Arbitrary? Motorcycle riders protest LED light policy

Lou Gepuela
Arbitrary? Motorcycle riders protest LED light policy
Vague Land Transportation Office guidelines result in arbitrary apprehensions and double standards in implementation, riders say

MANILA, Philippines  Motorcycle riders are up in arms against alleged double standards and inconsistent enforcement in the enforcement of a Land Transportation Office (LTO) policy on light-emitting diode (LED) and other modifications on vehicles.

On Tuesday, January 26, over 1,400 riders from different organizations joined an impromptu meeting at Eton Centris, along EDSA, vowing to take action on their concerns that were also raised on social media. 

Mel Romano, a motorcycle rider, recounted his experience on Facebook after being apprehended by the LTO for the LED bar installed on his motorcycle. He was allegedly shown a memorandum indicating that such modification is prohibited. 

In a post on the Facebook page of the group Riders Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (RACER), Romano decried the double-standard he experienced.

May mga SUV/PUV na hinuhuli nila. Pero bakit may mga taga-LTO na naka LED bar? May mga police officer pa nga akong nakakasabay.” (They have apprehended SUVs/PUVs. But, why is itthat there were LTO (personnel’s vehicles) with LED bars? I even saw police officers using these.)

His license and LED bar were confiscated. He was apprehended at Malinta, Valenzuela on Monday, January 25.

Other online comments echoed the rider’s allegations of a double-standard. Another posted a picture of a motorcycle sporting what appear to be LED bars and an LTO sticker. Another remarked that “baka may sticker pang gobyerno kaya kahit naka-LED, pass lang muna.” (If you have a government sticker even if you have an LED, you get a free pass)

Aside from enforcers’ alleged preferential treatment to vehicles bearing government stickers, Facebook user Paul Castillo complained that the process itself was inconsistent, claiming that in Pasig, “provided you have your own switch and that the light is pointed downwards, it’s okay.”

 “Ano ba talaga? (What’s the real deal here?)” he asked.

Unreasonable

Aside from the alleged arbitrary enforcement of the policy, with penalties subject to the discretion of the apprehending officer, other motorcycle riders considered the LED prohibition as unreasonable.

Riders noted that there are existing hazardous road conditions, such as potholes and other debris on the road not easily seen with existing vehicle lights.

Facebook user BossPapi Sanchez posted a video showing his daily route from Pakil, Laguna, to McKinley Hill in Taguig City. According to him, the roads he traverses are dimly lit.

LTO wants me to drive in road conditions like this without LED lights. everyday i travel from Pakil Laguna to Mckinley…

Posted by BossPapi Sanchez on Monday, January 25, 2016

Road safety 

The cause of the uproar is the January 18 memorandum of LTO chief Roberto Cabrera III, that reminded LTO regional, district, and satellite offices to enforce existing rules.

“In the interest of road safety and pursuant to DOTC-LTO-LTFRB Joint Administrative Order 2014-01, the undersigned reiterates the drive against unauthorized wang-wangs (sirens), LED lights, and all other modifications,” reads the memorandum.

Cabrera was appointed to head the LTO earlier this January. Prior to his appointment, he was executive director of  the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

In force since 1964, Republic Act 4136, the Land Transportation and Traffic Code under Article IV, Section 34 (c) provides:

(c) Headlights. – Every motor vehicle of more than one meter of projected width, while in use on any public highway shall bear two headlights, one on each side, with white or yellowish light visible from the front, which, not later than one-half hour after sunset and until at least one-half four before sunrise and whenever weather conditions so require, shall both be lighted.

Additional lamps and light may be carried, but no red lights shall be visible forward or ahead of the vehicle. Trucks, buses, trailers, and other similar vehicles must carry, while in use on any public highway during night-time, colored riding lights on each of the four corners not more than ten centimeters from the top.

All motor vehicles shall be equipped with devices for varying the intensity of light, and the driver must dim the headlights or tilt the beams downward whenever the vehicle is being operated on well-lighted streets within the limits of cities, municipalities, and thickly populated barrios or districts, or whenever such vehicle meets another vehicle on any public highway.

Presidential decree under Marcos

Another exisiting rule is Presidential Decree 96, which was promulgated by President Marcos on January 13, 1973. It declares “that it shall be unlawful for the owner or possessor of any motor vehicle to use or attach to his vehicle any siren, bell, horn, whistle, or other similar gadgets that produce exceptionally loud or startling sound, including domelights, blinkers and other similar signalling or flashing devices.”

It also prescribes that “The gadgets or devices mentioned above may be attached to and use only on motor vehicles designated for official use by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Land Transportation Commission, Police Departments, Fire Departments, and hospital ambulances.” 

Finally, “Any device or gadget installed or mounted on any motor vehicle or otherwise used in violation of this decree shall be subject to immediate confiscation and, in cases of a second and subsequent offenses, the offender shall be prosecuted for violation of this Decree before the military tribunal and, upon conviction thereof, shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment for six months and/or a fine of 600 pesos. In addition, the certificate of registration of the motor vehicle on which the unauthorized gadget or device herein mentioned is installed, mounted or used shall be cancelled or revoked.”

DOTC-LTO-LTFRB joint administrative order 

Article II (Violations in connection with Motor Vehicle Registration/Renewal/Operation) Section b (Unauthorized Motor Vehicle Modification) of DOTC-LTO-LTFRB Joint Administrative Order 2014-01 provides:

“This includes change in color and other unauthorized modifications of the standard manufacturer’s specification not covered by the preceding section a.”

A fine of P5,000 is also prescribed: “In addition, the motor vehicle shall be impounded and shall be released only upon inspection, correction of defect and payment of the fine.”

Dialogue with government

Lawyer Israel Calderon, a volunteer at the Motorcycle Rights Organization, wrote the LTO Field Enforcement Division last October to clarify details. In his January 21, 2016 letter to Assistant Secretary Cabrera, he cites that “the LTO Field Enforcement Division answered that Led lights are allowed as long as it is in compliance with RA 4136.” 

In a Facebook post, Calderon said:

“Led lights may be utilized as long as it complies with the provisions of Republic Act No. 4136, thus: in case of headlights, it must be white in color, signals lights must be yellow or amber in color and stop lights must be red in color. We also learned that Top Box, GIvi box or Shad Box are not subject to registration and in case of passengers there is only one (1) passenger allowed in addition to the driver of the motorcycle.”

When asked what he wanted from government to resolve this, Calderon said that he “…requests for a dialogue so that the riding community will be clarified in order to avoid abuse that may be committed by LTO enforcers over a clear sweeping and all encompassing memorandum that Asst Secretary Cabrera has issued.”

What are your thoughts on this issue? Tell us on X!  with a report by Joshua Ramos/Rappler.com

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story referred to the LTO chief as “Roberto Cabral III.” This has been corrected to “Roberto Cabrera III.”

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