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Duterte signs law mandating bigger license plates for motorcycles

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law seeking to prevent the use of motorcycles in crimes by mandating bigger plates and other identification marks.

Duterte signed Republic Act 11235 (Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act) on March 8, a copy of which was released by Malacañang to the media on Thursday.

The law mandates the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to issue bigger, readable and color-coded license plates to every motorcycle in the country. The plate numbers should be big enough to be readable from a distance of at least 15 meters from the motorcycle.

The LTO must devise a color scheme of the plate numbers for every region to easily identify where a motorcycle was registered.

The readable number plates must be displayed in both the front and back sides of the motorcycle and should be made of suitable and durable material as determined by the LTO.

“The utilization of voluntary and paid labor from prisoners shall be among the requirements to bid for the procurement of the number plates under this Act,” the law stated.

Motorcycle owners with number plates not in conformity with the provisions of the law must renew their registration and apply for the required readable number plate not later than June 30, 2019.

The LTO has until December 31 this year to produce, release and issue the readable number plates. After December 31, 2019, the penal provisions of the law shall take effect.

Transport groups had opposed the use of bigger license plates for motorcycles, arguing it may endanger the rider and the pedestrians.

"If we place plates that are too big and will be affected by wind, there's no assurance that the mounting points will hold these plates in place," Joebert Bolanos of Riders of the Philippines told a House hearing in January last year.

Bolanos opposed the use of front plates because it could allegedly pose danger to the rider and the pedestrians. He said other Asian countries have discontinued the use of front plates.

Virgilio Montaño of the Motorcycle Development Program Participant Association, meanwhile, said license plates in front of the motorcycle interfere with the function of the head lamp and signal lights.

Under the law, driving without a license plate number is prohibited and shall be punishable by four months and one day up to two years and four months or a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P100,000, or both.

A motorcycle driven without a number plate or readable number plate shall be stopped and shall be seized by law enforcers and immediately surrendered to the Philippine National Police.

If a motorcycle was intentionally used in the commission of a crime, the owner, driver, backrider or passenger who participated in the crime shall be punished either by imprisonment of a term of 12 years and 1 day up to 20 years as provided under the Revised Penal Code.

If a seized motorcycle is used in the commission of a crime, the maximum penalry of such crime or offense shall be imposed.

The penalty of reclusion perpetua (jail term ranging from 20 years and one day to 30 years) shall be imposed if the unlawful use of a motorcycle in the commission on the crime resulted in death or serious physical injuries.

The law also penalizes the use of stolen number plate or readable number plate, sale and importation of non-compliant motorcycles, as well as tampering and concealing of number plate and intentional use of the same.

Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed that from 2010 to 2017, there were a total of 28,409 motorcycle riding crimes or incidents reported, of which, 13,062 or 46 percent were shooting incidents.

Out of over 4,000 total number of motorcycle riding crimes or incidents in 2016, only 8 cases (0.18 percent) were solved.

The measure provides for an initial funding of P150 million for the implementation of the law and the creation of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act tasked to make a yearly review and assessment of the law’s implementation including its penalties.

The LTO has 90 days from the effectivity of the law to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations. —KBK, GMA News