The Highway Patrol Group (HPG) on Monday justified its clampdown on tricycles plying the national highway, as the city government scrambled to buy time for the Puerto Princesa’s main transport sector.
P/Maj. Ariel Abanto, HPG head, told city officials during the City Council’s Question Hour they were only following orders from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
He said he had received a verbal order to implement the policy, noting that they made an announcement regarding it.
“Sinabi ko naman na February 1 ay magsisimula na tayo. Nagpaalala na tayo. Last week ay tumawag ang aming director na pinapa-conduct na kami ng operation at instruction na rin ni Secretary (Eduardo) Año,” he said.
The city government earlier announced the postponement of its compliance to the DILG order to February 15, ostensibly to allow the local government to pass a local ordinance addressing the matter.
Abanto said that there were around 122 tricycle drivers who were caught for “obstruction” during the operation. The penalty imposes a fine of P3,000.
“Ang ticket natin ay obstruction along the national highway in connection with tricycle ban na rin,” Abanto said.
City councilors meanwhile questioned the legal basis for the HPG operations.
“What particular section of the Land Transportation Code is being violated? For me, that is not an obstruction but they are being fined for obstruction of the national highway,” Councilor Nesario Awat said.
Awat pointed out Section 54 of Republic Act 3146 or the Land Transportation Code which states that “No person shall drive such his motor vehicle in such a manner as to obstruct or impede the passage of any vehicle nor while discharging or taking passengers or loading or unloading freight obstruct the pre-passage of other vehicles on the highway.”
“Is that the violation [of tricycle drivers]? Very clear and I can say that tricycle drivers do not violates this. There is a legal issue on how the driver is being fined base on this,” he added.
He urged the city legal office to further study the issue.
“We need the opinion of the city legal office pertaining to this issue, the interpretation of the Section 54 of the Land Transportation Code. As far as this section is concerned, dapat doon niyo sila i-charge hindi ‘yong dahil dumaan sila sa national highway,” he said.
Abanto defended their action, insisting that tricycles plying the national highway are committing a violation.
“Ang nakikita ko dito ay pumasok sila sa highway, I am not a lawyer pero kapag ‘yan ay delaying the flow of traffic it is a violation. Hindi natin pwedeng isabay ang mabilis at mabagal na sasakyan, maliit o malaki lalo sa national highway kaya i-implement namin ‘yan,” Abanto said.
Councilor Peter Maristela, chair of the transport committee, proposed to write a request letter addressed to HPG headquarters to exempt Puerto Princesa City in the implementation of the tricycle ban while they are finalizing an ordinance.
“May ginagawa po tayong ordinansa, may 6,000 po tayong tricycles na may franchise at karamihan sa public or commuters natin ay nakaasa sa tricycles. Baka puwedeng mahintay ang ordinansa natin bago man lang matapos ang buwan ng Marso bago ito i-implement,” Maristela said.
Abanto, however, said that they are just following the orders of higher authorities.
“Naiipit po kasi kami [kung ano ang iniutos ay gagawin din po namin], mahirap din sa loob namin dahil mga kababayan natin ‘yan at magkano nga lang naman ang kinikita nila. Sa tagal ko po na nandito ay ngayon lang naman ako nakapanghuli ng tricycles, masakit din po sa amin na nanghuhuli kami,” Abanto said.