MANILA, Philippines – A lawyer has advised the South Luzon Tollways Corp. (SLTC) to defer raising toll rates at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) since the Supreme Court (SC) ruling upholding the legality of its contract with the government is not yet final and executory.
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the SC ruling is still subject to appeal by petitioners.
The SLTC, according to Macalintal, “might be censured or cited in contempt of court” should it decide to implement the recent SC decision upholding the validity of its proposed toll rate increase rates at SLEX and the lifting of the temporary restraining order (TRO) previously issued by the court against the proposed new rates.
“While the decision included the lifting of the TRO against SLTC, the decision, as well as the lifting of the TRO, could still be the subject of a motion for reconsideration by the petitioners who, under the Rules of Court, have 15 days from their receipt of the decision to file the motion for reconsideration,” he said.
Macalintal said under the Rules of Court, the petitioners still have until Nov. 5 to appeal the decision released last Oct. 21, assuming they received formal notice of the decision by mail yesterday.
“And during the pendency of such motion, the decision, including the lifting of the TRO, is not yet final and executory,” he said.
Macalintal based his opinion on a similar SC ruling in 1994 in Tolentino vs. Secretary of Finance where despite the decision upholding the validity of the implementation of the Value Added Tax and the lifting of the TRO against the VAT, the SC reminded the Bureau of Internal Revenue that its decision, including the lifting of the TRO, is not yet final and the TRO has not been lifted when the period to file a motion for reconsideration has not yet lapsed.
“In other words, the TRO issued by the Supreme Court in the SLEX cases is still valid and effective and the October 21 decision, including the lifting of the TRO against SLTC, is not yet final and executory,” he said.
“This is so because the aggrieved parties, on their motion for reconsideration, may still ask the court to reconsider or set aside its decision, including that portion lifting the TRO against SLTC,” he added.
In Albay, Gov. Joey Salceda learned yesterday that his petition opposing the government plan to hike toll in the SLEX was not dismissed by the SC.
“We got here a 74-page decision on the lifting of the TRO promulgated on Oct. 19, 2010,” he said. “After careful reading, it shows that we are not covered by the decision. Our case number is GR 192484.”
“The decision covers GRs 166910, 169917, 173630 and 183599. We are still studying for possible remedy. As relayed, we just filed our reply to the motion to lift the TRO last Monday,” Salceda said.
The SC ruled that toll rates and periodic adjustments in the expressways are “simply predicated on the basic rationale for investing in a toll project” - a reasonable rate of return for investment.
“The viability of any infrastructure project depends on the returns - which should be reasonable - of the investment coming from the private sector,” read the SC decision.
The SC also dismissed as “without adequate factual mooring” allegations and conclusions of the petitioners as to the unreasonable increase of the toll rates.
“The use of the tollway is privilege that comes at a cost,” read the SC decision.
The toll hike would not be implemented this year, according to the Toll Regulatory Board.
Edu Punay, Philippine Star