Doble Plaka Law: Double whammy?

Published July 28, 2021, 12:01 AM

by Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal


Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

Republic Act No. 11235, or the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, is a redundancy in our legal system for the sheer impracticality of its implementation, not to mention that it is an added burden to both motorcycle owners and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) that is ill-capacitated to keep up with an already choking registration system.

Coined the “Doble Plaka Law” in local lingo, the law basically requires motorcycles to install front number plates in addition to the back number plates  and requires them to be bigger in size, readable within a distance of 15 meters. Failure to obey this mandate, as well as any delay in registration and reporting of sale of one’s motorcycle, among others, merit a huge fine and even imprisonment that denies any chance of probation. It also prohibits the sale and importation of motorcycles which do not allow for this kind of feature.

This law was passed in reaction to crimes committed by “riding-in-tandems” that usually turn cold because the perpetrators could not be identified. However, inasmuch as this law is aimed to help solve crimes, is it even effective? This writer gives a resounding NO to that.

To quote a police officer friend of mine, no criminal in his right mind will use a real plate number, whether in a four- or two-wheeled vehicle. And it is no guarantee that criminals will not use fake plates, just like they don’t use a licensed gun. Boom.

The law has already been met with strong opposition by motorcycle riders and enthusiasts when it was passed and the clamor was re-aroused when its implementing rules and regulations were issued by the LTO. The LTO then revised the rules to allow for number decals, instead of plates, which can be placed on the front fender or any visible front part of the motorcycle.

Finally, the LTO suspended its implementation for the sheer impracticality of it, not to mention said office’s present operational capacity especially in this pandemic, as well as the unavailability of plates and decals. In fact, as of February this year, there were only 6.3 million registration renewals, down from last year’s seven million. This is not yet taking into account the five million or so unregistered motorcycles.

Much has been discussed in different forums and among various riding groups as regards safety, expense and time. Many of my fellow motorcycle riders haven’t even received their number plates from three or five years ago. Now, they have to line up once more at the LTO, whose many offices only provide a SINGLE LANE for motorcycle registration, to get a front number plate or decal which are, to repeat, not even available.

Motorcycle enthusiasts aside, with less available public transport in this pandemic, the average Filipino can only resort to cheap, easy-to-pay motorcycles for mobility. So, why should the many suffer for the crimes of the few?

To add to this ignominy, Section 14 of the law, which prohibits the selling and importation of motorcycles that are not designed to bear front number plates not only creates an artificial monopoly, but shows that Congress puts less premium over the overall safety and comfort available in high-end brands, most of which are imported and – yes – do not have a feature for front number plates.

It does not help either that the LTO is allowing for decals instead of plates to address the safety issue. Section 5 specifically provides for number plates, but the LTO is illegally expanding its scope to decals, which can be voided by a competent court. And since Section 5 cannot be practically implemented and the government agency tasked with its implementation cannot expand its scope, the better remedy would not only be to repeal said Section 5, but the entire law altogether because its very essence rests on Section 5.

My travels around the country have made me connect and interact with many motorcycle groups and clubs, and I only have this to say: there are more law-abiding riders in the country than there are pasaway, much less criminals.

As we  inadvertently fail to comply with its provisions, we face the risk of penalties that are fit for crimes involving moral turpitude – ones that are meted out only against the depraved. The Doble Plaka Law therefore, with its characteristic superfluity and impracticality, is unarguably a double whammy against the ordinary Filipino.