Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

 

G.R. No. 102782 December 11, 1991

THE SOLICITOR GENERAL, RODOLFO A. MALAPIRA, STEPHEN A. MONSANTO, DAN R. CALDERON, and GRANDY N. TRIESTE, petitioners
vs.
THE METROPOLITAN MANILA AUTHORITY and the MUNICIPALITY OF MANDALUYONG, respondents.

 

 

CRUZ, J.:p

In Metropolitan Traffic Command, West Traffic District vs. Hon. Arsenio M. Gonong, G.R. No. 91023, promulgated on July 13, 1990, 1 the Court held that the confiscation of the license plates of motor vehicles for traffic violations was not among the sanctions that could be imposed by the Metro Manila Commission under PD 1605 and was permitted only under the conditions laid dowm by LOI 43 in the case of stalled vehicles obstructing the public streets. It was there also observed that even the confiscation of driver's licenses for traffic violations was not directly prescribed by the decree nor was it allowed by the decree to be imposed by the Commission. No motion for reconsideration of that decision was submitted. The judgment became final and executory on August 6, 1990, and it was duly entered in the Book of Entries of Judgments on July 13, 1990.

Subsequently, the following developments transpired:

In a letter dated October 17, 1990, Rodolfo A. Malapira complained to the Court that when he was stopped for an alleged traffic violation, his driver's license was confiscated by Traffic Enforcer Angel de los Reyes in Quezon City.

On December 18,1990, the Caloocan-Manila Drivers and Operators Association sent a letter to the Court asking who should enforce the decision in the above-mentioned case, whether they could seek damages for confiscation of their driver's licenses, and where they should file their complaints.

Another letter was received by the Court on February 14, 1991, from Stephen L. Monsanto, complaining against the confiscation of his driver's license by Traffic Enforcer A.D. Martinez for an alleged traffic violation in Mandaluyong.

This was followed by a letter-complaint filed on March 7, 1991, from Dan R. Calderon, a lawyer, also for confiscation of his driver's license by Pat. R.J. Tano-an of the Makati Police Force.

Still another complaint was received by the Court dated April 29, 1991, this time from Grandy N. Trieste, another lawyer, who also protested the removal of his front license plate by E. Ramos of the Metropolitan Manila Authority-Traffic Operations Center and the confiscation of his driver's license by Pat. A.V. Emmanuel of the Metropolitan Police Command-Western Police District.

Required to submit a Comment on the complaint against him, Allan D. Martinez invoked Ordinance No. 7, Series of 1988, of Mandaluyong, authorizing the confiscation of driver's licenses and the removal of license plates of motor vehicles for traffic violations.

For his part, A.V. Emmanuel said he confiscated Trieste's driver's license pursuant to a memorandum dated February 27, 1991, from the District Commander of the Western Traffic District of the Philippine National Police, authorizing such sanction under certain conditions.

Director General Cesar P. Nazareno of the Philippine National Police assured the Court in his own Comment that his office had never authorized the removal of the license plates of illegally parked vehicles and that he had in fact directed full compliance with the above-mentioned decision in a memorandum, copy of which he attached, entitled Removal of Motor Vehicle License Plates and dated February 28, 1991.

Pat. R.J. Tano-an, on the other hand, argued that the Gonong decision prohibited only the removal of license plates and not the confiscation of driver's licenses.

On May 24, 1990, the Metropolitan Manila Authority issued Ordinance No. 11, Series of 1991, authorizing itself "to detach the license plate/tow and impound attended/ unattended/ abandoned motor vehicles illegally parked or obstructing the flow of traffic in Metro Manila."

On July 2, 1991, the Court issued the following resolution:

The attention ofthe Court has been called to the enactment by the Metropolitan Manila Authority of Ordinance No. 11, Series of 1991, providing inter alia that:

Section 2. Authority to Detach Plate/Tow and Impound. The Metropolitan Manila Authority, thru the Traffic Operatiom Center, is authorized to detach the license plate/tow and impound attended/unattended/abandoned motor vehicles illegally parked or obstructing the flow of traffic in Metro Manila.

The provision appears to be in conflict with the decision of the Court in the case at bar (as reported in 187 SCRA 432), where it was held that the license plates of motor vehicles may not be detached except only under the conditions prescribed in LOI 43. Additionally, the Court has received several complaints against the confiscation by police authorities of driver's licenses for alleged traffic violations, which sanction is, according to the said decision, not among those that may be imposed under PD 1605.

To clarify these matters for the proper guidance of law-enforcement officers and motorists, the Court resolved to require the Metropolitan Manila Authority and the Solicitor General to submit, within ten (10) days from notice hereof, separate COMMENTS on such sanctions in light of the said decision.

In its Comment, the Metropolitan Manila Authority defended the said ordinance on the ground that it was adopted pursuant to the powers conferred upon it by EO 392. It particularly cited Section 2 thereof vesting in the Council (its governing body) the responsibility among others of:

1. Formulation of policies on the delivery of basic services requiring coordination or consolidation for the Authority; and

2. Promulgation of resolutions and other issuances of metropolitan wide application, approval of a code of basic services requiring coordination, and exercise of its rule-making powers. (Emphasis supplied)

The Authority argued that there was no conflict between the decision and the ordinance because the latter was meant to supplement and not supplant the latter. It stressed that the decision itself said that the confiscation of license plates was invalid in the absence of a valid law or ordinance, which was why Ordinance No. 11 was enacted. The Authority also pointed out that the ordinance could not be attacked collaterally but only in a direct action challenging its validity.

For his part, the Solicitor General expressed the view that the ordinance was null and void because it represented an invalid exercise of a delegated legislative power. The flaw in the measure was that it violated existing law, specifically PD 1605, which does not permit, and so impliedly prohibits, the removal of license plates and the confiscation of driver's licenses for traffic violations in Metropolitan Manila. He made no mention, however, of the alleged impropriety of examining the said ordinance in the absence of a formal challenge to its validity.

On October 24, 1991, the Office of the Solicitor General submitted a motion for the early resolution of the questioned sanctions, to remove once and for all the uncertainty of their vahdity. A similar motion was filed by the Metropolitan Manila Authority, which reiterated its contention that the incidents in question should be dismissed because there was no actual case or controversy before the Court.

The Metropolitan Manila Authority is correct in invoking the doctrine that the validity of a law or act can be challenged only in a direct action and not collaterally. That is indeed the settled principle. However, that rule is not inflexible and may be relaxed by the Court under exceptional circumstances, such as those in the present controversy.

The Solicitor General notes that the practices complained of have created a great deal of confusion among motorists about the state of the law on the questioned sanctions. More importantly, he maintains that these sanctions are illegal, being violative of law and the Gonong decision, and should therefore be stopped. We also note the disturbing report that one policeman who confiscated a driver's license dismissed the Gonong decision as "wrong" and said the police would not stop their "habit" unless they received orders "from the top." Regrettably, not one of the complainants has filed a formal challenge to the ordinances, including Monsanto and Trieste, who are lawyers and could have been more assertive of their rights.

Given these considerations, the Court feels it must address the problem squarely presented to it and decide it as categorically rather than dismiss the complaints on the basis of the technical objection raised and thus, through its inaction, allow them to fester.

The step we now take is not without legal authority or judicial precedent. Unquestionably, the Court has the power to suspend procedural rules in the exercise of its inherent power, as expressly recognized in the Constitution, to promulgate rules concerning "pleading, practice and procedure in all courts." 2 In proper cases, procedural rules may be relaxed or suspended in the interest of substantial justice, which otherwise may be miscarried because of a rigid and formalistic adherence to such rules.

The Court has taken this step in a number of such cases, notably Araneta vs. Dinglasan, 3 where Justice Tuason justified the deviation on the ground that "the transcendental importance to the public of these cases demands that they be settled promptly and definitely, brushing aside, if we must, technicalities of procedure."

We have made similar rulings in other cases, thus:

Be it remembered that rules of procedure are but mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment ofjustice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must always be avoided. (Aznar III vs. Bernad, G.R. No. 81190, May 9, 1988, 161 SCRA 276.) Time and again, this Court has suspended its own rules and excepted a particular case from their operation whenever the higher interests of justice so require. In the instant petition, we forego a lengthy disquisition of the proper procedure that should have been taken by the parties involved and proceed directly to the merits of the case. (Piczon vs. Court of Appeals, 190 SCRA 31).

Three of the cases were consolidated for argument and the other two were argued separately on other dates. Inasmuch as all of them present the same fundamental question which, in our view, is decisive, they will be disposed of jointly. For the same reason we will pass up the objection to the personality or sufficiency of interest of the petitioners in case G.R. No. L-3054 and case G.R. No. L-3056 and the question whether prohibition lies in cases G.R. Nos. L-2044 and L2756. No practical benefit can be gained from a discussion of these procedural matters, since the decision in the cases wherein the petitioners'cause of action or the propriety of the procedure followed is not in dispute, will be controlling authority on the others. Above all, the transcendental importance to the public of these cases demands that they be settled promptly and definitely, brushing aside, if we must, technicalities of procedure. (Avelino vs. Cuenco, G.R. No. L-2821 cited in Araneta vs. Dinglasan, 84 Phil. 368.)

Accordingly, the Court will consider the motion to resolve filed by the Solicitor General a petition for prohibition against the enforcement of Ordinance No. 11, Series of 1991, of the Metropohtan Manila Authority, and Ordinance No. 7, Series of 1988, of the Municipality of Mandaluyong. Stephen A. Monsanto, Rodolfo A. Malapira, Dan R. Calderon, and Grandy N. Trieste are considered co-petitioners and the Metropolitan Manila Authority and the Municipality of Mandaluyong are hereby impleaded as respondents. This petition is docketed as G.R. No. 102782. The comments already submitted are duly noted and shall be taken into account by the Court in the resolution of the substantive issues raised.

It is stressed that this action is not intended to disparage procedural rules, which the Court has recognized often enough as necessary to the orderly administration of justice. If we are relaxing them in this particular case, it is because of the failure of the proper parties to file the appropriate proceeding against the acts complained of, and the necessity of resolving, in the interest of the public, the important substantive issues raised.

Now to the merits.

The Metro Manila Authority sustains Ordinance No. 11, Series of 1991, under the specific authority conferred upon it by EO 392, while Ordinance No. 7, Series of 1988, is justified on the basis of the General Welfare Clause embodied in the Local Government Code. 4 It is not disputed that both measures were enacted to promote the comfort and convenience of the public and to alleviate the worsening traffic problems in Metropolitan Manila due in large part to violations of traffic rules.

The Court holds that there is a valid delegation of legislative power to promulgate such measures, it appearing that the requisites of such delegation are present. These requisites are. 1) the completeness of the statute making the delegation; and 2) the presence of a sufficient standard. 5

Under the first requirement, the statute must leave the legislature complete in all its terms and provisions such that all the delegate will have to do when the statute reaches it is to implement it. What only can be delegated is not the discretion to determine what the law shall be but the discretion to determine how the law shall be enforced. This has been done in the case at bar.

As a second requirement, the enforcement may be effected only in accordance with a sufficient standard, the function of which is to map out the boundaries of the delegate's authority and thus "prevent the delegation from running riot." This requirement has also been met. It is settled that the "convenience and welfare" of the public, particularly the motorists and passengers in the case at bar, is an acceptable sufficient standard to delimit the delegate's authority. 6

But the problem before us is not the validity of the delegation of legislative power. The question we must resolve is the validity of the exercise of such delegated power.

The measures in question are enactments of local governments acting only as agents of the national legislature. Necessarily, the acts of these agents must reflect and conform to the will of their principal. To test the validity of such acts in the specific case now before us, we apply the particular requisites of a valid ordinance as laid down by the accepted principles governing municipal corporations.

According to Elliot, a municipal ordinance, to be valid: 1) must not contravene the Constitution or any statute; 2) must not be unfair or oppressive; 3) must not be partial or discriminatory; 4) must not prohibit but may regulate trade; 5) must not be unreasonable; and 6) must be general and consistent with public policy. 7

A careful study of the Gonong decision will show that the measures under consideration do not pass the first criterion because they do not conform to existing law. The pertinent law is PD 1605. PD 1605 does not allow either the removal of license plates or the confiscation of driver's licenses for traffic violations committed in Metropolitan Manila. There is nothing in the following provisions of the decree authorizing the Metropolitan Manila Commission (and now the Metropolitan Manila Authority) to impose such sanctions:

Section 1. The Metropolitan Manila Commission shall have the power to impose fines and otherwise discipline drivers and operators of motor vehicles for violations of traffic laws, ordinances, rules and regulations in Metropolitan Manila in such amounts and under such penalties as are herein prescribed. For this purpose, the powers of the Land Transportation Commission and the Board of Transportation under existing laws over such violations and punishment thereof are hereby transferred to the Metropolitan Manila Commission. When the proper penalty to be imposed is suspension or revocation of driver's license or certificate of public convenience, the Metropolitan Manila Commission or its representatives shall suspend or revoke such license or certificate. The suspended or revoked driver's license or the report of suspension or revocation of the certificate of public convenience shall be sent to the Land Transportation Commission or the Board of Transportation, as the case may be, for their records update.

xxx xxx xxx

Section 3.` Violations of traffic laws, ordinances, rules and regulations, committed within a twelve-month period, reckoned from the date of birth of the licensee, shall subject the violator to graduated fines as follows: P10.00 for the first offense, P20.00 for the and offense, P50.00 for the third offense, a one-year suspension of driver's license for the fourth offense, and a revocation of the driver's license for the fifth offense: Provided, That the Metropolitan Manila Commission may impose higher penalties as it may deem proper for violations of its ordinances prohibiting or regulating the use of certain public roads, streets and thoroughfares in Metropolitan Manila.

xxx xxx xxx

Section 5. In case of traffic violations, the driver's license shall not be confiscated but the erring driver shall be immediately issued a traffic citation ticket prescribed by the Metropolitan Manila Commission which shall state the violation committed, the amount of fine imposed for the violation and an advice that he can make payment to the city or municipal treasurer where the violation was committed or to the Philippine National Bank or Philippine Veterans Bank or their branches within seven days from the date of issuance of the citation ticket.

If the offender fails to pay the fine imposed within the period herein prescribed, the Metropolitan Manila Commission or the law-enforcement agency concerned shall endorse the case to the proper fiscal for appropriate proceedings preparatory to the filing of the case with the competent traffic court, city or municipal court.

If at the time a driver renews his driver's license and records show that he has an unpaid fine, his driver's license shall not be renewed until he has paid the fine and corresponding surcharges.

xxx xxx xxx

Section 8. Insofar as the Metropolitan Manila area is concerned, all laws, decrees, orders, ordinances, rules and regulations, or parts thereof inconsistent herewith are hereby repealed or modified accordingly. (Emphasis supplied).

In fact, the above provisions prohibit the imposition of such sanctions in Metropolitan Manila. The Commission was allowed to "impose fines and otherwise discipline" traffic violators only "in such amounts and under such penalties as are herein prescribed," that is, by the decree itself. Nowhere is the removal of license plates directly imposed by the decree or at least allowed by it to be imposed by the Commission. Notably, Section 5 thereof expressly provides that "in case of traffic violations, the driver's license shall not be confiscated." These restrictions are applicable to the Metropolitan Manila Authority and all other local political subdivisions comprising Metropolitan Manila, including the Municipality of Mandaluyong.

The requirement that the municipal enactment must not violate existing law explains itself. Local political subdivisions are able to legislate only by virtue of a valid delegation of legislative power from the national legislature (except only that the power to create their own sources of revenue and to levy taxes is conferred by the Constitution itself). 8 They are mere agents vested with what is called the power of subordinate legislation. As delegates of the Congress, the local government unit cannot contravene but must obey at all times the will of their principal. In the case before us, the enactments in question, which are merely local in origin, cannot prevail against the decree, which has the force and effect of a statute.

The self-serving language of Section 2 of the challenged ordinance is worth noting. Curiously, it is the measure itself, which was enacted by the Metropolitan Manila Authority, that authorizes the Metropolitan Manila Authority to impose the questioned sanction.

In Villacorta vs, Bemardo, 9 the Court nullified an ordinance enacted by the Municipal Board of Dagupan City for being violative of the Land Registration Act. The decision held in part:

In declaring the said ordinance null and void, the court a quo declared:

From the above-recited requirements, there is no showing that would justify the enactment of the questioned ordinance. Section 1 of said ordinance clearly conflicts with Section 44 of Act 496, because the latter law does not require subdivision plans to be submitted to the City Engineer before the same is submitted for approval to and verification by the General Land Registration Office or by the Director of Lands as provided for in Section 58 of said Act. Section 2 of the same ordinance also contravenes the provisions of Section 44 of Act 496, the latter being silent on a service fee of P0.03 per square meter of every lot subject of such subdivision application; Section 3 of the ordinance in question also conflicts with Section 44 of Act 496, because the latter law does not mention of a certification to be made by the City Engineer before the Register of Deeds allows registration of the subdivision plan; and the last section of said ordinance impose a penalty for its violation, which Section 44 of Act 496 does not impose. In other words, Ordinance 22 of the City of Dagupan imposes upon a subdivision owner additional conditions.

xxx xxx xxx

The Court takes note of the laudable purpose of the ordinance in bringing to a halt the surreptitious registration of lands belonging to the government. But as already intimated above, the powers of the board in enacting such a laudable ordinance cannot be held valid when it shall impede the exercise of rights granted in a general law and/or make a general law subordinated to a local ordinance.

We affirm.

To sustain the ordinance would be to open the floodgates to other ordinances amending and so violating national laws in the guise of implementing them. Thus, ordinances could be passed imposing additional requirements for the issuance of marriage licenses, to prevent bigamy; the registration of vehicles, to minimize carnapping; the execution of contracts, to forestall fraud; the validation of parts, to deter imposture; the exercise of freedom of speech, to reduce disorder; and so on. The list is endless, but the means, even if the end be valid, would be ultra vires.

The measures in question do not merely add to the requirement of PD 1605 but, worse, impose sanctions the decree does not allow and in fact actually prohibits. In so doing, the ordinances disregard and violate and in effect partially repeal the law.

We here emphasize the ruling in the Gonong case that PD 1605 applies only to the Metropolitan Manila area. It is an exception to the general authority conferred by R.A. No. 413 on the Commissioner of Land Transportation to punish violations of traffic rules elsewhere in the country with the sanction therein prescribed, including those here questioned.

The Court agrees that the challenged ordinances were enacted with the best of motives and shares the concern of the rest of the public for the effective reduction of traffic problems in Metropolitan Manila through the imposition and enforcement of more deterrent penalties upon traffic violators. At the same time, it must also reiterate the public misgivings over the abuses that may attend the enforcement of such sanction in eluding the illicit practices described in detail in the Gonong decision. At any rate, the fact is that there is no statutory authority for and indeed there is a statutory prohibition against the imposition of such penalties in the Metropolitan Manila area. Hence, regardless of their merits, they cannot be impose by the challenged enactments by virtue only of the delegated legislative powers.

It is for Congress to determine, in the exercise of its own discretion, whether or not to impose such sanctions, either directly through a statute or by simply delegating authority to this effect to the local governments in Metropolitan Manila. Without such action, PD 1605 remains effective and continues prohibit the confiscation of license plates of motor vehicles (except under the conditions prescribed in LOI 43) and of driver licenses as well for traffic violations in Metropolitan Manila.

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:

(1) declaring Ordinance No.11, Seriesof l991,of theMetropolitan Manila Authority and Ordinance No. 7, Series of 1988 of the Municipality of Mandaluyong, NULL and VOID; and

(2) enjoining all law enforcement authorities in Metropolitan Manila from removing the license plates of motor vehicles (except when authorized under LOI 43) and confiscating driver licenses for traffic violations within the said area.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Paras, Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado, Davide, Jr. and Romero, JJ., concur.

Nocon, J., took no part.

 

# Footnotes

1 En Banc 187 SCRA 432.

2 Constitution, Article VHI, Section 5(5).

3 84 Phil. 368.

4 R.A. 7160, Title One, Chapter 2, Section 16.

5 Pelaez v. Auditor General, 15 SCRA 569.

6 Calalang v. Williams, 70 Phil. 726.

7 U.S. v. Abendan, 24 Phil. 165.

8 Article X, Section 5.

9 143 SCR.A 480.


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