Q — E.O. No. 125 was issued by President Aquino in the exercise of legislative powers. It mandates the now DOTC to make plans, policies, coordinate, implement and regulate the promotion, development and regulation of dependable and coordinated networks of transportation and communications system. It is also mandated to establish and administer comprehensive and integrated programs for transportation and communications. May the President directly perform such functions or mandates conferred upon the DOTC? Explain.
ANS: Yes. Such authority springs from the President’s power of control over all executive departments as well as the obligation for the faithful execution of the laws under Article VII, Section 17 of the Constitution. This constitutional provision is echoed in Section 1, Book III of the Administrative Code of 1987. Notably, Section 38, Chapter 37, Book IV of the same Code defines the President’s power of supervision and control over the executive departments which provides that supervision and control shall include authority to act directly whenever a specific function is entrusted by law or regulation to a subordinate.
Thus, whenever a specific function is entrusted by law or regulation to subordinate, the President may act directly or merely direct the performance of a duty. (Chavez v. Romulo, G.R. No. 157036, June 9, 2004, 431 SCRA 534; MMDA, et al. v. Viron Transit Co. Inc., G.R. No. 170656 and companion case, August 15, 2007).
Q — What is the nature of the delegated power to the DOTC by the President to establish and administer programs and projects for transportation? Explain.
ANS: Respecting the President’s authority to order the implementation of the Project on transportation in the exercise of police power of the State, suffice it to stress that the powers vested in the DOTC Secretary to establish and administer comprehensive and integrated programs for transportation and communications and to issue orders, rules and regulations to implement such mandate have been so delegated for the good and welfare of the people. Hence, these powers partake of the nature of police power. (MMDA, et al. v. Viron Trans. Co., Inc., G.R. No. 170656, August 15, 2007).
Police power is the plenary power vested in the legislature to make, ordain, and establish wholesome and reasonable laws, statutes and ordinances, not repugnant to the Constitution, for the good and welfare of the people. This power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, education, good order or safety, and general welfare of the people flows from the recognition that salus populi est suprema lex – the welfare of the people is the supreme law.
While police power rests primarily with the legislature, such power may be delegated, as it is in fact increasingly being delegated. By virtue of a valid delegation, the power may be exercised by the President and administrative boards as well as by the lawmaking bodies of municipal corporations or local governments under an express delegation by the Local Government Code of 1991. (MMDA, et al. v. Viron Trans. Co., Inc., supra.).
Q — The president Arroyo issued E.O. No. 179 providing for the establishment of Greater Manila Mass Transport System. Pursuant to such authority the MMDA which was designated to implement such project, 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 to the commuting public through the provision of mass transport terminal facilities.
Viron Transport Co., Inc. (Viron), a domestic corporation engaged in the business of public transportation with a provincial bus operation, filed a petition for declaratory relief before the RTC of Manila, alleging that the MMDA was “poised to issue a Circular, Memorandum or Order closing, or tantamount to closing, all provincial bus terminals along EDSA and in the whole of the Metropolis under the pretext of traffic regulation.” This impending move, it stressed, would mean the closure of its bus terminal in Sampaloc, Manila and two others in Quezon City.
Alleging that the MMDA’s authority does not include the power to direct provincial bus operators to abandon their existing bus terminals to thus deprive them of the use of their property, Viron asked the court to construe the scope, extent and limitation of the power of the MMDA to regulate traffic under R.A. No. 7924, “AN ACT CREATING THE METROPOLITAN MANILA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, DEFINING ITS POWERS AND FUNCTIONS, PROVIDING FUNDS THEREFOR AND OTHER PURPOSES.”
Mencorp Transportation System, Inc. (Mencorp), another provincial bus operator, later filed a similar petition for declaratory relief against Executive Secretary Alberto G. Romulo and MMDA Chairman Fernando.
Mencorp asked the court to declare the E.O. unconstitutional and illegal for transgressing the possessory rights of owners and operators of public land transportation units over their respective terminals.
The RTC sustained the constitutionality of EO No. 179 pursuant to RA 7924 which empowered the MMDA to administer Metro Manila’s basic services including those of transport and traffic management, based on the police power of the State. On Motion for Reconsideration, the RTC reversed itself and ruled that EO No. 179 is an unreasonable exercise of police power and its powers under the law does not include the power to order the closure of the petitioners’ existing bus terminals. It further ruled that it is inconsistent with the Public Service Act. Is the order correct? Explain.
ANS: Yes, it is ultra vires there being no legal basis therefor.
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.
In another vein, the validity of the designation of MMDA flies in the absence of a specific grant of authority to it under R.A. No. 7924. (MMDA, et al. v. Viron Trans. Co., Inc., G.R. No. 170656-57, August 15, 2007).
Q — What is the scope of the authority of the MMDA?
ANS: R.A. No. 7924 declared the Metropolitan Manila area as a “special development and administrative region” and placed the administration of “metro-wide” basic services affecting the region under the MMDA.
Section 2 of R.A. No. 7924 specifically authorizes the MMDA to perform “planning, monitoring and coordinative functions, and in the process exercise regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of metro-wide services”, including transport and traffic management.
In Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) v. Bel-Air Village Association, Inc., 385 Phil. 586, it was said that the scope of the MMDA’s function is limited to the delivery of the seven (7) basic services. One of these is transport and traffic management which includes the formulation and monitoring of policies, standards and projects to rationalize the existing transport operations, infrastructure requirements, the use of thoroughness and promotion of the safe movement of persons and goods. It also covers the mass transport system and the institution of a system of road regulation, the administration of all traffic enforcement operations, traffic engineering services and traffic education programs, including the institution of a single ticketing system in Metro Manila for traffic violations.
It will be noted that the powers of the MMDA are limited to the following acts: formulation, coordination, regulation, implementation, preparation, management, monitoring, setting of policies, installation of a system and administration. There is no syllable in R.A. No. 7924 that grants the MMDA police power, let alone legislative power. Even the Metro Manila Council has not been delegated any legislative power. Unlike the legislative bodies of the local government units, there is no provision in R.A. No. 7924 that empowers the MMDA or its Council to ‘enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare’ of the inhabitants of Metro Manila. The MMDA is, as termed in the charter itself, a ‘development authority’. It is an agency created for the purpose of laying down policies and coordinating with the various national government agencies, people’s organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector for the efficient and expeditious delivery of basic services in the vast metropolitan area. All its functions are administrative in nature and these are actually summed up in the charter itself which provides that the MMDA shall perform, monitoring and coordinative functions, and in the process exercise regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of metro-wide services within Metro Manila, without diminution of the autonomy of the local government units concerning purely local matters.
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. It follows that the MMDA cannot validly order the elimination of respondents’ terminals. (MMDA, et al. v. Viron Terminals, Co., Inc., G.R. NO. 170656-57, August 15, 2007).
Q — May the MMDA claim the authority to implement the Project under the police power of State? Why?
ANS: No, because it is not vested with police power. (MMDA v. Bel-Air Village Assn., Inc., 385 Phil. _____ ; MMDA v. Garin, G.R. No. 130230, April 15, 2005, 456 SCRA 176).
Even assuming arguendo that police power was delegated to the MMDA, its exercise of such power does not satisfy the two tests of a valid police power measure, viz: (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. (Lucena Grand Central Terminal, Inc. v. JAC Line, Inc., G.R. No. 148339, February 23, 2005, 452 SCRA 174). 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, 70 Phil. 726 (1940) it was recognized that traffic congestion is a public, not merely a private, concern. It was 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, it was ruled 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. (MMDA, et al. v. Viron Trans., Co., Inc., G.R. No. 170656-57, August 15, 2007).
Q — The parties concede that traffic congestion is a public concern that needs to be addressed immediately. Indeed, the E.O. was issued due to the felt need to address the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila which, the MMDA so determined, is caused by the increasing volume of buses plying the major thoroughfares and the inefficient connectivity of existing transport systems. It is thus beyond cavil that the motivating force behind the issuance of the E.O. is the interest of the public in general.
Are the means employed appropriate and reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose? Are they not duly oppressive? Explain.
ANS: They are not appropriate. They are oppressive. With the avowed objective of decongesting traffic in Metro Manila, the E.O. seeks to eliminate the bus terminals now located along major Metro Manila thoroughfares and provide more convenient access to the mass transport system to the commuting public through the provision of mass transport terminal facilities x x x. Common carriers with terminals along the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila would thus be compelled to close down their existing bus terminals and use the MMDA-designated common parking areas.
In Lucena Grand Central Terminal, Inc. v. JAC Liner, Inc., where the SB declared as inoperable all temporary terminals, such ordinances were declared unconstitutional as invalid exercise of police power, an undue taking of private property and a violation of the constitutional prohibition against monopolies. The compulsory use of the Lucena Grand Central Terminal was held to be oppressive because it would subject its users to fees, rentals and charges.
As in Lucena, there was failure to show how the prohibition against the existence of respondents’ terminals can be considered a reasonable necessity to ease traffic congestion in the metropolis. On the contrary, the elimination of the bus terminals brings forth the distinct possibility and the equally harrowing reality of traffic congestion in the common parking areas, a case of transference from one site to another.
Less intrusive measures such as curbing the proliferation of “colorum” buses, vans and taxis entering Metro Manila and using the streets for parking and passenger pick-up points, as respondents suggest, might even be more effective in easing the traffic situation. So would the strict enforcement of traffic rules and the removal of obstructions from major thoroughfares. (MMDA, et al. v. Viron Trans. Co., Inc., G.R. No. 170656-57, August 15, 2007).
Q — Is it not the EO 179 is confiscatory in nature? Explain.
ANS: Yes. As to the alleged confiscatory character of the E.O., it need only to be stated that certificates of public convenience confer no property right, and are mere licenses or privileges. As such, these must yield to legislation safeguarding the interest of the people.
Even then the MMDA cannot order the closure of respondents’ terminals not only because no authority to implement the Project has been granted nor legislative or police power been delegated to it, but also because the elimination of the terminals does not satisfy the standards of a valid police power measure. (MMDA, et al. v. Viron Trans. Co., Inc., supra.).