Story & photo By VJ Bacungan
MOTORCYCLE groups are calling on the government to review road traffic laws amid what they claim are wrongful apprehensions of riders.
“In Mandaluyong City, we are profiled as criminals. We are immediately scored as a threat to society,” said Motorcycle Rights Organization Chairman Jobert Bolanos at the Society of Philippine Motoring Journalists’ August 21 forum at Seda Vertis North.
Bolanos was pertaining to a Mandaluyong City ordinance that prohibits two male motorcycle riders from plying the streets, except if the passenger is the driver’s first-degree relative.
The policy was first implemented in August 2014 as Ordinance No. 550 then, relaunched in April 2015 as Ordinance No. 595 to counter “riding-in-tandem” crimes, which usually involve two men on motorcycles.
The driver and passenger are each fined P1,000 for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense and a P3,000 fine and/or a three-month jail term for the third offense.
However, Bolanos said the ordinance did not help reduce riding-in-tandem crimes.
“Actually, the numbers even increased,” he said. “So what did the law do? It did not stop crimes. It did not stop criminality. What it did was it gave Mandaluyong City income instead.”
Bolanos said his group is going to court to fight the implementation of the ordinance.
Safety vs security
Bolanos, likewise, hit some local governments for prohibiting motorcyclists from using helmets, as part of a campaign to help easily identify riding-in-tandem criminals.
“In the past years, what we experienced is that the legislation from the local barangay ordinance, to the city ordinance, to the municipal ordinance, to the provincial ordinance asking riders to remove their helmets,” he said. “It contradicts national law, and that is where we face some problems.”
Republic Act (RA) 10054, or the “Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009,” mandates all motorcycle riders to use helmets. However, places like Dasmariñas City in Cavite and Cotabato City have imposed helmet bans in their jurisdictions.
Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group (HPG) head Chief Supt. Roberto Fajardo said at the forum that his agency supports motorcycle enthusiasts and will continue to oppose measures prohibiting helmet use.
“Any ordinance that prohibits helmets due to concerns over motorcycle-riding suspects is against our national law and is a major safety concern,” he said.
Are LED lights OK or not?
Meanwhile, Bolanos mentioned what he calls the continued “misinterpretation” of regulations on motorcycle modifications, particularly auxiliary lights that use light-emitting diodes (LED).
He said the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and HPG have issued guidelines on the use of these lights, but these have been disregarded by law enforcers.
“In recent months, there has been an operational mandate wherein all auxiliary lights are being confiscated,” he said.
Bolanos said many of these confiscations are supposedly due to violating Presidential Decree (PD) 96, which prohibits the use of blinkers except on emergency vehicles.
“But PD 96 does not cover LED,” he said. “It does not cover auxiliary lights. In fact, it is allowed by RA 4136.”
Bolanos also questioned the confiscation of other aftermarket motorcycle parts.
“The word modification has been misinterpreted,” he said. “However, when we interpret the word ‘modification,’ there has to be a specific item on the document that says this is illegal. To us, if it’s not listed, it is not illegal.”
Fajardo said LED auxiliary lights are allowed, so long as these are not pointed toward other road users and do not violate PD 96.
Meanwhile, LTO Law Enforcement Service chief Director Francis Ray Almora said at the forum that additional motorcycle lights are allowed, but must follow the agency’s regulations.
“When we check all these additional lights, we check all the switches,” he said. “If the additional light is colored red and blue and with blinking mode, then it would be a violation of PD 96.”
App-based bike services up to Congress
Bolanos also called on the government to legalize app-based motorcycle services like Angkas and Grab Bike.
“The only difference between this and ‘habal-habal,’ ang habal-habal, walang training ang rider, walang insurance ang rider [in habal-habal, the rider does not have training or insurance],” he said. “Pero yung [But the] app-based companies, they all have that.”
“We’re promoting this because, ang kailangan nating tulungan dito, hindi naman yung [those we need to help are not the] motorcycle riders,” Bolanos added. “We have to help the commuters kasi sila yung nagca-carry ng burden sa Pilipinas [because they carry the burden in the Philippines].”
Angkas suspended its ride-hailing operations on November 2017 after the Makati City government ordered the closure of its offices for operating without a business permit.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Member Aileen Lizada said in December 2017 that it is up to Congress to legalize the use of motorcycles as public transport.
Fajardo agreed with Lizada, saying that he has no objection to these services, as long as these follow traffic rules.