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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, April 15, 2016
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Matter of Policy


The MMDA is rolling out its “no contact policy” where, instead of being stopped and apprehended by traffic enforcers, CCTV photo grabs and/or videos of violators will be used to penalize erring drivers.

Under the policy, violators will be given notices specifying the date, time, location and nature of the traffic violation committed. The motorist may contest the violation before the MMDA's Traffic Adjucation Division within seven days from receipt of the notice. A series of appeals will be allowed, all the way up to the level of the MMDA Chairman, until a final and executory decision is reached.

Motorists who do not contest the violation will be sent a final notice to pay fines. Violators who fail to settle fines will have their vehicle's license plate submitted to the LTO with the recommendation that the vehicle's registration not be renewed until the fines are settled.

A no-contact policy for traffic violations is something I have long yearned for to be implemented in this country of chaotic roads and inutile traffic enforcers, but, given the current state of the LTO and the postal system, I don't think the MMDA is ready for this yet.

How can the MMDA catch traffic violators when many of the vehicles on our roads don't even have license plates? Yes, conduction stickers may provide a form of identification, but those two letters and four numbers on an itty bitty sticker leave a lot of room for disputable mistakes.

Aside from the tragedy of unavailable license plates, there is also the problem of vehicles with covered license plates that remain a common sight in our roads. The LTO in Metro Manila may not be as lazy as our LTO here in Negros that seems to be unable to stop this vain and illegal practice, but as long as there are cars that can sport hidden license plates, the no-contact policy is useless.

The other problem with the MMDA attempt to implement a no- contact policy would be our vehicle registration and postal system. Many of the vehicles on our roads are registered to addresses that don't match the drivers. Many of the addresses on those registration papers are pretty tough to find. And knowing Filipinos, who always clamor for discipline but immediately complain when it is applied to them, many of the violators will probably come up with excuses and exploit loopholes so they are not fined. I can already imagine the jeepney driver associations preparing to protest this initiative that would surely affect their “poor” members.

I know it isn't the job of the government to make sure that our registration papers are in order, meaning the addresses of the vehicle owners and the people driving those vehicles should, more or less, match as this would make it easier for owners and the drivers to compare notes and prepare their arguments for contesting dubious violations, but the entitled motorists and vehicle owners of this country who have gotten away with almost every violation, from registration to driving, in the book are surely going to fight this MMDA initiative that is based on first world country systems where laws are actually enforced and the people actually respect the law.

If there is one thing our government needs to fix first before trying these innovations, it needs an integrated database of registered vehicles and drivers because the mish-mash of local ordinances and regulations make enforcement an absolute nightmare. Law enforcers should be able to apprehend violators and issue fines and penalties whether those violators come from Metro Manila, Central Luzon, or Silay City in Negros Occidental. All violators should be able to contest their violations from anywhere in the country.

Taking the example of the MMDA, if someone from outside Metro Manila, say Batangas, commits a violation in MMDA territory that is captured by the new system, the vehicle owner will get the notice in Batangas, the registered address of the vehicle. Because the national system is not integrated, but a mish-mash of different fiefdoms, the owner will have to go all the way back to Metro Manila to settle matters. The situation is the same here. A traffic violation committed in Bacolod cannot be settled in Silay, in the same way that the temporary operators permit issued by Bacolod, is legally not valid in Silay.

The attempt to institute a no-contact policy is laudable but the more important goal of the LTO, the PNP, as well as national and local legislators and executives is to find that way to use the information age to get their acts together and integrate the system of assessing and penalizing traffic violations so that any traffic violation committed anywhere will penalize the vehicle owner and the driver, in the worst way possible, so they learn their lesson and not do it again.

Anybody caught for a traffic violation anywhere in the country, whether through the no-contact system of the MMDA, or a dancing traffic enforcer in Bacolod who finally learns to transcend dancing and do real enforcing, should go into a national database. We should use phone numbers or email addresses on top of postal addresses. And there should be a quick and efficient way for that violator to contest the claim or pay the fine as well as an effective way of making vehicle registration or driver's license renewal hell for those who think they can get away with ignoring the law, the same way many of our motorists have been ignoring it for decades.

If our government can do that, we won't need a magical unicorn to bring peace, discipline and progress to our country. Or, in this case, our country's roads.*

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