DILG official: Garcia could face charges for allowing backrides on private motorcycles

AN OFFICIAL of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia may face several cases if she will implement her executive order allowing backrides on motorcycles.

The Provincial Board members will face the same predicament if they will pass an ordinance supporting the governor’s order, said DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III.

Densing said Garcia’s order violates the guideline issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Republic Act 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal as One Act). The IATF, he said, will order the governor to explain if she refuses to take back her order.

“All local executive orders and ordinances should be aligned with the policies set down by the National Government or the IATF. Otherwise, they can be held criminally and administratively liable,” Densing said during a Facebook live stream conducted by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas.

Densing’s warning failed to persuade Garcia to back down on her decision.

The governor said she was willing to be suspended for issuing Executive Order (EO) 19.

Garcia issued on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, EO 19 permitting backriding on private motorcycles in the province, which has been under general community quarantine (GCQ) status since May 16. Garcia said her team found out that backriding is not prohibited under Republic Act 4136 (Land Transportation and Traffic Code) and there was no Supreme Court ruling that outlaws motorcycle backriding.

EO 19 allows only one backrider per trip. It mandates that both the backrider and driver must wear closed shoes and the Department of Trade and Industry-prescribed helmets. The driver cannot charge for the backride.

Garcia said EO 19 will take effect after the Provincial Board passes an ordinance, which the PB—dominated by lawmakers allied with the governor—is expected to pass on Friday, June 5.

The governor’s move was seen to help several workers who have complained of being stuck in the streets waiting for the few public utility buses and modern jeepneys allowed to run during the GCQ.

“Tungod kay naa nay nihulga nako nga isuspenso kuno ko, ihangad ko na lang ni sa kahitas-an. Nagsalig ko sa balaod (As there was someone who threatened to suspend me, I will just leave this problem to the heavens. I’m confident with the law),” said Garcia, who added that she is only after her constituents’ welfare.

Garcia said allowing backriders is not illegal, adding that the memorandums issued by the DILG preventing local government units from allowing backriders cannot supersede what is stated in the law.

Despite opposition from the DILG, her executive order allowing backriders on motorcycles has gained the support of seven legislators, namely Reps. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu, 1st), Wilfredo Caminero (Cebu, 2nd), Pablo John Garcia (Cebu, 3rd), Janice Salimbangon (Cebu, 4th), Vincent Franco Frasco (Cebu, 5th), Emmarie Ouano-Dizon (Cebu, 6th) and Peter John Calderon (Cebu, 7th).

Densing said the DILG had issued show cause orders to four Luzon mayors for issuing executive orders that allow motorcycle backriding. The local executives eventually retracted their orders, Densing added.

Allowing backrides on motorcycles could create problems for families trying to protect their loved ones from contracting the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), he said.

He said they found evidence that some areas in Luzon where motorcycle backriding is allowed saw Covid-19 infections within families. Densing did not provide data and the names of the local government units.

Meanwhile, the Mandaue City Council has requested the IATF and the Department of Transporation (DOTr) to allow motorcycle backriding for drivers’ immediate family members.

The City Council approved the resolution authored by Councilor Carmelino del Mar Jr. last Monday, June 1.

In Cebu City, Mayor Edgardo Labella said he is confident he will get a positive response from the DOTr on his appeal to allow backrides on motorcycles.

Labella wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade last June 1, asking the latter to reconsider the no-backrider policy. (JKV, KFD, JJL and ANV)