Saturday, March 20, 2010

Car plates and power trip

A car’s plate number is that vehicle’s identity and hence, points to the accountability of the owner and/or driver of that car. When something bad happens, say a car has hit a person or another vehicle and it speed away, witnesses can only identify the vehicle’s brand, color and most importantly, its plate number. Then it becomes easier for government investigators to identify the owner of that vehicle. When a car has a different plate number or no plate number at all and that car was involved in an accident or in the commission of a crime, then identifying the owner and/or user of that car is difficult, if not impossible.

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and local governments in Metro Manila also use the plate number for vehicle restriction, aka “number coding” one day every week. Vehicles with plate numbers that end in numbers 1 and 2 are banned from Metro Manila’s streets on Mondays from 7am to 7pm except on holidays.

A few years ago perhaps, MMDA revised this restriction and allowed vehicles that are supposedly banned in the streets on certain days, and allowed them from 10am to 3pm, except in Makati and San Juan, probably in another city. Thus, vehicles with plate numbers that end in 3 and 4 are banned on Tuesdays from 7am to 10am, allowed in the streets from 10am to 3pm, and banned again from 3pm to 7pm, and allowed from 7pm to the rest of the night. A bit difficult to remember especially for motorists who come from neighboring provinces and have to go to the capital region.

An order or law is most effective when it makes not a single exception. That is, the order or regulation applies to all – governors and governed, administrators and administered – and exempts no one. This is the essence of the “rule of law”. Once an exemption is given to a particular sector or group of persons, then other people will also seek other ways to be exempted from whatever regulation and restriction that was ordered by the government.

At the onset of the “number coding” restrictions of the MMDA and local governments in Metro Manila, a number of exemptions were already given. These are for low-number plates reserved for high government officials like 6 (Cabinet Secretaries), 7 (Senators), 8 (Congressmen/women), 9 (Supreme Court Justices), and so on. Of course the exemption applies to unique plate numbers 1 (President), 2 (VP), 3 (Senate President), 4 (House Speaker) and 5 (SC Chief Justice).

Other plate numbers that are exempted are diplomatic vehicles (blue plates, 4 or 5-digits), vehicles driven by physicians, government vehicles (red plates), a few others.

This means that the restriction and prohibition to be on the road one day a week, quite difficult for some motorists, apply on private vehicles and public (for passenger) vehicles.

Seeing the difficulty of many motorists, certain government agencies created special plate numbers that give certain privileges to private vehicles that exempt them from “number coding” restrictions and flaunt some “connections” to some government agencies, so that the motorists can break certain traffic rules like “beating the red light”, “no left turn”, etc. and expect that traffic enforcers in the area may turn a blind eye for such violations.

Such plate numbers are for sale, of course, and the issuing government agency makes additional revenues by exempting motorists from certain restrictions that were created and implemented by the same government agencies. This is clear double standard and making a mockery of “number coding” and related traffic rules.

Lately, among the most visible “special plates” are LEAP (law enforcers’ association of the Philippines), PNP-CSG (Phil. National Police), PNPA-PMA (PNP Academy-Phil. Military Academy). These car plates seem to be increasing everyday. Other minor and less frequently-used plates are House of Representatives, IMMIGRATION, LAWYER.

All such plates are irritating for ordinary motorists like this writer. We try to obey certain rules set by the government like “number coding” in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the streets and hence, reduce the traffic congestion. But many private motorists and government agencies are flaunting their powers that they are exempted and have the power to grant exemptions, to those rules that government enforcers are supposed to implement without favoritism.

Promulgating the “rule of law” is still far out from this country. Government agencies that are supposed to implement certain rules and restrictions are among the first and worst violators of those rules.

If we are to develop as a mature and responsible society, a single most important factor that must be done is the promulgation of the rule of law.


Anonymous said...

agree fully with your blog. Today in Angeles City, I witnessed a very expensive foreign car, cherry red Nissan GT with large loud engine, racing down a very busy Don Juico Avenue at a high speed.

I caught it up with it when it ran into the traffic jam at the checkpoint. Further down the road, this car again raced down a very Fields Avenue, a busy tourist bar area with many pedistrians and food carts.

This car had the 'LEAP' license plates, and was driven by a very large foreigner. His passenger was a very serious looking Filipino man, who seemed to act as a bodyguard.

I hope the new president can make some progress to stem the corruption that allows such practices.

Anonymous said...

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