The Republic Act 4136, also known as “Land Transportation and Traffic Code”, is the basis for the regulation of tricycles along national highways. One intent of this law is to provide a safety measure to prevent vehicular accidents. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued memorandum circulars for the effective implementation of the said law. DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, in an interview, said that prior DILG directives – DILG Memorandum Circulars 2007-11, 2011-68 and 2020-004 – have already been issued prohibiting the presence of tricycles and pedicabs on national roads and prescribing the operating conditions and franchising of tricycles.
Memorandum Circular No. 2007-11 provided for the banning of pedicabs and tricycle operations on the national roads that allow speed of more than 40 KPH and prohibits overloading of passengers and goods. Memorandum Circular No. 2011-68 provided for the exception that tricycles may be allowed to operate along national highways, if there is no other alternative road network available, such as routes beyond the town proper, subject to the prescribed guidelines of the Department of Transportation and Communication. Memorandum Circular No. 2020-004 ordered the local governments to regulate tricycles based on physical requirements or equipage, load or capacity limit, and operating conditions. A recent DILG circular, M.C. 2020-036, compels each city and municipality to create a tricycle task force separate from the tricycle regulatory boards to formulate or review its tricycle route plan.
The local government units are burdened to follow the directives of the DILG. According to Secretary Año, administrative charges will be filed for their non-compliance. Moreover, he said, “It is the responsibility of local chief executives to exact accountability and impose corresponding sanctions against non-supportive or non-compliant local officials and employees”.
THE CONTENTIONS OF THE AFFECTED SECTOR
The riding public and the tricycle drivers are frustrated regarding the implementation of tricycle ban in Puerto Princesa. The riding public contends that removing tricycles in the regular traffic circulation will greatly affect their daily lives. Tricycle as mode of public transport is already an essential part of the lives of the locals – the students, the small businesses, and all the regular public commuters. In addition, there are only two options for the riding public especially within the Poblacion area of the city i.e. tricycles and multicabs. Most of the locals choose to ride on tricycles since it is more practical and convenient, aside from the fact that these tricycles are available twenty-four hours a day, unlike the multicabs which only serve the public for limited hours. To the public, such implementation is nothing but a cause of permanent inconvenience to them. To the tricycle drivers, this restriction will inflict negatively on their source of income. At present, there are more than six thousand registered tricycles in the City.
APPLICATION OF THE HARM PRINCIPLE
Legal philosophy is concerned with providing a general philosophical analysis of law and legal institutions. Conflicts between the government (which creates, implements, and interprets the law) and the governed (which is affected by and sustains the activities of the government), and the limitations of the legitimate authority of the State to restrict its citizens, are better understood through the employment of such philosophies or principles. These would help in balancing the intentions of the government and the potential effect to be sustained or enjoyed by the governed.
The Harm Principle can be applied to understand the present issue. According to John Stuart Mill, “The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection. The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”. Basically, Mill’s harm principle states that human actions which cause harm to other members of the society, not to one’s self, are subject to restriction by the State.
To reiterate, one intent of the government in creating and implementing such law is to improve the traffic situation as well as to provide a safety measure to prevent vehicular accidents. Based on the abovementioned, it may be concluded that it is sufficient for the authorities to control the freedom of the tricycles to travel along highways in order to prevent harm on other vehicles and pedestrians. However, problem may arise when a specific sector is singled out. Reports and statistics indicate that human error (e.g. lost control, drunk driving, using mobile devices while driving, and jaywalking) is the reason for most road accidents in the Philippines. The report of investigated traffic accidents in 2001 shows drivers’ errors contributing to 61% of the total accidents, 6% for mechanical defect, 5% for bad overtaking and over-speeding accounting to 4% of the total recorded traffic accidents. A study illustrates the average accidents per place of occurrence from 2001 to 2006 (prior the issuance of the said DILG memorandum circulars), Philippine setting:
The same study shows the type and number of vehicles involved in traffic accident in 2006, Philippine setting:
In view of the foregoing data, it can be said that singling out the tricycle transport sector may not be justifiable. Human error, which is the primary cause of road accidents, is not only committed by tricycle drivers. And, although most of the accidents occur on national roads, tricycles have only relatively diminutive contribution to the total number of accidents.
It may be implied, due to the presence of substantial conflict, that in formulating for the implementation of the law, places like Puerto Princesa that heavily rely on tricycles as means of public transport were unduly regarded. Different regions are differently situated. To the affected sectors, especially the riding public, and based on the application of Harm Principle, the means does not fully justify the end. It also seems that the government is only focusing on the intent and not on the result. Tricycle restriction is not the best solution. There are many contributing factors that also need to be resolved like addressing human errors and regulating other forms of transport.
Another important matter to mention is that the Philippine government, being ‘committed’ to address climate change, should promote mass transport instead of discouraging it.
After all, the main goal of the government shall be to act with the least adverse effect on the rest of its citizens and to protect their interests in general.
- Occurrence of Traffic Accidents in the Philippines: An Application of Poisson Regression Analysis by Adrian M. Tamayo (Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1438478)
- DILG Memorandum Circulars 2007-11, 2011-68, 2020-004, and 2020-036