Highway robbery

posted February 24, 2021 at 12:15 am
by  Ernesto M. Hilario
"Why insist on still implementing the inspection system by hook or by crook?"

 

We’re glad that Malacañang acted swiftly and directed the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to make the motor vehicle inspection system (MVIS) no longer mandatory after public uproar greeted its stealthy introduction.

We raised our concern recently over the move of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and its attached agency, the LTO, to allow Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers (PMVICs) to operate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

We pointed out that the MVIS appeared to be a money-making scheme apparently hatched on the sly by a public-private partnership with less than noble intentions despite their strenuous defense of it as motivated solely by nothing more than saving human lives on the road.

In fact, we think it’s a form of highway robbery where vehicle owners would have been made to pay at least P1,800 for what the PMVICs claim would be a thorough inspection inside out of all vehicles, private and public.

If the vehicle fails the inspection for one reason or another, the hapless owner would have had to cough up another P900 for re-inspection.

So, vehicle owners would have been slapped with an additional P2,700 aside from the regular registration fee of more than P2,000 if the scheme had been allowed to continue.

That the prescribed rates for vehicle inspections were unreasonably high and obviously intended to empty the pockets of vehicle owners became very clear when the head of the consortium of inspection centers said, the day after Malacañang announced its stand on the issue, that they were willing to bring the rate down to P600 for light vehicles, or a little more than that charged at present by emission testing centers.

That’s a hefty two-thirds cut in the rate they intended to charge vehicle owners, and shows that what they originally prescribed was really exorbitant.

For motorcycles and jeepneys, PMVICs would charge P500 and P300, respectively. The group also decided to suspend the collection of reinspection fees.

But would the PMVICs in fact be operating at a loss as they claim?

We don’t think so, as they would have a captive market year after year after year.

The rationale behind the creation of privately owned vehicle inspection centers is flawed from the start, as it puts the blame for road accidents and fatalities on the failure of owners to maintain their vehicles and keep them roadworthy.

We know, however, that road accidents and deaths are caused by a variety of factors, among them improper road maintenance, insufficient road signs, faulty traffic management, inadequate driver education, and not just dodgy brake systems, dim headlights or worn-out shock absorbers.

Last week, after the Senate committee on public services held a hearing on the operations of PMVICs, it recommended the temporary suspension of the scheme due to questions about the legal basis of allowing the operations of privately owned inspection centers without any public bidding.

But even with Malacañang slamming the brakes on the suspicious scheme, it appears that the DOTr and the LTO would still insist on implementing it by hook or by crook, perhaps for millions of reasons.

Deadly roads 

While we’re at this, we also find it really disturbing that over half of all motorcycle-related crimes totaling nearly 20,000 since 2016 have remained unsolved, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP) itself.

In a hearing held recently by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee led by Sen. Richard Gordon, PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas revealed that more than half of the 19,086 crimes involving motorcycle-riding suspects recorded since 2016 are still unsolved.

“Out of these we have solved a total of 9,040 or only 48.87 percent” while the rest are “still under investigation,” Sinas said.

Ah, but we’ve heard that line before. The PNP has undergone several leadership changes since 2016 and each one of our top cops has been saying the same thing: these are “deaths under investigation.”

The hearing was called by Gordon precisely to investigate the failure of authorities to implement the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, which was enacted into law in 2019.

The motorcycle law seeks to secure the citizenry from crimes committed using motorcycles by imposing bigger, readable, and color-coded number plates to make it easier for eyewitnesses to identify the number plates of motorcycles used in crimes.

Gordon has deplored the “very slow” implementation of the law, which aims to curb crimes by riding-in-tandem criminals, such as murder, robbery and snatching.

From Jan. 1 to Feb. 13 of this year alone, a total of 50 individuals have been killed by riding-in-tandem assailants.

According to Sinas, the PNP has already activated tactical motorcycle-riding units (TMRUs)  consisting of 2,000 personnel that “can immediately respond to any incident particularly those perpetrated by motorcycle-riding suspects.”

Are we therefore likely to see a marked decrease in riding-in-tandem killings with the deployment of Highway Patrol Group quick-reaction teams?

Perhaps, but not quite. The other half of the equation, of course, should be to implement the law mandating larger and easy-to-read license plates for motorcycles.

What’s keeping the LTO and the PNP from doing this? That we’d really like to find out, sooner than later, before the body count rises further in the months ahead.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Land Transportation Office , LTO , motor vehicle inspection system , MVIS , Department of Transportation , DOTr , Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers , PMVICs
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