CA upholds LTFRBs decision granting new franchise to Pantranco
BY MAR T SUPNAD
After long years of legal battle, the Court of Appeals has upheld the decision of the Land Transportation and Regulatory Board approving the renewal of franchises of the defunct government owned Pantranco North Express, Inc. (PNEI), citing social justice to the thousands of employees.
In its 13-page final and executory decision, copy of which was obtained by this writer, the CA’s 7th Division chaired by Associate Justice Noel Tijam, dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by Phil. Rabbit Bus, Genesis Transport Service and Pangasinan Solid North Transit, as it recognizes the decision of the LTFRB in “finding subject franchises (of Pantranco) to be valid and existing, merely gave life to the constitutional provision of social justice.”
The C.A.’s decision, which was also supported by two members- Associate Justices Romeo Barza and Ramon Cruz- has put to rest all the adverse issues being floated by the opposing transportation companies.
“This is a victory of our members who have long been denied of justice due to the personal interest of others and we laud the CA for finally giving social justice to us,” said Romy Alfonso and Ofel Manabat, President and Treasurer of the Pantranco Retrenched Employees Association (PANREA) who led personally the initiative in fighting for the benefits of more than 2,000 employees.
With the order , Pantranco Union leaders can now sell their Certificate of Public Convenience, consisting roughly 777 units to private bus companies, and the proceeds of which will go to the employees as their monetarial benefits.
Citing policy of social justice, in the land mark case of “Calalang vs Williams, 70 Phil. 726” and reiterated on the case of PAL vs Santos, (218 SCRA 415-1993), “the law bends over backwards to accommodate the interest of the working class on the humane justification that those with less privilege in life should have more privilege in law.”
Earlier, the opposing bus companies claimed that the franchises issued by the LTFRB was illegal since it was already a “dead” franchise and no longer existing.
But the CA believes that “to say that the CPCs expired during the sequestration and rehabilitation of PNEI would run counter to the very purpose of sequestration and rehabilitation…The LTFRB has the power to ‘issue, amend, revise, suspend or cancel CPCs.”
The CA said the LTFRB acted lawfully when it approved the sale and transfer of CPCs to the private bus companies.
Noting the more than 20 long years of legal battle initiated by the Pantranco employees, the CA said “it would remain a hollow paper victory if the subject franchises are to be found to be invalid…”
Alfonso said, however, that they will continue the legitimate selling of the franchise right after the general assembly and holding of elections of Union officers come March 8.
Pantranco was earlier sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government.-Mar T Supnad