Nalzaro: A harsh penalty

COUNTERFLOW means “flowing or going in an opposite direction.” The “former political has-been” will soon come out with an executive order ordering all traffic enforcers to apprehend counterflowing vehicles as these cause heavy traffic and road accidents. Motorcycle drivers who use sidewalks as their option lane during heavy traffic will also be apprehended.

Under Section 48, Article 5 (Miscellaneous Traffic rules) of Republic Act 4136, or The Land Transportation and Traffic Code, counterflow falls under the provision on reckless driving. It states: “Reckless driving-No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any highway recklessly or without reasonable caution considering the width, grades, crossing, curvatures, visibility and other conditions of the highway and the conditions of the atmosphere or weather, or so as to endanger the property or the safety and rights of any person or so as not to cause excessive or unreasonable damage to the highway.”

The penalty for reckless driving is P2,000 for the first offense, P3,000 for the second offense and P10,000 for the third offense. That’s if you’re caught by agents of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), who are allowed to issue a temporary operator’s permit. But for our local traffic code, the penalty for reckless driving is only P500 if you’re caught by traffic enforcers, who only issue a citation ticket.

In the forthcoming executive order, aside from the prescribed penalty, the apprehended vehicle will be impounded for one month.

I think there is a legal issue that might be involved here. Can the forthcoming executive order supersede the local traffic code, which was passed by the council a long time ago? I am talking about the additional penalty of impounding the vehicle. I think it is just right for the chief executive to communicate with the council for possible amendment of that particular provision to increase the penalty and to include impounding the vehicle. And why only for counterflowing violators? Why not include people who illegally park? They, too, cause heavy traffic.

What is the purpose of impounding a vehicle for 30 days with daily charges as storage fee? To discipline counterflowing drivers or to raise revenue? Isn’t the P500 penalty enough? If they don’t settle the administrative penalty they will be charged before the court and issued an arrest order. During the time of Joy Tumulak as operations officer of Citom, there were several drivers charged and arrested for failing to settle long-standing penalties.

The “former political has-been” should consider the predicament of the owners of impounded vehicles by depriving them of the use of their vehicles. Private owners buy cars for the convenience. Transport owners venture into transportation business not only because of their business interest but also for public service. There are ordinary employees who take out a loan to buy a car which they drive on the side. What if their vehicles are apprehended and impounded for 30 days? Walay income. Dili makabayad sa loan. Unya ang driver? Yabo ang bugasan.

I support the strict implementation of this law on counterflow but I am not amendable to impounding for 30 days the apprehended vehicles. For me, this is too harsh and may be a violation of the Bill of Rights on “excessive penalty,”

Our authorities should not only engage in punitive action against traffic violators through apprehensions and penalties. Why not make them undergo seminars and symposiums? It is our inherent attitude that we tend to violate laws because nobody is watching us. Why don’t we also change that attitude?
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