Espinoza: A loss for BJMP and the CCPO?

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Espinoza Free Zone
Espinoza Free ZoneFile photo

Cebu City Councilor Rey Gealon urged Cebu City’s Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) to seek an audience with Mayor Michael Rama after the latter “killed” the city ordinance that regulates the use of drones, or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, within the city.

It was not known or reported that the officials of BMJP and the CCPO already had an audience with Mayor Rama.

Councilor Gealon said on Oct. 8, 2023, that the approval of his ordinance was a “victory” for the police, jail and military authorities, especially those with security concerns in their respective jail facilities and camps.

Gealon, in a quick talk with me, said the officials of the BJMP and police requested for the ordinance after intelligence reports indicated that drones were used for illegal activities within or around jail facilities.

In his veto letter to the City Council, Mayor Rama acknowledged the councilors’ efforts in crafting the ordinance that involves technology with a lot of applications, but he vetoed the ordinance for reasons of his own.

In an interview, Gealon, a lawyer, said he respected Rama’s decision to veto “the unanimously approved ordinance.” “As it stands now, the ordinance is already killed as the Sangguniang Panlungsod in the last session merely noted the veto and did not override it by 2/3 votes,” Gealon said.

In not overriding the mayor’s veto, city councilors did not have time perhaps to go over the reasons put forward by Mayor Rama in rejecting the ordinance vis-à-vis the purposes of the city ordinance in relation to the national law that the mayor cited. Republic Act 9497 is the law that created the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

There is no argument that for a local ordinance to be valid it should not be contrary to a national law. As a lawyer, the mayor is aware of this principle in law. Enhancing the law though for local applications is not prohibited. The other reasons the mayor cited are not prohibited, but only regulated under this ordinance. From what I read in the news report, this ordinance only enhanced the existing law for local application and regulation.

The following are strictly prohibited under the ordinance: 1) Using or operating a drone not registered or with no operator’s certificate issued by CAAP; 2) Using or operating a drone with no marking of its owner’s name, contact number, and address of the registered owner or operator; 3) Using or operating more than one drone at a time; 4) Using or operating a drone that transports or carries a living creature or object; 5) Using or operating a drone under the influence of alcohol or any drugs; and 6) Using or operating a drone during night time.

Here are the regulations that CAAP set out for drones: a) A CAAP certificate is required to fly a drone commercially or fly a drone weighing more than seven kilograms (15 pounds); b) Fly only during daylight hours and in good weather; c) Allow the drone to remain within visual line of sight of the controller; c) Avoid flying over densely populated areas, such as schools or markets; d) Never fly higher than 400 feet above the ground; e) Keep a safe distance of at least 30 meters (98 feet) from people not involved in the drone’s operation; f) Avoid flying within a radius of 10 kilometers of airports; and g) Avoid flying near disasters, such as fires.

So where are the contradictions? The ordinance even provided teeth for the CAAP rules on drones.


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