MANILA, Philippines – A lawyer on Friday urged the Supreme Court to issue a status quo order that will stop the implementation of a 250% increase in toll rate of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).
Lawyer Ernesto Francisco said he filed a supplemental omnibus motion asking the Court en banc to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a status quo order against the 250% toll rate increase scheduled to take effect at the SLEX on Monday.
The petition is separate from 2 petitions asking the High Court to block Monday’s implementation of a 12% value-added tax (VAT) on toll rates in superhighways.
Speaking to ANC, Francisco said he is writing a letter to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to inform him of a possible conflict-of-interest situation that led to the increase in the SLEX toll rate.
He said a copy of the SLEX supplemental toll operation agreement (STOA) showed that Mark Dumol, a former chief of staff of then Public Works and Highways Secretary Gregorio Vigilar, is the signatory of the Malaysian investors in the SLEX rehabilitation project.
He said Dumol, as Vigilar’s chief of staff, had earlier pushed for the escalation formula that would provide for a higher toll rate instead of the return on rate base formula that was being pushed by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for investors.
“There is a clear conflict of interest here where a government official who pushed for the provisions in the STOA is suddenly the president of the investors. I am asking the office of the President to investigate this but for the meantime, I am asking the SC to hold in abeyance the implementation of this STOA until such time that its provisions can be examined,” he said.
Francisco earlier petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the STOA entered into by the Toll Regulatory Board with various private firms for the construction of the North and South Expressways and the Metro Manila Skyway. He said the TRB committed grave abuse of discretion in signing the contract without public bidding.
SC could decide on toll tax petitions
SC administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez earlier said the High Court could decide on the petition to block the implementation of VAT on toll fees before August 16. The Bureau of Internal Revenue said it hopes to collect P12 billion annually from the collection of VAT on toll fees.
Marquez said the court may no longer wait for its next en banc meeting on August 17 to determine if there is a need to slap a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the plan.
“The petition was raffled off last Wednesday and is now assigned to a justice,” he said. “I would like to think that the justice handling the case would come up with a recommendation until Friday and Chief Justice Renato Corona would likely come up with an order upon the submission of the recommendation to him.”
Former Nueva Ecija Rep. Renato Diaz and former Trade and Industry official Aurora Ma. Timbol argued in their petition that the planned VAT on toll fees is “unconstitutional” and is an “invasion of legislative powers.”