Philippines: Loads of Laws & Insufficient Enforcement

Al S. Vitangcol 3rd over at the Manila Times wrote an interesting editorial a few weeks ago. Above all, Mr. Vitangcol was astonishingly correct on a topic I’ve ranted about for years. His editorial, “Too many laws, too little enforcement,” is a must-read for anyone living in the Philippines. While you might be a Filipino or foreigner, this editorial hits the mark with multiple bull’s-eyes. “Philippines: Loads of Laws & Insufficient Enforcement.”

New Motorcycle License Plate Law Suspended

For example, let’s spotlight a bill signed by President Duterte last March. The “Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act” (MCPA), Republic Act 11235, has pissed off a lot of motorcycle riders.

The new law, championed by Senator Richard Gordon, mandated bigger front and back motorcycle plates. The new plates were required to be readable from a distance of 15 meters.

Color-coded plates for easy identification of the geographical region where the motorcycle was registered were also required. Furthermore, a hefty fine of 1,000 US dollars, 50,000 pesos, would be imposed on those not displaying the new plates. Senator Gordon wanted to punish “crime machine” riders (his words.)

Here’s the Rub

While Senator Gordon certainly had good intention in sponsoring the new law, does he believe it could actually cut down on guns-for-hire who are riding a motorcycle?

Frankly, if you’re a hit man stupid enough to use your own motorcycle plates, you deserve to be arrested and thrown into jail for the rest of your life. For further punishment, music from The Carpenters should be piped into your cell 24/7.

Here’s how I imagine a conversation between two daft hit men riding in tandem would go:

“Juan, are you sure our new plates are secure? We want to be certain the plates are visible to the CCTVs in the area.”

“Yes, JoJo, we’re certainly going to use these new larger plates that Senator Gordon specified, no worries. I don’t want to get hit with that 50,000 peso fine.”

Isn’t a criminal going to use stolen license plates or fake temporary ID plates?

President Duterte Suspends the Law

However, not long after signing the law, President Duterte suspended it. The President was speaking to a convention of motorcyclists in Iloilo City one weekend. And, although, the President did already sign the law, decided it needs some amendments after the fact. So now, Republic Act 11235 sits in limbo.

However, Senator Gordon stated the following in response:

Should the President insist on suspending the law, he reminded the head of state of his sworn duty to “execute all laws and to do justice to every man.”

Gordon explained that the size of the actual license plates to be printed are only a fourth of what was stated in the law. He also justified the heavy fines for violators, saying how a number of reported deaths were caused by “riding-in-tandem” assassins/gunmen. (Source:

Motorcycle club in Guimaras

Al S. Vitangcol 3rd’s Case in Point

At The Manila Times, Mr. Vitangcol did an unscientific survey similar to what I have done on our island province of Guimaras. Vitangcol counted all the vehicles (motorcycles and cars) that he encountered while driving one week. He noted their corresponding vehicle number plates. Here are some of his findings:

Two out of 10 motorcycles did not sport a number plate. Six out of 10 motorcycles had improvised number plates, indicating their motor vehicle file numbers. Only 2 out of 10 were using the LTO-issued standard number plates.

My earlier surveys in Guimaras noted how many motorcyclists actually wore helmets, which are required by law in the Philippines. (Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009 (RA 10054.) Less than 10% of Guimaras riders wore helmets and I’ve done this study on over 3,000 riders. In fact, in my unscientific surveys, the motorcyclists were driving by the capital of Guimaras, San Miguel, Jordan, and police stations.

Philippines: Loads of Laws & Insufficient Enforcement

While most laws are probably written with good intentions, the problem is, as Mr. Vitangcol points out, is with the law’s implementation.

If you have a society in which laws are largely ignored, doesn’t this border on anarchy? Won’t society flaunt those laws if they see little or no enforcement of those rules?

Too many laws. Too little implementation. Will this new motorcycle license law, if ever implemented, be any different?

I doubt it.

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