What a sight that was last Sunday morning. In a show of force not seen in recent memory, thousands of aggrieved motorcycle riders gathered in a “Unity Ride” in different parts of the country to simultaneously rail against the recently passed Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, which they claim is unconstitutional and discriminatory.
At the People Power Monument in Quezon City, an estimated 10,000 motorcyle riders massed up, the number swelling to some 50,000 as the various motorcycle groups rode down to north Edsa, then to Pasay to stop at the Senate building.
Similar motorcades were staged across the country, from Nueva Ecija in the north to Bacolod and Cebu in the Visayas, and as far south as Cotabato in Mindanao.
In contrast, the most recent celebration of the 33rd anniversary of Edsa People Power drew a sparse crowd of less than 2,000, while the “Justice for Kian” rally against extrajudicial killings mustered a humble crowd of about 4,000.
What could roil these riders into such an impressive display of unity and collective anger?
It’s Republic Act No. 11235 or the “Doble Plaka” law as they call it, which mandates the Land Transportation Office (LTO), among others, to issue bigger, more readable and color-coded license plates.
Principal author Sen. Richard Gordon said this new law would help deter crime perpetrated by motorcycle-riding individuals.
Motorcycle owners are directed to renew their registration and apply for the new license plates no later than June 30 this year. The plates must be readable from the front and back from a distance of at least 15 meters. Riders are also directed to register their motorcycle with the LTO within five days from owning one, either brand-new or secondhand.
Failure to register within the required dates will mean imprisonment, a fine of between P20,000 and P50,000, or both. The LTO has been given until the end of the year to produce, release and issue the readable license plates.
The law also provides for sanctions on owners of motorcycles used in the perpetration of crimes, with fines and jail terms.
Sounds good so far, but while its intentions may be commendable, the nitty-gritty of the law is what has gotten the goat of the riders.
A particular sore point is the use of larger plates, especially at the front end of the motorcycle, which motorcyclists claim poses a danger to the rider and to the public as these might fly off at high speeds or if hit by strong winds, since these are not according to manufacturers’ specifications.
Plus, not all motorcycles are built the same way, with some much smaller than others, thus making it difficult to use the same plates to be issued by the LTO — which, by the way, has yet to even clear its backlog of license plates that has been pending for years.
Then there is the added cost on the part of the motorcycle owners, many of whom are low-income Filipinos who badly need the motorcycles for transportation or for their livelihood. The cost of securing new plates plus mounting them is an additional burden they don’t need.
“Utterly oppressive, discriminatory and unconstitutional” was how Jobert Bolanos, chair of the Motorcycle Rights Organization, described the law, which observers complain was practically railroaded.
Riders’ groups note that Gordon did not even face them during the final dialogue called by reelectionist Sen. JV Ejercito before the Unity Ride on March 24.
Worse, according to Bolanos, the law would not significantly deter crime, as criminals would simply not use their own plates, while the regulation ends up unfairly tarring the rest of the motorcycling community.
“The law is not protecting but rather criminalizing motorcyclists,” he said.
But, unsurprisingly, the anticrime measure got the nod of President Duterte without a quibble. And now it’s coming out that the new law might be ill-considered, haphazardly thought-out, even risky to the lives and well-being of its chief constituency.
Ordinary Filipino riders who depend on their motorcycles to get them to work and survive the metro’s hellish traffic, and sympathetic folk who rely on riders for transportation, food and package deliveries and other daily transactions, are up in arms — and surely there must be something to the outrage that brought them out to the streets in huge numbers across the country.
Who wielded some backstage magic here and got the measure as far and as fast as it did without apparently consulting enough affected sectors to get their input and, more importantly, their consent?
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