MANILA, Philippines – What comes to your mind when you think of motorcycle riders?
Motorcycle riders have been known for their notoriety on the road. Most drivers and passengers think of them as irresponsible and reckless. They have earned such ill-reputation on the road that some motorists and commuters even say riders who get involved in accidents probably “deserved it.”
But this is not the entire picture and not all riders are the same.
The stereotype of unruly motorcyclists is exactly what the Rider Guardians Community (RGC), a nationwide network of motorcycle riders, are trying to change – to remove the stigma against riders while promoting their rights, and to make sure that all motorcycle riders are advancing road safety.
On Thursday, July 2, leaders of riders groups from different parts of Metro Manila gathered to talk about the issues plaguing their community. Among the groups who attended were Arangkada and the MotorCycle Philippines Federation (MCPF).
Data from the government shows there are 3.8 million registered motorcycles in the Philippines. But according to the rider leaders, since not all motorcycles are registered, there are probably around 8-9 million nationwide.
For the riders, more than promoting road safety, they want people to know that they have rights too. Unknown to many, motorcycle riders suffer the most harassment from traffic authorities among motorists.
Martin Misa, head of RGC, said the community should fight against 4 abuses to riders’ rights:
- Irregular PNP checkpoints where most riders get harassed and excessively fined
- National laws that penalize riders excessively
- Agency Administrative orders like the DOTC/LTO JAO 2014-01 that ask for very high fines from motorists
- Local ordinances that have overlooked the income of minimum wage-earning motorists
“The problem is that most LGUs see riders as a source of income. National laws already penalize some actions but they’re not implementing it just to put higher fines,” Misa added.
Republic Act 10054 or the Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009, for example, already requires motorcycle riders to wear helmets. But the rider leaders claim that instead of implementing the national law, local government units (LGUs) pass separate ordinances to penalize riders with higher fines.
The fines, according to the rider leaders, are against Article 3 Section 19 of the Bill of Rights which protects citizens from being “excessively fined.”
In the past, rider groups pushed for a unified motorcycle law to protect riders. But this effort was in vain as legislators who initially promised to back the bill later changed their minds. The draft bill was not filed.
Misa and his fellow riders say they are fed up. “Why wait that long at the mercy of people we can’t control? We need a new strategy,” Misa added.
Now, they are changing their strategy. The rider leaders agreed to file a case on Friday, September 4, to declare national laws, administrative orders, and local ordinances that ask for excessive fines unconstitutional. The groups will ride together on the same day to push for their rights.
Aside from pushing for riders’ rights, RGC’s different groups are involved in other social activities. Its subgroup, RG Marshals, teach road safety and awareness of road laws to motorcyclists.
RG emergency network partnered with national government agencies to carry out disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) programs. They participated in the Rescue March in April 2015. They will help out again in the Nationwide Earthquake Drill on July 23.
“We really need to change. We have to give something back. We have to have a place in the history of the riding community,” Misa told the leaders.
Though the vision of making motorcycle riders involved in social issues and pushing for their rights is ideal, Misa said there are still big challenges ahead.
“We need to unify the different riders groups. We can’t think for ourselves. We need to come together if we want people to listen to us,” Misa said. – Rappler.com