
The petitioners said the respondents violated pertinent provisions on the use of government funds and budgeting when it bidded out the P3.8-billion license plates project in 2013 despite having no sufficient appropriation.
“Despite the lack of appropriation, the DOTC-LTO proceeded to award the project and implement the same by applying the appropriations under the item ‘motor vehicle registration and driver’s regulatory services’ of the succeeding year which is totally different and distinct from the ‘motor vehicle plate making project’ indicated in the 2013 budget,” the petition filed last August 28, stated.
The DOTC-LTO also violated Section 25 of Article VI in the DAP and Priority Development Assistance Fund cases, when a transfer of appropriations to augment items from savings was made in the 2014 General Appropriations Act.
“The LTO violated this rule when it issued a ‘certificate of availability of funds’ on February 18, 2014 when there was no item to be augmented for the project or even savings to speak of,” the petition said.
But even if savings were existent, it added, the LTO chief has no authority to effect any transfers because only the President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice and heads of constitutional commissions can exercise such power under the Constitution.
COA on July 13 issued a Notice of Disallowance after finding the license plates program irregular and illegal.
The state auditing body also directed DOTC-LTO officials as well as JKG-PPI to return the initial payment of P477 million for the purchase of the new plates.
Despite the COA disallowance and calls from various lawmakers and transport organizations, the LTO continues to make payment for the new license plates mandatory.
What is seen as the worst part is that the LTO and its chosen supplier are unable to issue the new plates on time despite having received payments from vehicle owners.