MOTORISTS who are victims of mulcting in the ongoing crackdown against improper use of sirens or "wang-wang" and blinkers should press charges against the extortionists, a transportation official said.

This was the advice of an official of the Land Transportation Office in Region X (LTO), in the wake of reports that a number of corrupt road enforcers inside the agency are exploiting the anti-wang-wang drive to make money.

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Lawyer Dominador Awitin, Land Transportation Office (LTO)-Northern Mindanao chief of operations, issued this statement to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro.

A school president complained to Sun.Star that his commemorative plate was wrongfully confiscated by LTO personnel.

Jose "Joe" N. Nebrao, president of Rosevale School, said the incident occurred at the Pelaez Rotunda at around 9 a.m. Thursday.

He said the LTO men seized his "Ateneo de Zamboanga centennial" commemorative plate even if his license to display it had yet to expire on November.

"What does a commemorative plate do? Nothing. Despite my please, they still confiscated it," he added.

Nebrao said he didn't sign the traffic violation ticket, believing that the LTO personnel had acted wrongfully.

What also made him suspicious, he added, was when the LTO men told him that the infringement could cost him P15,000.

"I didn't know that a simple traffic infringement can cost you as high as P15,000 nowadays. I was thinking it was a shakedown," Nebrao told Sun.Star.

The school official said he was mulling charges against the team that confiscated his commemorative plate.

Nowhere in the Presidential Decree (PD) 96-the basis of President Benigno C. Aquino's order against sirens and blinkers-does it state the commemorative plates should be banned, Nebrao pointed out.

PD 96, enacted back in 1973, makes the unnecessary use of loud sirens illegal. It is otherwise known as the decree for "Declaring Unlawful the Use or Attachment of Sirens, Bells, Horns, Whistles, or Similar Gadgets that Emit Exceptionally Loud or Startling Sounds, Including Domelights and Other Signalling or Flashing Devices on Motor Vehicles and Providing Certain Exceptions Therefore."

Awitin acknowledged that the team that seized Nebrao's commemorative plate may have erred in implementing the decree.

Commemorative plates, he said, are to be confiscated only when their corresponding license have expired. A commemorative plate is valid until a year upon the date of issuance and could only be renewed or replaced with if allowed by the LTO.

What is banned, he said, are sirens or wang-wangs, blinkers and fog lamps.

"Those who feel they were wronged by any of our personnel or, worse, victims of extortion, should report the matter to us," Awitin said. "We do not tolerate corruption in our office."

Awitin said he will personally attend to Nebrao's complaint if the latter decides to press charges.

Nebrao is a former governor of Rotary District 3870 and is active in the local civil society circle.

Meanwhile, Andrew E. Tupag, chief of LTO-Northern Mindanao law enforcement unit, said the wang-wang crackdown is still on all over the region "despite the heat of the sun" and "childish" motorists.

Tupag said some motorists had difficulty in adjusting to the crackdown, especially those who have gotten used to sirens and blinkers to get past heavy traffic.

This week, Tupag said LTO-X has confiscated around 135 sirens and blinkers and about 48 commemorative plates whose licensed had already expired.

He also reminded motorists to hang their commemorative plates at the rear of their vehicles, instead of placing them up front. (Loui S. Maliza and Danilo V. Adorador III)