Strict Helmet Law Enforcement Begins

MANILA, Philippines --- A Quezon City traffic enforcer was among the first ones caught yesterday for not using standard helmets prescribed by the Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009.

Eduardo Arsenio, who is an agent of the Quezon City Department of Public Order and Safety, was apprehended on his way to work along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City yesterday.

Clad in his yellow traffic enforcer uniform, Arsenio was spotted scratching his head while a Land Transportation Office (LTO) law enforcer filled out a traffic violation ticket against him for using a substandard helmet that bore neither a Philippine Standard (PS) Seal nor an Import Commodity Clearance (ICC).

Arsenio said he knew about Republic Act 10054 or the Motorcycle Helmet Law and its strict implementation this year but claimed that he didn't know the strict enforcement began yesterday.

"Alam ko po, pero hindi ko inakala na ngayon agad. Nawala sa isip ko," he said.

Arsenio's driver's license was confiscated and he will be fined P1,500 when he redeems it after undergoing adjudication process and seminar at the LTO Central Office in East Avenue in Quezon City.

According to LTO chief Assistant Secretary Virginia Torres, who led the road-side apprehension yesterday, Arsenio's reason was common among the over 20 motorcycle riders apprehended during the first hour of their operation.

"Their usual reason is that they forgot about it because they just returned from the province after the holidays. But we told them that this law is not new, in fact the implementation has been postponed for a year to accommodate those who wanted to get their helmets certified," she said, adding that copies of the law were given to motorcycle riders during apprehension to remind them of the rule and fines.

Ironically, Arsenio, like other local government traffic enforcers, is deputized by the LTO, aside from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), to apprehend violators of Republic Act 10054 or the Motorcycle Helmet Law.

Before the LTO's launch of the Helmet Law enforcement yesterday, at least 51 motorcycle riders have already been apprehended since January 2. According to LTO law enforcement service (LES) director Mohammad Yusop Lamping, those caught were apprehended along Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue, in Pasay and in Paranaque City.

"Of the 94 apprehensions we recorded since Jan. 2, 51 were caught violating the Helmet Law. Their common alibi is that they failed to get their stickers from the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry). But we know for a fact that they were given ample time to secure their stickers," he said.

Lamping warned non-complying motorcycle riders nationwide to start investing on standard helmets, not only to evade apprehensions but to ensure their safety in case of accidents.

"Enforcement of the Helmet Law is nationwide and it will be on full blast mode starting next week. Directors of regional offices have reported to us of their apprehension statistics and some caught over 60 riders in one day," he said.

LTO traffic safety division chief Daisy Jacobo said the use of standard helmets as prescribed by law will be included in the module for driver seminar that an apprehended rider will have to undergo as a condition to redeem his confiscated driving license.

"Filipinos are known risk takers and our belief in fatalism explains why motorcycle riders value more the savings from buying substandard helmets than the safety features and quality of the more expensive ones. This is why we will inject the need for standard helmets in the motorcycle riders' seminar," she said.

The Department of Transportation and DTI have earlier issued a joint administrative order (JAO) on the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 10054 or the Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009.

Under the JAO, motorcycle drivers and riders caught driving without wearing the standard protective motorcycle helmet will be fined P1,500 for the first offense, P3,000 for the second offense, P5,000 for the third offense, and P10,000 for the fourth and succeeding offense plus the confiscation of the driver's license.

The JAO also penalizes motorcycle dealers who don't make available the new standard protective motorcycle helmets to their customers, those who sell substandard helmets or helmets not bearing the PS or ICC mark, and those who tamper or forge the PS or ICC marks in helmets.