Rider fined for having frontliner backrider

With the Enhanced Community Quarantine in place, extended up to May 15, 2020, the continued suspension of public transportation has made it really challenging for medical frontliners to commute to their place of work, daily. While the government has provided shuttle services, their coverage is very limited.

This has become a problem for medical frontliners who need to get to work, but have no means of getting there. Granted, they can take their own motorcycle and will be waived through checkpoints when they show their ID. But what are they to do if they don't know how to ride and the shuttle servies do not pass near their place of residence?

Motorcycle rider, Michael Villanueva, had such a dilemma. Villanueva, from Tungko, Bulacan, was ticketed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority's (MMDA) traffic constables for violating social distancing protocols. In his defense, Villanueva was forced to take his sister-in-law, a nurse in one of the hospitals in Quezon City, as pillion. The government shuttle service for frontliners unfortunately doesn't go anywhere near where they live.

Naturally, he was flagged down for violating the no-backriding policy. After a brief discussion with the MMDA constables, he was given a ticket and was told to pay the fine at any of the authorized payment centers. His sister-in-law was forced to disembark and wait for a passing shuttle. 

As another 30-minutes or so had passed, his nurse sister-in-law, still unable to board a shuttle, was finally permitted by the MMDA constables to ride pillion so that she could report for work in the medical frontlines.

"Isakay muna lang muna sya, tutal na-ticketan ka na namin (You may take her as pillion, anyway, you have already been ticketed)," the officer said.

“Social distancing applies to all,” said the DOTr. Backriding is strictly not allowed. No exceptions.

Nonetheless, the DOTr clarified that frontliners may operate motorcycles during the quarantine. They cannot be a passenger or take on passengers.

"Hindi po pinagbabawalang gumamit ng motorsiklo ang mga frontliners o nasa essential travel. Ang ipinagbabawal po ay ang paggamit ng motorsiklo ng may angkas dahil labag po ito sa social distancing guidelines na ipinatutupad ng gobyerno (Motorcycle travel for frontliners, or those for essential travel are not prohibited. What's prohibited is the use of motorcycle with pillion or backride, because this goes against the social distancing guidelines being implemented by the government).”

Essential travel includes buying groceries, medicines, and other basic needs.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary, Eduardo Año, was interviewed on the issue of using tricycles to ferry health workers or household members to work a few weeks back. The DOTr again reiterated that the secretary's answer applies to the issue of motorcycles as well to avoid an enforcement nightmare. “I don't want the PNP and the AFP to check 100,000 tricycles every moment just to check who's riding. I'd rather have them focus their efforts on keeping people staying at home.”

There are individuals and groups, however, that have lent their electric kick scooter to select frontliners, like this e-scooter community. Suzuki Philippines, on the other hand, has also lent 10 units of their Raider J Crossover to the fronliners who are temporarily sheltered at the Office of the Vice President. Unfortunately, none of these efforts address frontliners outside the reach of shuttles without licenses or their own means of transport.