CA: Mandaluyong rule vs male backrider unconstitutional

The Court of Appeals (CA) has struck down as unconstitutional Mandaluyong City's ordinance barring males from being backriders of motorcycles, ruling that there is no legal distinction between a male and a female backrider when it comes to addressing crimes by the so called "riding in tandems."

"Mandaluyong City Orinance Nos. 550 S-2014, 595 S-2015 and 694 S-2018 are hereby declared unconstitutional. City of Mandaluyong is prohibited from enforcing and implementing Mandaluyong City Orinance Nos. 550 S-2014, 595 S-2015 and 694 S-2018," said the CA Fifth Division, in a decision penned by Associate Justice Raymond Reynold Lauigan, with concurrences from Associate Justices Ramon Bato and Pablito Perez.

"It does not rest on substantial disinction bearing a just and fair relation to the purpose of the ordinance," said the decision, sent to petitioner Dino de Leon on Tuesday, October 26.

De Leon, a public interest lawyer, took the city to court in July 2019 after he was fined and sued for violating the ordinance. It's a constitutional case that first went through the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC).

The ordinances, slammed as sexist by riders and passengers, prohibit males from backriding on a motorcycle, except if the driver is their first degree family member or if they are seven to ten years old. The rationale was to have less crimes perpetrated by "riding in tandems."

Because of this ordinance, motorcycle ride-hailing service Angkas would not take male passengers if they are passing through Mandaluyong, or would choose another route. De Leon was on an Angkas commute on March 7, 2019, when they were apprehended, fined, and then sued criminally under the ordinance, which has a penal provision.

De Leon asked the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 59, where the complaint against him was filed, to declare the ordinance unconstitutional. Branch 59 junked the petition in July 2020, finding that the city government did not commit grave abuse of discretion.

The CA disagreed, saying the ordinance "is an oppressive measure that goes beyond what is reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose."

The CA said there was "no proof that male backriders are more susceptible to commit crimes as opposed to female backriders."

Violation of equal protection

This is in line with the principle of equal protection. Generally, the equal protection clause provides that one cannot discriminate against a specific class of people unless there was substantial distinction. For example, there is a special law protecting women and children against violence because as the Supreme Court said there is an "unequal power relationship between women and men."

In this case, the CA said the ordinances "violate the rule on equal protection" and are "discriminatory both as to gender and as to the use of motorcycles as a mode of transportation and dependent on broad generalizations."

Mandaluyong wanted to declare the petition moot because quarantine restrictions bar backriders anyway, but the CA said quarantine rules are only temporary.

Besides, the CA said: "Not all citizens could financially afford to travel by car or other motor vehicles so as to avoid suspicion that their use of their motorcycle with a back rider is being used to facilitate the commission of a crime."

The CA noted that the city government did not show proof that it tried other means to suppress "riding in tandem" crimes.

"The police measure shall be struck down as an arbitrary intrusion into private rights – a violation of the due process," said the appellate court. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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