Around 10,000 motorcycle riders joined the unity ride in EDSA on Sunday, March 24, 2019, to protest the new law proposing bigger, color-coded motorcycle plates, which authorities say can help curb crimes by making it easier to identify the license plate of the vehicle of motorcycle-riding criminals.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Doble plaka
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2019 - 12:00am

I’m one of the many millions who welcomed the passage of Republic Act 11235, otherwise known as the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, authored by Sen. Richard Gordon and signed into law by President Duterte on March 8 and released to the public on March 14.

Hardly had the President’s approval ink dried than a throng of 10,000 motorcyclists thundered through the streets,  decrying the ratification of the law. Their rally, they dubbed “Unity Drive,” resulted in the “backing off” by the President – an uncommon presidential action – advising the Land Transportation Office on April 6 to suspend the implementation of the law and draft the implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

As we go to press, Senator Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, has announced that the law cannot be suspended, but can be amended. “It’s already a law, he already signed it,” he said. 

Thankfully, the President did not delete the law, but he did listen to the rallyists, and will be listening to proposals from Senator Gordon (who he announced once as “the next president”). 

The law requires the mounting of large plates on the front and rear of motorcycles, and penalizing of violators. It also requires color coding for the vehicles. Motorcyclists call the law “doble plaka” for requiring two license plates. Violators will be fined P50,000 to P100,000.

Duterte said he would convince the Land Transportation Office (LTO), headed by Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante, which is tasked with the drafting of the IRR to scrap requiring the plates in front, but instead increase the size of the rear license plate. The license plate has to be readable from a distance of at least 15 meters. 

Why did Senator Gordon file the bill a couple of years ago?

Reckless motorcycle drivers have been us motorists’ headache as they weave in and out of traffic – called filtering or lane splitting – and squeezing behind cars and buses (called “cages” by the bikers), causing us enormous stress as their sheer number results in traffic’s moving turtle-paced. 

Gordon has been quoted in media outlets that for the last so many decades, motorcycles have become “crime machines,” killing ordinary people, media personnel, lawyers, justices, judges, politicians and even policemen. Sen. Vicente Sotto, co-author of the RA 11235 law, said the riding-in-tandem assassins constitute one of the biggest contributors to extra-judicial killings. The Philippine National Police (PNP) has recorded an average of four people killed by riding-in-tandem shooters each day.

The Philippine Safety Driving Center’s Facebook page revealed that from January to August last year, the PNP Highway Patrol group recorded 2,228 accidents involving motorcycles. The Metro Manila Development Authority’s Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System (MMARAS), revealed that most of the 20,151 accidents it recorded from January to May last year involved the use of motorcycles. 

The MMARAS study said motorcycles have the highest fatality accident rate (29.46 percent of the total fatal accidents) compared to other vehicles. For non-fatal incidents, motorcycles also had the highest rate (6,677 or a 36.78 percent share) compared to cars (4,543 or 25.02 percent) and other vehicles.

PNP records showed that of the total 28,409 motorcycle riding crimes or incidents reported from 2010 to 2017, 13,062 or 46 percent of which were shooting incidents. And out of over 4,000 motorcycle riding crimes incidents in 2016, only eight cases (0.18  percent) were solved.

Gordon said, “Criminals on board motorcycles have really become so bold and fearless. They kill with impunity even in broad daylight and even along very busy thoroughfares such as EDSA.”

“Hence, it is time we take a bite out of these crimes by imposing bigger plate numbers on motorcycles so that riding-in-tandems will no longer get away easily after committing a crime.”

The law requires the mounting of bigger, readable and color-coded number plates to deter, if not totally stop, riding-in-tandem crimes. The readable plates will be placed on the front and rear of the motorcycle. The new number plates have to be readable from a distance of at least 15 meters and be readable from the front, back, and side of the motorcycle. The easily read plate number helps witnesses record the plate number when they report the crime to the police.

Motorcycles must have number plates the color of which corresponds to the region where the motorcycle was registered so that law enforcers will have an easier time identifying the origin of a motorcycle. 

The law also punishes owners of motorcycles used in the perpetration of crimes with fines and jail terms. 

Duterte had signed the law upon the recommendation of the police and the military. “Kung ano irekomenda nila, I will adopt it, basta maglagay lang ng rationale,” he said. 

The motorcycle rider groups have since protested against the issuance of bigger license plates. “We are not criminals,” they say. Motorcycle manufacturers are against the mounting of a bigger license plate in front of the bike for safety reasons.

“We LMFI (Luzon Motorcycle Federation Inc.) officers, strongly reject the government’s implementation of the two-license plate policy,” said the group’s president Wawi Villanueva, also head of the Bicol Steel Horses Big Bikers Club. He is quoted as saying motorcycle groups were not consulted regarding the issue.

An LMFI statement goes, “Safety issues of the riders, commuters, pedestrians and other road users are at risk due to the installation of the license plate in front of the motorcycle which is not designed and have no provision to hold license plates.” 

“Having two license plates and increasing the size of the license plates do not end street crimes just because there are very few criminals caught or put to jail due to the poor and slow justice system or non police visibility,” the group emphasized.

Duterte said in his speech before the National Federation of the Motorcycle Clubs of the Philippines in Iloilo City, that the law’s prescribed fine of between P50,000 to P100,000 should be lowered to P10,000. 

Motorcycles are not just the two-wheeled machine that is now considered the king of the road. There are more than 6.2 million registered vehicles in the Philippines as of 2009. Around 3.2 million are motorcycles, scooters, or tricycles, according to the Land Transportation Office. Jeepneys which fall around the utility vehicle (UV) category, numbered only 1.6 million last year. Cars numbered 780,000, according to LTO figures. A perusal of the text of RA 11235 shows that the two-plates requirement does not apply to tricycles.

The motorcycle has become the favored vehicle for many Filipinos for personal mobility and faster travel to destinations. Motorbikes also cost cheap, one can buy a new unit for P7,000 down payment and a monthly installment of P3,000. Motorbikes are also exempted from the number-coding schemes implemented by the MMDA and most cities in the metropolis. 

Gordon cited his experience as city mayor in the successful implementation in 1985 of a public transport color-coded number system in Olongapo. With the color-coded number system, crimes on board jeepneys and motorcycles dramatically decreased, and having a central file helped passengers locate the drivers of the tricycles and jeepneys involved in a crime or accident. He hopes the new law will achieve the same result. 

Gordon calls on the public to actively take part in deterring riding-in-tandem crimes. People who witness a crime, should report it to the police immediately, that the LTO should have an Operations and Control Center, along with the PNP, that the LTO should make ready the issuance of new number plates, and that the police should move when a look-out bulletin is issued from the Joint LTO, PNP Operations and Control Center.

The President is right in listening to the complaint of motorcyclists. But is he afraid of the 10,000 motor riders, and not the millions of potential victims of in-tandem motorists? 

 It will be well for the motorcycle associations to safeguard their reputation as non-criminals, and run after motorcyclists violating the law and involved in-tandem criminal acts, as well as hold informative seminars for motor riders.

*  * *

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

MOTORCYCLE CRIME PREVENTION ACT
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