Devices that scream self-entitlement: War on illegal sirens, blinkers escalates
MANILA, Philippines—“Walang lamangan, walang wang-wang (No privilege, no sirens).”
This was one of the most famous pronouncements of the late Benigno Aquino III on his first day as the Philippines’ 15th president.
It was both symbolic and literal. Suddenly, the illegal use of sirens and blinkers by both civilians and government functionaries nearly disappeared. It was also meant as a serious crackdown on abuse of power or self-entitlement.
Aquino’s wang-wang policy stemmed from martial law ‘scars’ — Almendras
When Aquino died on June 24 last year, the mobility website Visor PH said he was the leader “who called attention to the abuse of power and the sense of entitlement prevalent among both government officials and private VIPs even in full view of the public”.
Last July 5, Sen. JV Ejercito called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to revive Aquino’s campaign against the unauthorized use of sirens and blinkers, saying that “it’s a matter of implementation”.
READ: JV Ejercito hits ‘wang-wang’, convoy escorts aboard luxury vehicles
“That’s why I said I hope PBBM (Marcos) will revive it because it was done during PNoy’s (Aquino) time. If the president speaks about it, that is already policy and all will follow,” Ejercito told radio station dzBB.
“I observed a lot has been using it including local officials and others I am not sure but maybe, Cabinet secretaries,” Ejercito said.
Then he took to Twitter to express his exasperation: “I see many businessmen, private citizens with escorts. That angers me. We are all equal. What gives them the privilege? That’s not acceptable.”
The Philippine National Police (PNP), in response, said it will intensify its crackdown on wang-wang, stressing that the law does not allow private vehicles to use sirens and blinkers.
Maj. General Valeriano De Leon told ABS-CBN that some officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the PNP are also not allowed to have motorcycle escorts.
Law on sirens, blinkers
The PNP-Highway Patrol Group (HPG) said there are laws governing the use of sirens and blinkers—the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, which was signed into law in 1964, and Presidential Decree 96 (PD 96) which was issued in 1973.
The law provides that “all authorized emergency vehicles, such as ambulance and police cars and fire wagons used for emergency calls shall be equipped with a bell, siren, or exhaust whistle.”
READ: LTO warns motorists on unauthorized ‘wang-wang’ use: Remove it or face penalty
It was clear that “no such device shall be installed or used in any other vehicle. But from July 1 to July 12 this year, 165 blinkers and 14 sirens had already been confiscated from private vehicles.
PD 96 declared as unlawful the use or attachment of sirens, bells and similar devices that emit exceptionally loud or startling sounds, even dome lights and flashing devices, and provided exceptions.
It stressed that it has been observed that the illegal use of sirens, bells and similar devices impede and confuse traffic and is inconsistent with sound traffic discipline and control on the highways.
PD 96 stated that the devices may be attached to and used only on vehicles designated for official use by the AFP, NBI, PNP, Land Transportation Commission (now Land Transportation Office), Bureau of Fire Protection and ambulances.
Romeo Vera Cruz, officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Land Transportation Office, said that based on its July 23, 1998 memorandum these government officials are allowed to use sirens, blinkers and similar devices:
- Vice President
- Senate President
- Speaker of the House of Representatives
- Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
The PNP explained that “for authorized use of wang-wang and blinkers, the vehicle must be a marked government property which is used only during official functions or performance of duties such as emergency response and law enforcement.”
Based on data from the PNP-HPG, 165 blinkers and 14 sirens had already been confiscated from July 1 to 12. Police earlier said that from July 1 to 8, 57 blinkers and nine sirens had been confiscated.
It said eight blinkers and seven sirens were confiscated by the police in Metro Manila. The PNP-HPG likewise confiscated 43 LED lamps, 113 modified mufflers, 53 unauthorized plates, 45 fog lights, 22 horns, and 14 strobe lights.
A 24 Oras report stated that on Thursday (July 14) alone, 60 motorists were apprehended, with the PNP-HPG saying that one introduced himself as a government employee while another said he was with the staff of a lawmaker.
It said that based on intelligence reports, “these unauthorized motorists who use blinkers and wang-wang are coming from executive subdivisions”.
This, as over 10 million ordinary Filipinos struggle with road mayhem and the shortage in supply of public transportation every day.
RELATED STORY: The ‘wang-wang’ divide
While Metro Manila’s traffic congestion level eased through the years, as revealed by TomTom International B.V.—71 percent in 2019, 53 percent in 2020, 43 percent in 2021—the transportation sector is now in a “deadly spiral”.
TomTom International B.V. explained that the congestion level is equivalent to how much extra time a travel will take compared to the average travel time when there is no congestion.
Last Wednesday (July 13), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said it will comply with the parameters set by the PNP-HPG on the use of sirens and blinkers.
Baltazar Melgar, OIC of the MMDA, said the office has issued a memorandum prohibiting all its officials and employees from using sirens and blinkers except in certain conditions.
“Sirens and blinkers should be attached to marked MMDA vehicles and used in the actual performance of the duties and functions of the agency. Violators among our ranks will face administrative charges,” Melgar said.
The MMDA also “pulled out” its motorcycle escorts detailed to some government officials as the government intensified its crackdown against the illegal use of motorcycle escorts.
Vera Cruz said that as stated in MMDA’s Joint Administrative Order No. 2014-01, the illegal use of sirens, blinkers and similar devices constitutes a violation and shall be penalized with a fine of P5,000.
A violation of PD 96 may likewise be penalized with cancellation or revocation of the certificate of registration of the vehicle involved.
The PNP-HPG told dzBB that it has recommended the regulation of the sale of emergency vehicle sirens and blinkers in a bid to prevent private individuals from abusing the use of the devices.
Then senator Panfilo Lacson said last year that other agencies, like the Department of Trade and Industry, should start a crackdown on car accessory shops that sell sirens as he also called on netizens to get involved by reporting unauthorized use of sirens when they hear or see them.
READ: Implementing ban on ‘wang-wang’ key to public trust, Lacson tells gov’t
He said that the collective effort of enforcers as well as the public against the unauthorized use of wang-wang and similar devices can be a “key to restoring trust” in government and among Filipinos.
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