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Senate to probe ‘confusing’ rules for Anti-Distracted Driving Act

Camille Elemia
Senate to probe ‘confusing’ rules for Anti-Distracted Driving Act
The intent of the law is different from the interpretation of transport authorities, says Senator Grace Poe

MANILA, Philippines – After a public outcry, the Senate is set to investigate the “confusing” implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for Republic Act 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act.

Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the committee on public services, said the hearing would be held next Tuesday, May 30. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: What is the Anti-Distracted Driving Act?)

“Itong mga bagay na ito dapat linawin sa isang pagdinig. ‘Di naman tayo puwede magbigay ng mga regulasyon na mahirap ipatupad, at pangalawa, ipinatupad man, ayaw naman natin ito maging sanhi ng pangongotong,” Poe said in an interview on Tuesday, May 23.

(These things should be clarified in a hearing. We should not be giving regulations that are hard to implement, and second, we don’t want these to be a source of corruption.)

Poe also cited the funny memes circulating online to show the public’s dismay over the rules.

The law basically bans the use of cellphones and other gadgets while behind the wheel, but matters such as a driver’s “line of sight” are still unclear.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had also told motorists that based on a 2014 order, rosaries hanging from rearview mirrors, small images of saints, and stuffed toys on the dashboard are also prohibited. Some, however, think this is too trivial.

“Marami nagrereklamo. Ang isang batas kinoconsulta muna, pati paggawa ng IRR dapat merong public consultation, kaya kung ‘di nila nagawa iyan didinigin ulit sa Senado. Nakita na natin lahat ng meme – bawal din daw mga sexy sumakay sa harapan, nakakadistract sa drivers,” Poe said in jest.

(Many are criticizing it. Consultation is needed in making laws, as well as in crafting the IRR. If they were not able to do that, we will do it in the Senate. We saw all the memes – people were even joking that sexy women aren’t allowed to ride in front because drivers will be distracted.)

The intent of the law, Poe said, is different from the DOTr’s interpretation, which should not be the case. Several senators earlier said that road safety is ultimately the priority, but the rules have gone overboard.

Citing her experience as former chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), Poe said the DOTr can still change the law’s IRR.

“Ako naman namuno ng isang ahensya. Puwede naman palitan IRR eh, basta lamang inaprubahan ng board ng ahensya mo. Pero ang ‘di pwede gawin ng isang ahensya ay mag-imbento ng mga batas na hindi naman talaga binibigyan ng authorization ng mismong batas na naipasa sa Kongreso,” she said.

(I also headed an agency. You can change the IRR as long as it will be approved by your agency’s board. What is prohibited is for an agency to invent rules that were not given authorization under the actual law passed by Congress.)

Poe proposed that the DOTr, while there are calls for a review of the law, first release a memorandum to ban the use of cellphones and other gadgets while driving. After all, she said, that is the main intention of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act.

‘Urgent need’ for suspension

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, vice chairperson of the committee, had filed Senate Resolution 386, urging the panel to review the DOTr’s IRR.

Ejercito said there is an “urgent need” to suspend the law’s implementation to review the rules “so that the true legislative intent is carried out.”

“Its implementation was met with confusion by motorists and enforcers – from the prohibited acts and items allowed in a motor vehicle’s dashboard to the effectiveness of the concerned agencies’ public information campaign and proper enforcement which result to public appeals to halt its implementation,” Ejercito said in his resolution.

A top concern of motorists is the use of navigation apps via mobile phones – which transport authorities consider a distraction that should not obstruct the driver’s “line of sight.”

Ejercito earlier pointed out that cellphones, “when used for navigational purposes,” aid motorists in “steering clear of heavy traffic.”

Some senators also earlier called for the suspension of the law’s implementation until the issues are settled. 

The House of Representatives, for its part, held a hearing on the issue on Tuesday. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com