Lifting of restrictions on old buses rejected

Posted on October 07, 2013

THE APPELLATE COURT has junked a petition from 31 bus operators to suspend a government policy to shelve old buses for use as public transport.

In a four-page resolution promulgated on Sept. 25, the fifth division of the Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the petition for prohibition filed by bus operators “for lack of cause of action.”

“We resolve to dismiss the instant petition for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies contrary to the required condition, i.e. ‘there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law’,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Rosmari D. Carandang.

The operators questioned Resolution No. 13-01 of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) prohibiting buses that are 15 years old and above from being used for public transport.

Under the resolution, the LTFRB will strictly observe a standing order of the Department of Transportation and Communications not to issue certificates of public convenience (CPC) or franchises to public utility vehicles (PUVs) like buses and jeepneys that are at least 15 years old.

The prohibition covers new application of franchise, extension of existing CPC, substitution or increase of units, “if said unit is more than the minimum age requirement as specified.”

The road worthiness certificates of the old buses “can no longer be used as basis for confirming or allowing” the said PUVs to operate.

The 31 bus operators went to the CA after pending petitions filed with the LTFRB remain unresolved. The petitioners cited the pending cases of the Ilocos Transport Service Cooperative and the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines with the LTFRB. The operators further noted the continued enforcement of the resolution “will cause grave and irreparable injury to petitioners economically, and larger danger to the riding public.”

The CA, however, said the petitioners should have first sought administrative remedies with LTFRB prior to filing the petition at the appellate court.

“Under the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, recourse through court action cannot prosper until after all such administrative remedies have first been exhausted,” the CA said.

The appellate court also found no merit on the LTFRB’s alleged inaction on the petitions filed by other operators, saying the latter who questioned the franchisers’ ruling were not parties in the case before the CA. -- Mikhail Franz E. Flores