MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the lifting of the six-month suspension order on 186 bus units of G.V. Florida Transport Inc. covered by 28 Certificates of Public Convenience (CPCs) found to be without any franchise violation.
In an 18-page decision dated June 26, 2014 and written by Associate Justice Franchito Diamante, the CA 14th Division ruled that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) committed grave abuse of discretion in giving an “illegal” order “without any factual and legal bases” when it handed down the suspension order on the 28 CPCs “in the absolute absence of a violation or wrong committed.”
However, the CA upheld the cancellation of a CPC under the name “Norberto M. Cue, Sr.” covering 10 buses under the “beneficial ownership” of Florida, which includes bus unit with plate No. TXT-872 that figured in a vehicular accident along Sitio Paggang, Talubin, Bontoc, Mountain Province on Feb. 7, 2014.
The accident , which claimed the lives of 15 passengers, including comedian and rights advocate Arvin “Tado” Jimenez, and injured 32 others, is the root of the present case and controversy.
Cue’s CPC was bought by Florida but the latter has yet to seek the approval of the LTFRB on the sale and transfer of the CPC to its name.
The CA said that the ground relied upon by LTFRB in cancelling the CPC under Cue’s name was because of Florida’s failure to file the required application for approval of sale and transfer of the CPC it bought from Cue, not the road worthiness of the bus under this CPC which figured in the Mountain Province accident.
Regarding the 28 CPCs covering 186 suspended buses, the CA ruled that there was no basis for the six-month suspension because no franchise violation was found on the part of Florida in as far as these CPCs are concerned.
“It defies logic as to why the LTFRB found no ‘violations or willful and contumacious refusal to comply with the rules or regulations of the LTFRB and the provisions of the Public Service Law’ with respect to the 28 CPCs of Florida and yet wielded the penalty of suspension,” the CA ruling said.
“It is at once clearly and glaringly apparent that Florida was penalized for a non-existing violation… What is more, the LTFRB itself found Florida to have substantially complied with the conditions (inspection and roadworthiness determination of all Florida units, road safety seminar for its drivers and conductors, compulsory drug-testing for all its drivers and conductors, submission of Certificates of Registration and latest Land Transportation ORs of all its units and the names of the respective drivers and conductors) which it imposed under the Preventive Suspension Order,” the CA said.
Concurring in the ruling were Associate Justices Celia Librea-Leagogo and Melchor Sadang.