By now, most motorcycle riders have heard of the massive, nationwide mass protest of motorcycle riders versus the controversial 'Doble Plaka Law' or Republic Act 11235, the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act. Based on HB8419, and more heavily on the Senate Bill 1397 principally authored by Senators Richard 'Dick' Gordon and Vicente 'Tito' Sotto III, it was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on March 8, 2019.
Among the most controversial provisions of the new law is the requirement of front identification license plates for all motorcycles. As many understand a license plate to be typically made of metal and of a specified size, the provision has caused uproar in the motorcycle riding community owing to the difficulty in fittin a plate in the front for various motorcycle models, as well as the danger it poses to the riders when traveling at speed.
We sat down with a legal expert, Atty. Paul Yusi, who has 28 years of law practice under his belt, and is the current chief legal adviser to one of the biggest motorcycle dealers in the country. He gave us his opinions regarding the controversial Doble Plaka Law, its implications, and any ways it can be changed.
MotoPinas.com: When RA 11235, or the Doble Plaka law, was signed by the President, one of its principal authors, Senator Gordon, had said in one of his interviews that decals or stickers could be required in place of number plates, contrary to his statements before the bicameral which produced the final version. Is this true? Can stickers be substitutes for a plate?
Atty. Yusi: No, Sen Gordon's statement when interviewed that decals or stickers would suffice as replacement for the front plate does not hold water insofar as what the controversial law says, which he principally authored. The IRR that will be drafted by the LTO where a compromise size and type of material to use resulting from the meeting called for by Sen. JV will also not hold water in law because it will not conform to the wordings and requirements of the law. The legal solution is to amend the law itself to conform with Senator Gordon and Senator JV's supposed wishes to calm the public, and that of the LTO's conformity thereto.
Unless it is amended, or repealed, it is the law, and law enforcers, especially the MMDA, CHPG, and other LGU traffic enforcers would have a heyday flagging and apprehending all bikes, including the weekend recreational big bikers for such violations. Note that that law says the bike will be confiscated and detained if the required plate is not installed and complied with. That law further says the owner will have to pay what seems to be "redemption fee," or other cynics would say "ransom fee" just to get the bike and after compliance with the required plate.”
MP: Also, Senator JV Ejercito said that he will do whatever he can to 'pacify' the provisions of the law during IRR deliberations. Would an RFID suffice?
Atty Yusi: The RFID for the motorbikes, big or small, in lieu of plates or the front plate to address the issues on the ridiculous size and on safety, is again NOT the law. The law does not even seem to give the LTO a discretion on how the plate requirement will be implemented. The wordings of the law on size and shape are exact. Absolutely no leeway is given to LTO. Hence, the proposal of Sen. JV or Gordon is wishful thinking. For now, of course, the LTO may somewhat agree to this idea but at the end of the day, it just has to get its bearing from what the law says. LTO, being an administrative body, cannot engage in administrative legislation, lest it violates the legal prohibitory rule on "undue delegation of legislative powers" only reserved for Congress. Sen JV as law maker, should ought to know that the only way to make the RFID or other sensible alternatives without sacrificing the intent of the law to prevent crimes using motor bikes, is to amend the law.
MP: There's also a provision under the new law that would utilize prisoners as free or cheap labor for the production of the said plates. Is that allowed in our law?
Atty Yusi: This is interesting. Legally speaking, this is a form of slavery akin to "force or hard labor" if imposed on prisoners. The only way this can be legally done are as follows:
a) The law violated by a prisoner for which he was prosecuted and convicted must have such kind of "force or hard labor" as part of the penalty in the law itself. Meaning, it is a penalty by itself.
b) If a prisoner voluntarily agrees or consents to such work being that it's part of the reformation program of the government through the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to provide a livelihood. Note that the prisoners must be paid for work unless they waive or do it for charity to invest on good behavior for easy parole application
c) In both cases, the assumption of the conviction is final.
MP: Last but not the least, is RA 11235 unconstitutional? Given that it has provisions such as very hefty fines of up to PhP100,000 and jail time as penalties for even the simple detachment of a plate number, as well as making it unlawful for motorcycles without provisions for a number plate to be registered and it affects all motorcycles old and new?
Atty Yusi: Over the law is not unconstitutional per se. It has a laudable purpose, that is, to prevent motorcycles to be used in the commission of crimes as we see in media. It is the way it is to be implemented through questionable selected provisions, especially that part of confiscation is unconstitutional since it is not even the fruit nor a tool in the commission of a crime as when it was stolen, carnapped, or used in so-called "riding in tandem" crimes involving assassinations and robbery. Simply ridiculous to confiscate for not installing the proper plate required by that law. It violates the due process to property rights. Confiscation and its penalties of fine or imprisonment are cruel and unjust, which also violates the constitution. It does not match the supposed offense committed of not installing the proper plate.
It violates the following constitutional principles. Under the Equal Protection Clause, motorcycles are part of the daily lives of most motorcycle riders, may it be for daily commute, work or simply for recreational purposes. By tagging all motorcycles and its riders as possible criminals is unjust. The people are equally protected under our constitution. There is also no provision for a front mounted number plates for street bikes, which should be visible in as far as 15 meters as defined in the law. The same is true with street legal enduro or dual sport bikes and sport bikes. In these cases, it is a huge plate, a piece of metal that will be hazardous and dangerous and will not serve the purpose of the law. As I said above, the punishment for noncompliance with simple plate size and make is cruel and unusual. LTO does not even have regular plates nor stickers available. And yes, it is a violation of the constitutional prohibition on passing ex post facto laws because it makes an act criminal when not a crime at the time of commission.
Based on Atty. Yusi's opinion, it doesn't look very good for motorcycle riders, considering the hefty requirements and painful penalties provided by the law. Looking at the bright side of things, the motorcycle community has never been so united against a law. We can only hope our lawmakers listen to reason and prepare an ammendment for the law.