MANILA, Philippines – The president of the Bulacan Motorcycles Riders Federation raised alarm over the supposed “no helmet” policy in some parts of the province located north of Manila, a claim that was denied by a local cop.
Robert Perillo said motorcycle riders are asked to remove their helmets when they enter Malolos City and neighboring Baliuag town, he narrated during Rappler’s Road Safety Forum.
He said they only get to wear their helmets again when they reach MacArthur Highway, a national road.
“Masakit po sa aming kalooban na hubarin dahil naniniwala kami na ang helmet na iyon lang ang makaka-save sa buhay namin pero pilit na pinatatanggal sa amin (It is against our will to remove our helmets because we believe it can save our lives. But they force us to remove it),” Perillo said.
Perillo said the two local government units adopted the policy following the involvement of motorcycle riders wearing helmets in recent incidents of unsolved killings. The suspects could not be identified because helmets covered their faces.
It is a violation of Republic Act 10054 or the Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009, which requires motorcycle drivers and back riders to wear standard motorcycle helmets on the road to prevent life-threatening crashes.
Perillo’s narration angered road safety advocates present at Rappler’s forum. “How can you contradict a national law? Can a local government be more powerful than a national law?” said media practitioner Edwin Go.
A Malolos cop Rappler spoke to denied the city has a “no helmet” policy.
“Ipapatanggal pero ipapasuot din ulit. Paminsan may hinahanap silang tao, facial verification lang. Kapag ini-implement naman yung ‘no helmet,’ ipo-post naman po yan,” PO1 Isagani Delos Santos of the Malolos Police Station told Rappler.
(We ask them to remove their helmets but we let them wear it back. We need to do ocassional facial verification if we are looking for some people. An ordinance should have been posted if we’re really implementing a ‘no helmet’ policy)
Most vulnerable users
Motorcycle riders are the most vulnerable road users, based on studies conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority the Metro Manila Development Authority.
In 2016, Metro Manila recorded a total of 23,105 road crash incidents involving motorcycles. At least 218 riders were killed last year alone while 11,458 others reported sustaining injuries from various road incidents. (READ: Road Deaths in the PH: Most are motorcycles, pedestrians)
The Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009 was passed to protect the riders, but security concerns pose challenges to its implementation.
In the House of Representatives, a bill was filed seeking to “allow local government units to suspend the mandatory wearing of motorcycle helmets.” Zamboanga City Representative Celso Lobregat revived the bill he first filed in 2014.
“LGUs with high incidence of crimes committed by motorcycle riders, may, upon recommendation by the local peace and order council, and a duly enacted ordinance, temporarily suspend the implementation of the provisions of RA 10054 for a period of one year which may be extended for another year upon the determination of the necessity for the extension by the local peace and order council,” Lobregat proposed.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) opposes Lobregat’s bill.
“We believe there are other ways and we should not compromise the safety of our riders. Especially motorcycle riders [who] are the most vulnerable road users,” said Diane Fajardo of DOTr’s Road Traffic and Infrastructure Office. (READ: What laws help keep road users safe in the Philippines?) – Rappler.com