SC upholds MMDA’s number coding scheme to ease traffic congestion

Published June 17, 2021, 10:34 AM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the power of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to adopt and enforce measures that would ease traffic congestion like the number coding scheme for public and private vehicles.

Under the scheme, vehicles with plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 are banned on Mondays; 3 and 4, Tuesdays; 5 and 6, Wednesdays; 7 and 8, Thursdays; and 9 and 0, Fridays. No number coding on Saturdays and Sundays.

Since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) started in March 2020, the number coding scheme has been suspended in Metro Manila.

The MMDA had also announced that despite the shift of Metro Manila to a less restricted general community quarantine that started last June 16, number coding remains suspended.

The SC’s unanimous full court decision, written by Associate Justice Marvic M. V. F. Leonen, dismissed the petition filed by drivers of public utility buses (PUB) plying certain routes in Metro Manila.

A check with the SC showed that the decision was promulgated on Nov. 17, 2020 but made public almost seven months later on June 11, 2021.

The statement issued by the SC’s public information office (PIO) stated that SC ruled that the PUB drivers “failed to present a clear factual foundation to rebut the presumption of validity of the challenged issuances”– the MMDA’s Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, otherwise known as the number coding scheme which is embodied in MMDA Resolution No. 10-16 and MMDA Memorandum Circular No. 08, Series of 2010.

The PIO said “the Court held that the assailed MMDA issuances were validly issued pursuant to MMDA’s power to regulate traffic under Republic Act No. 7924” (the MMDA law).

It said that under RA 7924, “the MMDA is vested with authority to regulate the delivery of metro-wide services in Metropolitan Manila” and “confers upon MMDA, through the Metro Manila Council (MMC), the power to issue regulations that provide for a system to regulate traffic major thoroughfares of Metro Manila for the safety and convenience of the public.”

Also, the PIO said “the Court held that the assailed MMDA issuances were issued within the limits of the powers granted to MMDA.”

The MMDA’s “discretion to reimpose the number coding scheme on public utility buses was a reasonably appropriate response to the serious traffic problem pervading Manila,” it said.

The PIO also said quoting from the decision:

“The arbitrariness, oppressiveness and unreasonableness of the implementation of the issuances have not been sufficiently shown. The buses driven by petitioners have not been totally banned or prohibited from plying the Metro Manila roads.

“However, as in private vehicles, the operation of public utility buses in Metro Manila was merely regulated with a view to curb traffic congestion.”

At the same time, PIO said that the SC ruled “there is no outright deprivation of property but merely a restriction in the operation of public utility buses along the major roads of Metro Manila through the number coding scheme.”

“The Court held that the challenged issuances do no encroach upon the regulatory powers of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board over public utility vehicles under Executive Order No. 202. The MMDA issuances also are not violative of the due process clause of the Constitution,’ it said.

It said in its statement that the PUB drivers “are not the real parties in interest. The real parties in interest are the bus owners/operators or franchisees.”

It cited that the SC pointed out that “by virtue of a Memorandum of Agreement between MMDA and bus operators associations, public utility buses were partially exempted from the number coding scheme.”

Thereafter, the public utility buses were eventually included in the traffic scheme pursuant to the assailed MMDA issuances, and this prompted the PUB drivers to elevate the issue before the SC, it added.