By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – In a bid to close a potential source of campaign kitty for the Arroyo administration and relieve the public, especially the motorists, of additional financial burden come January 10, progressive partylist representatives and aspiring senators Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, with Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casino, Anakpawis Representative Joel Maglunsod and Piston secretary general George San Mateo, asked the Supreme Court Wednesday to void the looming LTO-Stradcom RFID project.
Specifically, the progressive solons and the members of Piston (United alliance of drivers and operators nationwide) have asked the Supreme Court to declare as “unconstitutional and illegal” the Land Transportation Office’s controversial radio frequency identification (RFID) project. They also asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction to prevent the project’s full implementation come January 10, 2010.
“We have three basis for opposing” the RFID project, Rep. Satur Ocampo told reporters. One, he said the transport authorities have gone beyond their power and violated two laws, on procurement and on requirements for motor registration. (There had been no public hearing concerning the RFID project and no bidding among suppliers. According to the law, having an RFID is not required in registering vehicles.) Two, the LTO-Stradcom RFID project is “unconstitutional because it bypassed or usurped the authority of Congress to legislate additional requirements for motor registration.” Three, the RFID project “intrudes on the people’s right to privacy.”
Representative Ocampo told Bulatlat that if there would be a transgression on the right to privacy, there should first be an overwhelming public interest involved. He believed there is none, and that if the government wanted to monitor vehicles, there are other measures available that will not require forcing the motorists to buy RFID. There are currently 4,760,593 registered vehicles in the Philippines. The RFID is touted to last 10 years but many motorists doubt that, said Piston.
Ocampo said what they are trying to avoid, through their petition with the Supreme Court, is the likely “bad impact on public interest” such additional imposition would create. Satur Ocampo noted that because the Arroyo government has been wracking up a huge budget deficit, it is once again casting about for new taxes and impositions on the public, for instance, increasing fees of different government agencies with regulatory power, or imposing new fees on public dealings with the government, and of course, this looming RFID project.
“This RFID project is definitely a big revenue-generating scheme,” said Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casino. The government will earn at least P1.6 billion ($34,327,397 at an exchange rate of $1=P46.61) on the first year of its implementation alone. “Even a mere 10 percent of that as commission is already a huge amount that can be used for the elections if they wanted to,” Casino said in reply to questions about the RFID’s relation to the upcoming elections.
Small public transport operators who are already burdened by increasing oil prices and stiff penalties for so-called traffic violations would likely be forced to pass the additional expense on the riding public, Satur Ocampo warned.
“This is clearly another money-making scheme of the government– an additional imposition on the people and the motorists,” Piston’s George San Mateo affirmed. At a time when the people are suffering from an economic crisis made worse by calamities, San Mateo said this is an “unnecessary expense.” Instead of the government helping the public sector and the people, they’re further burdening us with additional fees, he lamented.
San Mateo also criticized the LTO’s push for RFID as anomalous “because according to the LTO you will pay only P350 ($7.509) for it, but actually, you will have to pay P520 ($11.156)! There are hidden charges.” In fact, in Bicol, Piston members who picketed outside of the Supreme Court while the solons were filing their petition disclosed that some of their members were charged more than P600 ($12.87). But the receipt didn’t specify the additional charges as RFID but merely as “computer fees.”
“There is something fishy going on here,” San Mateo said, pointing not only to the LTO’s “false advertising” but also to the “illegal processes” which the RFID project went through to get approved for implementation come January 10.
If the LTO-Stradcom’s RFID project was patently illegal, how did it become a requirement for all motorists? Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casino explained that its proponents have been “hiding the illegality of this project by saying it is just an ‘enhancement measure.’” However, Casino said it is clear that it is “not a simple enhancement measure but an additional requirement, thus there’s a need for a new legislation first before it can be imposed on the motorists.”
The law is clear on requirements for motorists to register their vehicle. It doesn’t require an RFID tag. (Bulatlat.com)