“I did my best but I guess, my best wasn’t good enough” was one of the lines in the song “Just Once” by singer James Ingram. This should be the theme song of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on her plan to allow backriding on private motorcycles. But President Rodrigo Duterte, in a radio and TV address Friday, June 5, 2020, “doused cold water” on Gwen’s desire to help those who own motorcycles to allow family members to backride in view of the shortage of public transportation after the entire island of Cebu was placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) status and businesses reopened.
While acknowledging the overwhelming support of the Cebuanos when he ran for the presidency in 2016 elections, the President said: “I cannot just grant the request of Governor Garcia because I might be charged for giving undue favor to her request. Beside, granting her request might open the floodgate for more requests from other LGUs (local government units).”
Earlier, in the same forum, the President supported the stand of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año to prohibit backriding because it might cause transmission of Covid-19. Año said the virus recognizes no one, even couples. He asked for public understanding. Anyway, he said, this is just temporary.
In reaction to the statement of the President, Gwen, in an interview with this columnist over radi dySS, said she would accede to the President.
“He is my President. I supported and campaigned for him last 2016 elections, so I will listen to him. The President has spoken, adding that he was elected by the people... I did my best by acting on the request of my constituents because I can feel their sentiments on this issue,” Gwen said.
The governor was on her way to the northern part of the province when reached by radio dySS. She described the situation, seeing people walking because of the shortage of public transportation. She said she will recall Executive Order (EO) 19 and will talk to Provincial Board members not to pursue the passing of an ordinance in consonance to her EO. Had the President not made any statement, she could have pursued her plan and stood on her ground whatever the consequences might have been, Gwen said.
Prior to this development, banking on the arguments that there is no law that prohibits backriding, the governor signed an EO allowing a backriding in private motorcycles. Part of her EO states: “The Land Transportation and Traffic Code of the Philippines, or Republic Act (RA) 4136, does not prohibit the use of private motorcycles to transport passengers provided that the passenger is related by consanguinity or affinity within the fourth civil degree or the owner and that no fee is charged.”
What is prohibited in the law is motorcycle-for-hire, if the motorcycle is used to ferry passengers for a fee. But if it is for free, it is not a violation. Garcia’s move was in response to numerous requests she received from the province’s constituents that couples and family members should be allowed to backride.
However, DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III asked Garcia to withdraw her EO as it violates the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on social distancing under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, or RA 11469. Densing said Garcia could face criminal and administrative charges if she would pursue her plan.
But take note that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act expired on June 5 and a new law, the Bayanihan to Recover as One, is still pending before both chambers of Congress. There are no IATF guidelines to this effect but only a memorandum circular by the Land Transportation Office.
Well, Gwen may have failed in her desire to help the affected sector but at least she did and she tried her best for her love for the Cebuanos. Kana maoy lider, mobarug gyud tungod ug alang sa iyang pagmahal sa katawhan.