VARIOUS criminal and administrative charges were filed against Manila Mayor Maria Sheilah “Honey” Lacuna-Pangan and former mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, including plunder and graft and corruption, before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the implementation of the no contact apprehension policy (NCAP).
Aside from plunder and graft and corruption, Lacuna-Pangan and Domagoso, a defeated presidential candidate, were charged with violation of data privacy act, code of ethical conduct for public officials, oppression and abuse of authority, violation of due process and excessive penalties clause, and violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The charges were filed before the Ombudsman by lawyer Alex Lopez on Thursday.
The Manila city government implemented NCAP in 2020 through the City Ordinance 8676 when Domagoso was still the city mayor and Lacuna-Pangan was still the city vice mayor.
“It is worth reiterating that the NCAP was carried out or implemented by the private sector through the private-public partnership in this case Mayor Lacuna and QPAX Traffic Systems Inc.,” said Lopez.
He emphasized that in the said ordinance, there is no mention or even a hint on how the penalties will be divided between the city government and the collecting private entity.
“Further, there is also no mention as to a special fund to put the collected penalties paid from alleged traffic violations,” Lopez said in his complaint.
He said the purpose of the technology-based NCAP is to avoid “robbery-extortion perpetrated by law enforcers against traffic violators, to ease the traffic in Manila, and to unburden the local government of past methods in implementing traffic rules and regulations.”
However, Lopez argued that the “use of legal force” can be done only by the State and that a private entity, in this case QPAX Traffic Systems Inc., cannot exercise police power or law enforcement.
“There are three powers of the State and one is the police power. Private entities cannot be deputized to implement police power,” Lopez argued.
“Also, pecuniary penalties (money) due to law enforcement must go straight to the coffers of the government and it cannot be divided or given to a private entity as a form of percentage share,” he added in his complaint. “The money received by the State must be complete and its disposal is subject to so many other laws.”
Lopez, the eldest child of former Manila mayor Gemiliano “Mel” Lopez, said QPAX Traffic Systems Inc. is not part of the government and therefore cannot act as a law enforcement agency, unit, bureau, group or tool to apprehend and penalize traffic violators.
He pointed out the city ordinance that established the NCAP in the city is “patently unconstitutional” for violating various Bill of Rights under the Constitution and the Data Privacy Act.
In addition, Lopez said the illegality is even evidenced by a “contract and transaction” with a private entity and that law enforcement is actually implemented by the said private entity.
“What is even worse is that a percentage of the penalty will go directly to the private entity through a percentage arrangement,” he noted.
According to Lopez, QPAX Traffic Systems Inc. as law enforcers upon the imprimatur of Mayor Lacuna-Pangan is “patently in violation of laws and rules,” as it is given shares of the penalties of the traffic violations.
“Under this pretense, Mayor Lacuna-Pangan should be preventively suspended from office while undergoing investigation… to protect the evidence that will be taken from the city government of Manila,” he said.
A thorough study of the use of technology in law enforcement is required and the Supreme Court must have a jurisprudence or decision to make its implementation clear, Lopez added.
The Supreme Court ordered last August a temporary halt to the NCAP that is being implemented in key cities in the National Capital Region including the city of Manila.
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