After I stumbled on this video uploaded by James Deakin, I looked up PD 96, a 1973 decree of then Pres. Marcos. Here’s what I found: (1) the text of PD 96; and (2) a report on an Administrative Order by the President regarding the enforcement of PD 96, dated June 30, 2005.
Strictly speaking, PD 96 exempts only law enforcement and emergency vehicles from compliance. What does this mean? Any official who wants to be a VIP simply requests a police escort. The escort has the sirens and blinkers; the “escorted” can simply drive in peace in between escorts.
So, it appears that there is an explanation for the Deakin YouTube video. What is he complaining about?
Well, it is also true that Mr. Deakin has a legal leg to stand on. No, in fact, he has two.
One is based on the concept of “abuse of rights,” which is covered in the Civil Code, Arts. 19 and 20. Such abuse is a tort, and makes the tortfeasor liable for damages.
A second leg is the Equal Protection clause, and Art. 32 of the Civil Code (more on this below).
Case law has defined abuse of rights as an apparent valid exercise of a legal right, which oversteps the bounds of equity and good faith, thereby causing damage to another or to society. Manaog v Filiinvest Credit, 1984. But the overstepping of “the bounds of equity and good faith” has been held to mean that the tortfeasor had “a sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another,” Albenson v CA, 1993.
As a practical matter, the Albenson case makes it difficult to make out an abuse of rights suit against a lower-level government official who uses a police escort. He will, of course, claim that he was in a hurry to fulfill his duties, and therefore he never had the intent of prejudicing or injuring another. It will then be up to the plaintiff to prove that the erring official particularly enjoyed the idea that he can cut through traffic to the detriment of other motorists.
Never mind that other laws may state that only the heads of the three branches of government plus the Vice President are allowed to use blinkers and sirens. Such laws simply immunize these officials from liability. In other words, the car bearing a Vice President can use a siren. And of course, this is perfectly fair and proper.
As to Equal Protection, Art. 32 of the Civil Code states that any person, including a public official, who violates the constitutional rights of another, including those guaranteed by the Equal Protection clause, is liable for damages. Equal Protection means that “all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed” (Nachura, Reviewer in Political Law, 94). It seems that there is no case law that requires the plaintiff, under this legal theory, to prove “sole intent” to injure by the defendant. A concerned citizen may file a civil suit against one lower-ranking official as a means of having the Supreme Court eventually decide on this matter. If only it were possible to file this action as a class action suit (but that’s another story).
In sum, there are two legal theories to stop the abuse of the roads by public officials who appear as “road bullies” to the citizenry. One is based on statute and the concept of abuse of rights. The other is a straightforward redress of violation of constitutional rights, based on both the Constitution and the Civil Code.
As Karl Marx could have said, were he stuck in traffic on EDSA, “Motorists of the Philippines unite! You have nothing to lose but your filing fee.” And perhaps a bit of patience while the wheels of justice turn in due course.
Hats off to James Deakin for calling attention to this matter.
For a little bit of comic relief, check out this spoof.