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CA: City ban on male bike passengers ‘oppressive’

CA: City ban on male bike passengers ‘oppressive’

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By Dona Z. Pazzibugan

The Court of Appeals (CA) has struck down for being “oppressive” three Mandaluyong City ordinances that prohibit men from riding motorcycles as passengers, measures supposedly intended to stem the spate of killings carried out by bike-riding gunmen.

The appellate court’s Fifth Division declared Ordinance No. 550 series of 2014, No. 595 series of 2015 and No. 694 series of 2018 as unconstitutional and prohibited the city government from enforcing and implementing them.

They were passed and enacted under then Mayor Benhur Abalos, who now chairs the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

The three member justices of the division said the local statutes unfairly discriminated against male “back riders” to curtail crimes committed by socalled “riding in tandems,” the police lingo for gunmen working in pairs and tailing their target on a motorbike.

“The prohibition is oppressive because it arbitrarily limits the movement and mode of transportation of male back riders even though there is no direct link or available statistical data presented before the trial court to show that motorcycle riding criminals are males,”

Court of Appeals

Associate Justice Raymond Lauigan penned the decision, while Associate Justices Ramon Bato and Pablito Perez concurred.

RTC decision reversed

With the ruling, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision of the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC) last year that dismissed the complaint lodged by lawyer Dino de Leon against the ordinances.

De Leon was apprehended by authorities in Mandaluyong on March 7, 2019, for being a passenger of the motorcycle taxi he booked through the ride-sharing app, Angkas.

After being fined and charged before Mandaluyong RTC Branch 59 for violating the ordinances, he countersued the city government in July that year.

In July 2020, the Mandaluyong court dismissed De Leon’s petition to declare the ordinances unconstitutional.

The CA said the city government of Mandaluyong did not establish that there were no other “less restrictive” measures against the killings other than prohibiting men from riding motorcycles as passengers.

“The solution is not limited to restrictive measures carried out by the implementation of the ordinances,” the appeals court said, adding:

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“Less restrictive methods, which would ensure that motorcycle users, their riders of whatever gender they may be, as well as the motorcycle itself are easily identifiable and visibly seen and monitored by the police authorities, were not shown to have been resorted to (by the city government).”

‘Return the fines’

In a Facebook post, De Leon said the decision showed the need for the public to fight for their rights, especially when confronted with similar “oppressive measures.”

“It was a long arduous task of writing pleadings and attending hearings, especially since I was up against the city’s entire legal department. Nevertheless, this shows that ordinary citizens can push back against injustices and oppressive measures,” he said.

De Leon also called on the Mandaluyong City government to return the millions of pesos they have collected as penalties for those who violated the ordinance.

“Last time I checked, the City of Mandaluyong has illegally collected around 200 million pesos from their apprehensions, and most of these exactions are from the poor who cannot afford other posh means of transportation. Time for them to give the people’s money back,” he added.