Senior Citizens of Makati – Know Your Rights in Traffic

[Blast from the past: April 25, 2013 at 1:29am]

The traffic law has since been re-written (see below).  But a bit of this post is still relevant.

This is almost a tongue-in-cheek note.

On April 23, 2013, I was stopped by a traffic enforcer on Buendia in Makati. He claimed that my car was “smoke belching.” Quietly, I argued that I maintained my car in good shape and smoke belching is not an issue. He asked for my license and car registration, which I politely and promptly gave him to inspect.

He then talked about a “manual test” of my exhaust, and informed me that if the car failed the test he would confiscate my car’s license plate. I protested that as far as I knew there was no authority for him to confiscate my car’s license plate.

After a little bit of hemming and hawing by the enforcer, I gave him my senior citizen ID, and informed him that I am a resident of Makati. His response was to consult with another traffic enforcer. His tone of voice changed from one of threat to one of exasperation. Finally, he said he would let me go because, according to him, senior citizens were “exempted” from traffic violations.

In my mind I hadn’t heard of such a rule, but I simply thanked him for letting me go. I don’t know whether what the enforcer told me was true or correct.

Still, I have the following suspicions:

One, the smoke-belching story is just another ruse to extort money. It may work against public use buses and jeepneys, but an informed motorist should resist such an extortion attempt (politely, of course).

Two, the enforcer did not have any authority to apprehend a private car on smoke belching. (Subsequently, from the MMDA website, I learned that as a motorist, I have the right to ask for the enforcer’s mission order, and the scope of his authority in this regard.)

Three, the idea that senior citizens are exempt from traffic rules is ridiculous. But let it be. Perhaps this was just the enforcer’s way of saving face because by then he decided that I would not offer him a bribe.

Four, the traffic enforcer was abusing his position. A reading of official pronouncements from the MMDA suggests that the authority of an enforcer to issue a TVR while confiscating a driver’s license is limited to instances of a crime, accident, or certain administrative violations by the motorist, such as a tampered taxi meter in the case of a taxi. Outside these circumstances, the enforcer may not confiscate a driver’s license. The official rules also state that under certain conditions, the enforcer may detach the car’s license plate. One such condition is when the motorist refuses to surrender his driver’s license. (I am not sure what other conditions will allow a traffic enforcer to confiscate a car’s license plate.)

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NB.  The new traffic law of 2014 has changed some of the rules of traffic enforcement.

New Rules for 2014

The new rules do not allow the confiscation of license plates, but allow the impoundment of vehicles if they operate with smoke belching (determined by observation), or have modified equipment (presumably, illegal modifications).  The penalties are the same for cars, trucks, and motorcycles, which means that those with motorcycles are vulnerable for impoundment for even very minor equipment violations, such as those pertaining to mirrors, mufflers, and lights. A motorcycle owner with three equipment violations faces a fine of P15,000 and impoundment on the spot.

(Whether this is an unreasonable deprivation of property without due process seems a proper constitutional challenge, as well as a violation of equal protection since the fine for a truck with faulty brakes or unsafe tires is P5,000, the same as for a motorcycle with ‘modified’ wheels or tires.  Also, the determination of what is street-legal for equipment seems to be vulnerable to abuse of discretion on the part of the enforcement officer.)

The old traffic violation receipt (TVR) is back, even for minor violations, but now called TOP (temporary operator’s permit).  The penalties are lesser for driving without carrying the driver’s license, relative to driving without any license at all.  This means that  the old TVR/TOP extortion schemes won’t work so well if you carry only a copy of the original license with you.  You may show the enforcing officer the copy of your driver’s license, so he can charge you with not carrying the ‘real’ license, but he can’t inconvenience you with having to go to LTO to retrieve your license.  You now have 30 days to pay the fine, after which the LTO can suspend the license, whereas the TOP (if the enforcement officer has ‘confiscated’ your license) is valid for only 3 days.

The LTO is in charge of collecting fines, and allows a motorist five days to file a written contest of the charges.  After that period, the motorist is deemed to have admitted the violations on the traffic ticket. The five-day period seems to be there to provide a kind of due process protection, and test cases of contests raised on appeal to a higher authority than the LTO can be raised by concerned citizens.

 

‘Circuses of the Surreal’

What is wrong with Patricia Evangelista? Many people consider her a brilliant writer. The brilliance shows in her latest op-ed.

Yet, still, somehow, I’m not a vendee. Evangelista concludes that a respondent in a court proceeding betrays the public trust by asking for presumption of innocence and seeking judicial review on the belief that the court has over-reached. I submit however that legal parries and the accompanying PR spin do not amount to betrayal of public trust. The man is simply trying to survive.

The respondent may well be guilty, but still the pro reo principle holds. You still have to give him his day in court – there is a due process requirement albeit limited because life, liberty, or property is not at stake.

And if he’s innocent, all the more does he deserve to ask for his constitutional rights.

What is probably more correct than Evangelista’s colorful pushes on English is simply this: That if you protest too much, you lose.

The real damage to Chief Justice Corona’s position is not from the ‘let-me-join-the-bandwagon’-while-being-cute style of Evangelista. Nor even from the more general sense that the impunity show should come to an end.

The damage comes from the abundant sneer emanating from his counsels. If a somewhat distracted observer can sense that they think the rest of us, including the judges, are hicks because we don’t know the basket-weaving of remedial law, then the political kick does kick in. The Senate may well convict if only because it has been insulted. That’s the tragedy of the case if the respondent deserves an acquittal; it’s karma otherwise.

Star wars log – Presumption of innocence redux

One lady Justice has likened the “UP 37” to the little boy who saw that the emperor had no clothes.  A news report seems to suggest that the Supreme Court plans to cite the UP 37 for indirect contempt.  Yet, there is jurisprudence to the effect that indirect contempt is similar to a criminal action (see bar review note below).

According to Jose Midas Marquez, SC spokesperson, “lawyers are barred from making public statements that tend to influence public opinion while a case is pending.”  But since Marquez is a lawyer, and a case (either the original Vinuya case, or the associated plagiarism case) is pending, it seems he is himself barred from making public statements.  So, what gives?

Two deadly serious questions: What happened to presumption of innocence? Or the right to remain silent?

Bar review notes:

What is the nature of the action in indirect contempt?

It is similar to a criminal action, with doubt resolved in favor of the person charged. Concepcion v Gonzales, 1962.

Bar review definitions:

Contempt of court: Disregard of or disobedience to the orders of a court, or interruption of its proceedings by disorderly conduct or procedure.

  • Direct contempt: when committed in the presence of near a court as to obstruct or interrupt the proceedings.  It is adjudged summarily, and while it is not appealable, it can be controlled by certiorari or prohibition. Sec. 2, Rule 71.
  • Indirect contempt: When not direct.  It covers: (a) misbehavior of an officer of a court; (b) disobedience or resistance to a lawful writ; (c) interference in a court proceeding; (d) improper conduct that degrades the administration of justice; (e) impersonating an officer of a court; (f) failure to obey a subpoena; (g) rescue of a person or property in legis custodia.  It is appealable, but requires a bond.  The appeal stays the execution of the contempt judgment.
  • Civil contempt:  Failure to do something ordered to be done for the benefit of a party.
  • Criminal contempt: Conduct directed against the authority and dignity of the court, or the doing of a duly forbidden act. Perkins v Dir of Prisons.

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Excerpts from the Philippine Constitution:

No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. Art. III, Sec. 17.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved… Art. III, Sec. 14(2)

Thinking about the pilot testing requirement for automated elections

Quick summary

The concept of pilot testing is that of a “test drive,” a means of checking that something about to be delivered performs as intended.  A prudent buyer may stipulate with the seller that the thing should be tested on a certain date, after which the buyer would take delivery.  Obviously, a proper delivery is contingent on the buyer being satisfied with the test drive.

Some parties, including the Comelec itself, are apparently so keen on taking immediate delivery of the automated election system that they have forgotten the concept of a pilot test.  They believe that it is proper for nationwide automation to be effected in 2010, on the theory that the law already mandates such nationwide automation.  In short, they believe that the so-called pilot test requirement as given in existing law may be dispensed with.

What follows is an analysis, more or less extended, of the legal issues involved.  Central to the resolution of the issue is a consideration of how RA 9369 has amended RA 8346, including partial versus full nationwide automation once Congress has played its oversight role.  It is a revised and updated version of an earlier post on this blog.

Continue reading “Thinking about the pilot testing requirement for automated elections”

Pilot testing the automated polls – is it a condition precedent?

One potential controversy regarding automated elections relates to the timetable envisioned in the law.  In particular, the idea that there should be some kind of “pilot testing” appears to have been implicit if not explicit in the legislation.  How should such pilot testing be conducted?  Can pilot testing be conducted simultaneously with nationwide automation?  Can “public clamor” for automation override legal and constitutional considerations?

Continue reading “Pilot testing the automated polls – is it a condition precedent?”