In March last year, some 50,000 motorcycle riders staged an impressive rally at the People Power Monument in Quezon City against the then recently passed Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, otherwise known as Republic Act No. 11235 or the “Doble Plaka” law authored by Sen. Richard Gordon.
The law mandated that motorcycle riders had to secure two license plates for their vehicles, one to be mounted at the front and one at the back, and that the license plates to be issued by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) were to conform to bigger, more readable, and color-coded specifications.
Gordon sold his bill as a remedy against crimes committed by gunmen and assassins riding motorcycles.
The motorcycle-riding public, however, saw it differently — as not only an additional burden on them, but also an inherently ill-thought-out measure. The requirement for two bigger plates, for one (to be readable from a distance of at least 15 meters), did not seem to take into account the fact that motorcycles come in different sizes and configurations.
Putting a plate in front may end up endangering the rider or others, warned many, as motorcycles are not designed for such an additional component. Securing the plates and having them mounted also meant extra expense. Riders had to register their motorcycle, whether brand-new or second-hand, within five days from acquisition, or pay a fine of between P20,000 and P50,000, and/or face imprisonment.
The uproar against Gordon’s law was immediate and widespread. For millions of Filipinos from the lower-income classes, the motorcycle was, after all, their primary means of transport and livelihood — to go to work, to deliver goods, to transport other commuters unwilling to get stuck in traffic, etc.
The resulting mass demonstration against it was not confined to Metro Manila; “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,” noted this paper’s editorial on the issue.
The public pushback worked. President Duterte suspended the implementation of the law, and nothing more was heard of it — until last week when, without warning and in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the LTO released the implementing rules and regulations of the “Doble Plaka” law.
According to the May 11 document signed by LTO chief Edgar Galvante, motorcycle riders are required to use decal number plates measuring 135 mm by 85 mm on the front of motorcycles, instead of the big metal plates proposed originally. This is supposedly to allay fears that a bigger front plate would fly off at high speeds or if hit by strong winds, posing a danger to the rider and the public, or would get in the way of the headlight, especially since manufacturers’ specifications do not provide space for a front plate. The rear plates, on the other hand, must measure 235 mm by 135 mm.
The hefty sanctions are still there. Aside from the fine for failure to register the vehicle within five days, driving without the plates would mean a bigger penalty of between P50,000 and P100,000, imprisonment, or both.
More: The IRR also requires owners to report a lost, damaged, or stolen number plate to the joint LTO and Philippine National Police Operations and Control Center within 24 hours, then submit an affidavit of loss or damage to the nearest LTO office within 72 hours. Failure to do so will, again, mean a fine of between P20,000 and P50,000.
From the point of view of a government made cash-strapped by the pandemic and looking for new ways to generate revenue, resurrecting this law must seem like a no-brainer. But what rotten timing, at the very least — attempting to wring out fees and fines from a constituency already overwhelmed by job losses and a sputtering economy, not to mention fears of the COVID-19 virus as no mass testing has been done to obtain a true picture of the contagion’s spread, even while many of them are now being encouraged to head back to work.
“Iyong penalty lang na P50,000 napakabigat para sa isang rider,” Atoy Sta. Cruz, Motorcycle Philippines Federation director for administration, lamented in a radio interview. “Ang number one na tinututulan namin diyan ay yung wala kang plaka at nahuli ka sa checkpoint, P50,000 agad ang penalty mo, second P100,000…”
The LTO has yet to resolve its dismal backlog of license plate applications, and here it is imposing fresh burdens on riders, at a time when movement is severely restricted by quarantine measures and the virus threat, there is reduced manpower to perform the agency’s tasks, and the government funds needed to produce those plates are better redirected to anti-
COVID-19 programs. “Insensitive” was how former senator JV Ejercito blasted the LTO’s tone-deaf move, and he hit the nail on the head.
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