Monday, March 19, 2012

MMDA v Viron Transport G.R. No. 170656 August 15, 2007

J. Carpio Morales

GMA declared Executive Order (E.O.) No. 179 operational, thereby creating the MMDA in 2003. Due to traffic congestion, the MMDA recommended a plan to “decongest traffic by eliminating the bus terminals now located along major Metro Manila thoroughfares and providing more and convenient access to the mass transport system.” The MMC gave a go signal for the project. Viron Transit, a bus company assailed the move. They alleged that the MMDA didn’t have the power to direct operators to abandon their terminals. In doing so they asked the court to interpret the extent and scope of MMDA’s power under RA 7924. They also asked if the MMDA law contravened the Public Service Act.
Another bus operator, Mencorp, prayed for a TRO for the implementation in a trial court. In the Pre-Trial Order17 issued by the trial court, the issues were narrowed down to whether 1) the MMDA’s power to regulate traffic in Metro Manila included the power to direct provincial bus operators to abandon and close their duly established and existing bus terminals in order to conduct business in a common terminal; (2) the E.O. is consistent with the Public Service Act and the Constitution; and (3) provincial bus operators would be deprived of their real properties without due process of law should they be required to use the common bus terminals. The trial court sustained the constitutionality.
Both bus lines filed for a MFR in the trial court. It, on September 8, 2005, reversed its Decision, this time holding that the E.O. was "an unreasonable exercise of police power"; that the authority of the MMDA under Section (5)(e) of R.A. No. 7924 does not include the power to order the closure of Viron’s and Mencorp’s existing bus terminals; and that the E.O. is inconsistent with the provisions of the Public Service Act.
MMDA filed a petition in the Supreme Court. Petitioners contend that there is no justiciable controversy in the cases for declaratory relief as nothing in the body of the E.O. mentions or orders the closure and elimination of bus terminals along the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila. To them, Viron and Mencorp failed to produce any letter or communication from the Executive Department apprising them of an immediate plan to close down their bus terminals.
And petitioners maintain that the E.O. is only an administrative directive to government agencies to coordinate with the MMDA and to make available for use government property along EDSA and South Expressway corridors. They add that the only relation created by the E.O. is that between the Chief Executive and the implementing officials, but not between third persons.

1. Is there a justiciable controversy?
2. Is the elimination of bus terminals unconstitutional?

Held: Yes to both. Petition dismissed.

1. Requisites: (a) there must be a justiciable controversy; (b) the controversy must be between persons whose interests are adverse; (c) the party seeking declaratory relief must have a legal interest in the controversy; and (d) the issue invoked must be ripe for judicial determination
It cannot be gainsaid that the E.O. would have an adverse effect on respondents. The closure of their bus terminals would mean, among other things, the loss of income from the operation and/or rentals of stalls thereat. Precisely, respondents claim a deprivation of their constitutional right to property without due process of law.
Respondents have thus amply demonstrated a "personal and substantial interest in the case such that [they have] sustained, or will sustain, direct injury as a result of [the E.O.’s] enforcement." Consequently, the established rule that the constitutionality of a law or administrative issuance can be challenged by one who will sustain a direct injury as a result of its enforcement has been satisfied by respondents.
2. Under E.O. 125 A, the DOTC was given the objective of guiding government and private investment in the development of the country’s intermodal transportation and communications systems. It was also tasked to administer all laws, rules and regulations in the field of transportation and communications.
It bears stressing that under the provisions of E.O. No. 125, as amended, it is the DOTC, and not the MMDA, which is authorized to establish and implement a project such as the one subject of the cases at bar. Thus, the President, although authorized to establish or cause the implementation of the Project, must exercise the authority through the instrumentality of the DOTC which, by law, is the primary implementing and administrative entity in the promotion, development and regulation of networks of transportation, and the one so authorized to establish and implement a project such as the Project in question.
By designating the MMDA as the implementing agency of the Project, the President clearly overstepped the limits of the authority conferred by law, rendering E.O. No. 179 ultra vires. There was no grant of authority to MMDA. It was delegated only to set the policies concerning traffic in Metro Manila, and shall coordinate and regulate the implementation of all programs and projects concerning traffic management, specifically pertaining to enforcement, engineering and education.
In light of the administrative nature of its powers and functions, the MMDA is devoid of authority to implement the Project as envisioned by the E.O; hence, it could not have been validly designated by the President to undertake the Project.
MMDA’s move didn’t satisfy police power requirements such as that (1) the interest of the public generally, as distinguished from that of a particular class, requires its exercise; and (2) the means employed are reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals. Stated differently, the police power legislation must be firmly grounded on public interest and welfare and a reasonable relation must exist between the purposes and the means.
As early as Calalang v. Williams, this Court recognized that traffic congestion is a public, not merely a private, concern. The Court therein held that public welfare underlies the contested statute authorizing the Director of Public Works to promulgate rules and regulations to regulate and control traffic on national roads.
Likewise, in Luque v. Villegas,46 this Court emphasized that public welfare lies at the bottom of any regulatory measure designed "to relieve congestion of traffic, which is, to say the least, a menace to public safety." As such, measures calculated to promote the safety and convenience of the people using the thoroughfares by the regulation of vehicular traffic present a proper subject for the exercise of police power.
Notably, the parties herein concede that traffic congestion is a public concern that needs to be addressed immediately. Are the means employed appropriate and reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose. Are they not duly oppressive?
De la Cruz v. Paras- Bus terminals per se do not, however, impede or help impede the flow of traffic. How the outright proscription against the existence of all terminals, apart from that franchised to petitioner, can be considered as reasonably necessary to solve the traffic problem, this Court has not been enlightened
In the subject ordinances, however, the scope of the proscription against the maintenance of terminals is so broad that even entities which might be able to provide facilities better than the franchised terminal are barred from operating at all.
Finally, an order for the closure of respondents’ terminals is not in line with the provisions of the Public Service Act.
Consonant with such grant of authority, the PSC (now the ltfrb)was empowered to "impose such conditions as to construction, equipment, maintenance, service, or operation as the public interests and convenience may reasonably require" in approving any franchise or privilege. The law mandates the ltfrb to require any public service to establish, construct, maintain, and operate any reasonable extension of its existing facilities.

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