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SolGen maintains the NCAP norm of fining the owner of a problematic car.

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To continue their defense of the non-contact apprehension policy (NCAP), which was the subject of a temporary restraining order (TRO) last year, state attorneys came before the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday.

On behalf of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra pleaded with the SC to reinstate the NCAP and uphold the practice of prosecuting the registered owner of a vehicle seen breaking the law.

The possibility, according to Guevarra, is to broaden the concepts that were initially applied in the 1952 case Erezo v. Jepte, which holds the registered owner of a vehicle accountable for injuries sustained in accidents in addition to the person actually operating the vehicle.

According to Guevarra, there is a “disputable presumption” under the 1952 precedent that the registered vehicle owner will be held accountable for accidents, “with more reason that presumption (should be applied in cases) of trivial infringement of laws and regulations.”

Guevarra stated, “It is our contention that the Erezo vs. Jepte case covers a debatable assumption in the cases breach of rules and regulations.

The SC held at the time that “the major purpose of motor vehicle registration is to identify the owner so that if any accident occurs, or that the vehicle causes any damage or harm on the public highways, responsibility therefor can be put on a specific individual, the registered owner.”

Guevarra added that the payments collected are regulatory fees paid in order for local government units to exercise their police authority, not revenue-raising fees.

According to SolGen, the fees collected also pay the costs associated with traffic control.

The SC issued a TRO in August 2022 prohibiting the implementation of NCAP-related programs, ordinances, and suspicions “until further orders.”

The LTO and “any parties acting on its behalf” were prohibited from providing motorist information to any government agencies, cities, or municipalities that were enforcing NCAP programs and ordinances under the order.

The petition was filed against Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Paranaque City, Muntinlupa City, and the LTO by the transport organizations Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon Inc., Pasang Masda, Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations, and Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines.

Closed-circuit television cameras are used in the system, according to the groups, which puts drivers “under constant fear of being arbitrarily arrested remotely and issued notices of violation for purported traffic crimes committed without any contact whatsoever.”

Cities that have fully implemented NCAP have reported reductions in traffic congestion brought on by seized automobiles, reckless driving, and dangerous driving practices.

Government attorneys testified during the first hearing on December 6, 2022, that the enforcement of NCAP does not infringe on the privacy rights of drivers because cameras record photos of vehicles that break traffic laws and regulations but are unable to collect photographs of the drivers’ faces.

More significantly, Guevarra added, the LTO’s sharing of vehicle registration data with local governments includes information required to carry out official duties.

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