Wenceslao: Issue on backriding

Bong O Wenceslao

It looks like Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and the Provincial Board (PB) will have to back off this time from their plan to pass a measure that would allow backriding on motorcycles as the government eases the restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There is widespread opposition to the ban on backriders even if the one backriding is a member of the family.

I initially thought the governor will only be dealing with the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s Epimaco Densing, who warned the governor of the legal implications of her planned move. Garcia is not easy to intimidate especially by a mere bureaucrat if she thinks she is right. But President Duterte himself spoke on the matter yesterday, reiterating Densing’s line.

So backridding on motorcycles would not be allowed still. There is no way Garcia and the PB would contradict a President they are allied with. And while the President insisted on the ban, he did recognize the support he got from Cebuanos in the last elections, which should weaken the governor’s resolve.

But I see two things there, one is that at the very least the complaint has reached the President, which could spark an informal review of the policy. The other is about initiative, which leaders must have to be effective in addressing the concerns of the people they are leading. The governor showed that initiative on the issue of backriding on motorcycles.

Interestingly, only the governor, among Cebu’s leaders, was able to show initiative on the said issue. Okay, that may not really be a correct observation considering that we are not privy to what is going on behind the scenes. Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella is close to Mike Dino of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas. Who knows if Labella raised the same concern to Dino before this recent episode involving the governor.

I say that what seems to have become a focus on the issue is the absurdity of not allowing a wife to backride on a motorcycle driven by the husband. But that seems not to be the main point here. It is backriding per se that is viewed as an act that is likely to spread the coronavirus. How can physical distancing be implemented on motorcycles? And a related question: how can authorities be sure that the woman backriding is the wife?

Which brings us to the important point on the matter, which is that logic should dictate every protocol that the government lays down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Consider that any of the protocol causes inconvenience of some sort to the people. They should thus be convinced that the protocols are well thought of and logical.

As for the local leaders, I hope that they would not blindly follow every dictate imposed from above. One of the principles behind representative democracy is that those chosen to represent the people in government should not let go of the concerns of their constituents just to ingratiate themselves to their party mates or party leaders or even to the President.