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‘NCAP suspended, but earlier fines stand’

‘NCAP suspended, but earlier fines stand’

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By Dempsey Reyes and Julie M. Aurelio, Inquirer News

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has deployed more traffic enforcers to major thoroughfares to go after errant motorists after the Supreme Court stopped the implementation of the no-contact apprehension policy (NCAP).

MMDA Traffic Discipline Office director and spokesperson Crisanto Saruca Jr. said on Wednesday that adjustments were made, particularly on the busiest major roads in the metropolis, including Edsa, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, C5 Road and Macapagal Boulevard.

“Before, we had cameras in those areas,” Saruca said at a press conference at the MMDA office in Makati City. “We will be adding more traffic enforcers so we can enforce our traffic management [rules].”

According to Saruca, between January and Aug. 24, around 107,000 citations were made through NCAP, mostly for violating traffic signs, the number coding scheme and the no-loading/unloading policy.

Apart from the “intensified” physical citations, Saruca said the collection of NCAP fines “shall also stop” in compliance with the high tribunal’s temporary restraining order (TRO) against the controversial policy. “Apprehension which happened prior to the TRO shall still be subject to corresponding penalties,” Saruca said, arguing that the Supreme Court order was prospective and made no mention of fines imposed before the order.

In issuing the TRO, the high tribunal said it would hear in open court on Jan. 24, 2023, the two petitions questioning the NCAP filed last month by transport groups and a lawyer.It also directed the Land Transportation Office, MMDA and the city governments of Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Parañaque and Muntinlupa to halt their implementation of the traffic policy that uses closed-circuit television cameras to catch errant motorists in the act instead of in-person apprehension.

But at the House of Representatives, some lawmakers said government agencies and local governments that implemented the policy should return the fines paid by apprehended motorists and draft guidelines that would not encroach on their basic rights.

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1-Pacman Rep. Michael Romero remarked that the implementing agencies “must have collected tens of millions of pesos” in fines. “Now that the Supreme Court has issued a TRO against this policy, the concerned agencies and [local governments] should reimburse the [fines collected from] alleged violators,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

For Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, the suspension of NCAP will allow the House to “review its alleged flaws, including [its] constitutionality.”

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda urged Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos and Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista “to take this halting of the NCAP as an opportunity to guide [local governments] on enforcing traffic rules so that their methods do not encroach upon basic rights.”