No-Contact Apprehension: What happens now?


Iñigo S. Roces

For several months now, the No Contact Apprehension Programs (NCAP) employed by the MMDA and cities like Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Parañaque, and Muntinlupa that implement similar programs have come under criticism by motorists.

It’s not a new program, as NCAP has already been employed by the MMDA on roads it is deputized to manage such as EDSA, C5, Quezon Ave., Commonwealth Ave., and the like. What is new is the more localized implementation in cities like Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Parañaque, and Muntinlupa.
Cities like Manila and Quezon City have received the brunt of criticism. Motorists argue that there are certain “hot spots” that have obstructions to proper traffic flow, the unusually high penalties, or the process that makes it difficult for the vehicle owner to prove that they were not driving the vehicle.
What has suspended NCAP for now is a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court effective Aug. 30, 2022 that suspends their operation until two petitions against these policies are heard. The two petitions were filed this month by transport groups and by a lawyer citing a lack of due process and breach of data privacy.

Owner, not driver, penalized

In a typical NCAP citation, when a vehicle is caught violating a traffic rule, the notice of violation is sent to the registered owners, including the penalties that must be paid. Owners are given a deadline to settle the fines, or else face denial of registration renewal for the offending vehicle. In cases where the owner was not the one driving, they are saddled with the burden to prove so, with multiple documents required to be presented before the citation is transferred.

Breach of data privacy

When it comes to data privacy, the petitions cite that the traffic violation records and personal details are easily accessible to anyone, not only the violator. After all, one only needs to enter the vehicle plate number to check for a violation, and obtain these details, if there is.

NCAP benefits

The MMDA and the cities in question have all stated they will comply with the TRO. However, up until this restraining order, many were opposed to suspending the program due to the reduction in traffic violations and accidents they claim the program helped achieve.

Granted, NCAP can be a big boon to traffic enforcement. After all, Filipino drivers can be quite stubborn creatures of habit, keen to find ways around the debilitating traffic jams, many of which violate traffic rules.

Not surprisingly, a program like the NCAP, which serves as an all-seeing (omniscient if you will) eye easily instills fear in any driver. After all, you never truly know if the cameras are watching or not. I don’t doubt the statistics that both the MMDA and the LGUs have released with regard to the drastic reduction in traffic violations and accidents. Knowing NCAP was in operation was certainly enough to put the fear in me.

Old vs new system

In many ways, it’s a Catch-22. Yes, the NCAP can drastically reduce traffic violations and improve road discipline. Yet in its current form, it is still flawed in many ways.

If you are the owner of the vehicle, you will be strongly motivated to vet those allowed to drive any vehicle registered to you. Yet it does seem unfair that the owner is also made to bear the burden (strikes on the license, financial penalties) for another driver’s violation. You may escape the law, but not your father or mother once they find out what you did with their car.

While it is suspended, the MMDA and LGUs will now deploy personnel on the ground to personally monitor for violations and issue citations to the drivers themselves. However, this leaves these poor enforcers exposed to dangers of the job like being hit or run over by erring vehicles keen to escape the law. This also means, we can expect more violations on those areas that are not patrolled by enforcers.
While it’s under suspension, don’t for one second think that your past unsettled violations have now disappeared into the ether. If it was issued before the TRO, unless you are one of the petitioners, leaving it unsettled may cause you problems further down the line.

(Iñigo S. Roces is the Motoring Editor of Manila Bulletin)