There was a police check point on a congested area of Panacan in suburban Davao City one sunny afternoon of October 19, 2018 when I was flagged down. Of all days, it was a senior moment. I forgot to wear my seat belt, my first actually since I have never forgotten it for years since I started driving; and there was the youthful law enforcer excited to make his first “arrest.”
“Your driver’s license please.” asked the traffic enforcer in full battle gear. That day, I just came from the airport having failed to board my plane trip to Manila. I still looked fresh and dandy. But as I slowlywound down my window, I could just notice how he quickly grabbed the head of his holstered firearm as if I resembled a villain in a popular teleserye.
“What is my violation officer?” I innocently enquired, while watching his shoulder if he would draw his firearm. There are a lot of instances when there are fake checkpoints and those manning it, either are the rebels or criminal syndicates. Like in the movies, the protagonist is alert to grasp the firearm until he gets the upper hand. Although I look more of one in a cameo role than a protagonist, I merely paid lip service and waited for some kind of a miraculous intervention.
“You have violated RA 8750.” The officer quickly responded.
“What does it says?” I was taken aback. Even if I have completed legal education and have as yet to take the Bar exams, I still in need of a refresher course and some updating.
“You are violating RA 8750, Driving without wearing your seat belt and that includes your passenger on the other side.”
The officer was correct. I have violated the law. “Oh, okay. Here’s my driver’s license then.”
The enforcer retreated at the back and drew what looked like a spelling booklet. He was taking a glimpse at my license and was writing something. It took almost 10 minutes. Then he moved towards my window and asked that I sign the piece of receipt he was handing me over. “Sign your name over here on the blank” said the enforcer while pointing at the space where there was a line with Driver’s Name printed below.
“Here you go, you pay fine at the LTO Office within 72 hours.” Commanded the officer, trying to look kind while articulating a friendly expression; “This probably is your first offense anyway, so it won’t be stiff.”
“Okay, and where is my license Mr. Officer?”
“After paying at LTO Office, you can get your license there.”
I was tempted to seek consideration by identifying myself as a high ranking prison officer but since I retired, I just kept quiet. The officer needs some kind of an accomplishment and I don’t mind being the flavor of the day.
Of course, the law requires seat belt as precautionary measure against vehicular accidents. Observance of this law is no brainer. This is applicable in areas where there is no speed limit.
But of all places, the check point was imposing a law on seat belt in an area where movement of vehicle is turtle pace, congested as it were because it is the market place, where there is ordinance that movement of vehicles should only be at 40kph. And since there was street repair going on, the pace of traffic was almost a snarl. Wearing a seat belt in this situation is like being on handcuff inside the detention cell. To further slowdown the pace and make traffic worse, on the other side of the road, was a police check point.
It is a welcome sight though since there are a lot of criminal elements prowling the metropolis. Motorists are never bothered at all. Police visibility is the most effective form of law enforcement approach according to a study. Crime is less expressed if there is a semblance of authority in the vicinity. But there should be some kind of refinement. Preying on senior citizens, lowly pedestrians and haggard public transport drivers do not make sense.
It is not the business of law enforcement anymore to bully those who provide them the wherewithal with their taxes just because they are subservient and apply the law on seat belt in an area where movement of vehicle is terribly slow. If it is the highway or a free way, then by all means, let the law on seat belt fall where it may. But my God, not in the marketplace where everything is in slow motion.
That poor law enforcement fellow could not be blamed anyway. It is how their superiors and their leaders would train them to be that mattered. Garbage in, garbage out as the computer generation would describe incidents of stupidity begetting itself.
And so there I was driving with a provisionary receipt as license. It was indeed a very scratchy situation. If the law’s intention is to solicit Fine as part of its taxation then reporting to the Land TransporationOffice the driver’s license number of the violator is enough. One cannot renew his license unless he pays another surcharge for the violation. There is no need to confiscate the license as if the driver has run over a number of pedestrian.
Oh well, some laws are there merely to make the citizens puke in frustration. To a large extent, people deserve the kind of law makers they elect. It’s sad that I belonged to a country where people would rather vote for celebrities than those with education and commitment.