Seares: Controversy over motorcycle back-riding: Couple can share bed but can’t share bike

Pachico A. Seares

HEALTH Secretary Franciso Duque III was asked for an explanation of the ban on back-riding on motorcycles even for married couples who sleep on the same bed and do most other things together in their homes.

Easy, Duque said.

The close contact, he said, will make it easier for an infected person to infect the other.

That’s the medical explanation. What he has failed to answer is the part that such governors as Cavite’s Jonvic Remulla and Cebu’s Gwen Garcia have raised. If husband and wife/partner do most everything everyday, what more freaking harm can back-kriding on a motorcycle do?

Argument for exemption

Governor Garcia has extensively argued the case for allowing the exemption of back-riding couples. She says:

[1] She has read the LandTransportation Office administrative order, the Transportation Law, and various other laws and there’s nothing there that validly prohibits back-riding, provided no fee is charged.

[2] Motorcycles are the only practical, cheap and available means of transportation, especially in mountain barangays, which comprise most of the province she governs.

Governor Remulla assails the logic of it all. The motorcycle back-riding ban on couples is like prohibiting lovers to be near each other outside their house where they are allowed to make passionate love.

Law enforcers’ side

Asst. Health Secretary Goddess Libiran says it will defeat the purpose of social distancing. Apparently Goddess (really, she’s named Goddess) doesn’t see, or she ignores, the folly of banning people to be near each other during a motorcycle ride when they have close physical contact more times than anyone can count.

Police and DILG have a better reason: “an enforcement nightmare.” They may need to stop drivers to determine fact of marriage, tougher than running a motel owned by a born-again Christian who requires marriage papers from any couple who checks in.

President Duterte rejected Guv Gwen’s request by invoking equal burden for all, saying an exemption would please Cebu voters who helped make him win in 2016 and thus would pay one more political debt but it would displease the rest of the country.

Crisis doesn’t justify folly

The existing laws may allow back-riding but they can’t over-turn the justification the emergency or crisis provides.

One can argue, as Guv Gwen does, that all the laws one has read don’t prohibit back-riding, particularly for couples. However, the crisis spawned by corona-virus or Covid-19 justifies rules and regulations that upend existing laws.

They may even “set aside” some rights in the Constitution, such as the right to choose one’s domicile and the right to travel. Even being “sheltered in place” or quarantined runs roughshod over a lot of liberties but they have been done and most people have accepted it. There’s the people’s right to worship, which devotees meekly abdicate by not insisting on going to a physical church with a live priest conducting the mass or religious activity.

Shooters in tandem

Skeptics among us—and they abound in these uncertain times—wonder if the government would be as efficient in going after killers in tandem as it appears to be in enforcing the quarantine rule against back-riding?

It was an “enforcement nightmare” then. Why isn’t it an enforcement horror now?

Easy, as Secretary Duque would say.

Back-riding is totally banned during quarantine. Violators can be spotted with ease. Not during normal times, when police have to stop the motorcyclist and determine which back rider carries a gun to shoot a lawyer or businessman with.

The same enforcement horror the police would face if they must flag down the driver to find out whether a back-riding woman is spouse, mistress or paying passenger.