The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday halted the release of 300,000 pairs of license plates earlier confiscated by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and later on donated to the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
The High Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the LTO from releasing or distributing to motor vehicle owners the license plates turned over by the BOC in April.
“The court resolved to issue, pending the final adjudication of this matter, a Temporary Restraining Order, effective immediately, and until further orders from the court, enjoining the Land Transportation Office and/or the Department of Transportation and Communications, their agents, representatives or persons acting in place and stead, from releasing and/or distributing or disposing in any manner of the 300,000 license plates for motor vehicles,” the SC said.
The TRO also covered the 400,000 license plates for motorcycles that were also donated by the BOC.
The SC issued the TRO on the basis of a petition filed by Representatives Jonathan de la Cruz of Abakada party-list group and Gustavo Tambunting of the Second District of Parañaque City (Metro Manila).
On April 15, BOC Commissioner Alberto Lina formally turned over to LTO chief Roberto Cabrera the license plates that were stored in 11 shipping containers.
Lina said they decided to give the plates to the LTO in the “interest of the public” even if they have not yet been paid the P25 million to P40 million in duties and taxes. This is aside from the storage and wharfage fees that could range from P3 million to P5 million.
The license plates were stored at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) for almost a year after these were confiscated from the Filipino-Dutch consortium J. Knieriem B.V. Goes and Power Plates Development Concept Inc. (JKG-PPI) for its failure to pay some P40 million in duties and taxes.
The petitioners, however, questioned the donation of the confiscated license plates on the basis of the notice of disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit.
The petitioners argued that the notice of disallowance required the return to the government of the P477,901,329 advance payment made by the LTO to JKG-PPI.