MANILA - State lawyers appeared before the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday to resume the defense of the non-contact apprehension policy (NCAP), which was issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) last year
Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, on behalf of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), urged the SC to restore the NCAP and affirm the policy of going after the registered owner of a vehicle caught in camera violating the laws.
Guevarra said it is an opportunity to expand the principles first adopted in a 1952 case (Erezo v. Jepte), which holds the registered owner of a vehicle liable for injuries sustained in accidents, aside from the person actually operating the vehicle.
Guevarra explained that under the 1952 precedent, there is a "disputable presumption" in accidents to hold the registered vehicle owner "with more reason that presumption (should be applied in cases) of mere violation of rules and regulation."
"It is our plea (that the case) Erezo vs. Jepte cover a disputable presumption in the cases violation of rules and regulations," Guevarra said.
"The main aim of motor vehicle registration is to identify the owner so that if any accident happens, or that any damage or injury is caused by the vehicle on the public highways, responsibility therefor can be fixed on a definite individual, the registered owner," the SC ruled then.
Guevarra also said the fees collected are not meant to raise revenues but are regulatory fees pursuant to the police power of local government units.
The collected fees likewise cover the expenses for traffic management, the SolGen said.
In August 2022, the SC issued a TRO against the implementation of NCAP-related programs and ordinances and any apprehensions "until further orders."
The order also stopped 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 the petition against Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Paranaque City, Muntinlupa City and the LTO.
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."
The cities that have fully implemented NCAP cited decrease in obstructions, choking of traffic from apprehended vehicles, reckless driving and hazardous motorists' habits.
During the first hearing on Dec. 6, 2022, government lawyers said the enforcement of NCAP does not violate the privacy rights of motorists because cameras capture vehicle images that violate traffic rules and regulations and are not capable of obtaining facial recognition images of the drivers.
"More importantly, the sharing by the LTO of vehicle registration data with the local governments involves information necessary to carry out functions of public authorities," Guevarra said. (PNA)