The Court of Appeals (CA) has junked a Quezon City Regional Trial Court ruling preventing the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) from pursuing its planned procurement of a new information technology solution for the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
In a 19-page decision, CA’s 17th Division ordered to dissolve the preliminary injunctions issued by Judge Afable Cajigal of QC RTC Branch 96, saying that that the parties which asked for a halt in the bidding process — Amalgamated Motors Philippines Inc. (AMPI) and Realtime Data Management Services Inc. (RDMSI) — have “no clear legal rights” to request for an injunction.
On May 25, 2010, the LTO Bids and Awards Committee announced the bidding for the supply and delivery of Philippine Driver’s License Cards. AMPI and RDMSI have bought bid documents for the project, signifying their intentions to participate in the bidding.
The LTO-BAC, however, had to defer the procurement after then DOTC Sec. Jose de Jesus ordered a comprehensive review of the project’s terms of reference.
The project was altogether suspended later on as De Jesus issued an order creating a DOTC Special BAC to handle the bidding for the drivers’ license project.
The DOTC SBAC issued on December 24, 2010 a new invitation to bid for the said project.
RDMSI, however, went to court to request for a temporary restraining order against the DOTC as it questioned the legality of the DOTC issuance.
RDMSI also asked the court to determine its rights as a bidder, as it already purchased bid documents for the project. The court granted RDMSI’s petition for TRO.
The DOTC then issued last year a special order creating the DOTC Primary BAC and the Secondary BAC. The Primary BAC was tasked to handle procurements exceeding P50 million, including the LTO-IT project, a more comprehensive automation program, whose component already includes the Driver’s License Project.
It was AMPI’s turn then to go to court to seek for an injunction. The court, on June 1, 2012, ruled in favor of AMPI.
On June 14, the Office of the Solicitor General filed for a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals. The OSG said Cajigal should not have granted AMPI’s and RDMSI’s petitions because the two, being merely bidders, have failed to establish their legal rights in asking for injunctions.
The CA, in a ruling penned by Associate Justice FloritoMacalino, agreed with the OSG.
“RDMSI and AMPI are not entitled to the writs of injunction issued by the trial court because they do not have clear and unmistakable right which must be protected,” the CA said.
It added that by merely purchasing bid documents, RDMSI and AMPI, “are mere potential or future bidders as indeed, there is no bid or signed offer or proposal by them in response to the Bidding Documents.”
The Appellate Court also cited jurisprudence which says that government, being “the owner of the property subject of the bid,” has the power to determine what terms a project may be awarded.
“The discretion to accept or reject bids and award contracts is of such wide latitude, courts will not interfere, unless it is apparent that such discretion is exercised arbitrarily, or used as a shield to a fraudulent award,” the CA said.
The DOTC has been pursuing the bidding process for the P8.2-billion project in anticipation for the expiration of its contract with Stradcom Corp. in February next year.
The DOTC said the IT system will provide a viable and long-term solution to address the previous system’s issues, such as the problem of key data like vehicle registration being handled by a third-party provider and not by the government.
It said the 13-year-old LTO IT system is no longer responsive to current land transportation regulation requirements. The new LTO-IT system, once in place, will make it easier for authorities to access relevant vehicle information especially in tracing stolen vehicles.
“Once the automation systems of LTO and LTFRB are up and running, the government will be able to eliminate cases of PUVs securing an LTFRB franchise without LTO registration, as well as PUVs that are registered with the LTO but have no LTFRB franchise,” the DOTC earlier said.