Motorcycles have long become a popular mode of transportation for Filipinos, thanks to its inexpensive price compared to other private vehicles. The price of a motorcycle even goes lower, in cases of the so-called “open Deed of Sale” basis, where registration is not officially transferred. Having said that, the Philippines has had many cases when motorcycles are bought and sold this way.
Unfortunately, this is no longer acceptable since the Republic Act (RA) No. 11235, also known as the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, commonly known as the “Doble Plaka” act was signed into a law in March 2019. Luckily, the law was temporarily suspended in April 2019, following the controversies and nationwide protests against it. According to some, this Doble Plaka law is discriminatory and way too costly to motorcycle riders. Some provisions may also take hundreds, if not thousands, of motorcycle riders off the roads in the name of maintaining peace and order, protecting life, liberty, and properties, and curbing criminal activities by motorcycle riding-in-tandem.
What exactly is RA 11235?
Republic Act (RA) No. 11235 is also known as the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act or the “Doble Plaka” Law. It is an act enacted in an effort to prevent and penalize the use of motorcycle in the commission of crimes by requiring bigger, more readable, and color-coded number plates and identification marks, among others, following the provisions of Article II, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution which says that it is the state’s duty to secure and safeguard its citizenry from crimes.
Though the law was enacted with good intentions, that is, to protect the citizens through the prevention of the commission of a crime or offense, the law itself came across as discriminatory and restrictive, not to mention dangerous to the motorcycle riders. It is also apparently difficult to comply with, given the slow and tedious procedures as well as the barriers and apparent delays in the Land Transportation Office (LTO) processes related to some of the provisions of RA 11235.
Scope of Provisions and Associated Penalties in RA 11235
To better understand the law and the riders complaints against it, we listed some of the most notable provisions of RA 11235 or the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act or the “Doble Plaka” Law.
Registration by the Owner
According to this law, the motorcycle owner must get the initial registration of their motorcycle done with the LTO either by themselves or by the dealer within five days from the date of the sales invoice or from the Certificate of Stock Reported report date.
In cases when the owner fails to register within five days from acquisition of ownership, or to immediately report its sale or disposition in accordance with the period provided, then they will be subjected to either of the following penalties:
- imprisonment of arrest mayor to prision correccional,
- a fine of not less than twenty thousand pesos (PHP 20,000) but not more than fifty thousand pesos (PHP 50,000), or both.
Bigger, Readable and Color-Coded Number Plates
Upon registration, the LTO will issue a set of bigger, more readable, and color-coded number plates for every motorcycle.
The set is consists of the following:
- Metal number place to be installed at the rear of the motorcycle
- A decal number plate to be displayed in its front
Features of the new plates as mandated by RA 11235
The new plates will bear the following features:
- A unique combination of alphanumeric characters.
- The metal plate will measure 235mm in width, and 135mm in height
- A metal plate is made of suitable and durable aluminum substrate material with reflectorized background and security features.
- The font size for all alphanumeric characters is 60mm tall.
- The decal plate will measure 135mm in width and 85mm in height
- The decal plate is made of suitable and durable sticker material with reflectorized alphanumeric characters and security features.
- The font of the alphanumeric characters is 40mm tall. (May be subject to change)
- The contents of the number plates must be readable from both the front and back from a distance of at least fifteen meters.
- All motorcycles shall have a rear plate light.
Color Scheme for Motorcycle Plates
The color scheme will be as follows:
- Private Motorcycle – white background with color stripe (dependent on the region) and black alphanumeric characters
- Public Utility Motorcycle – yellow background and black alphanumeric characters
- Government Motorcycle – white background and red alphanumeric characters
- Diplomatic Motorcycle – white background and blue alphanumeric characters
Driving without a number plate or a readable number plate as described above is prohibited and will be sanctioned by the Control Center.
Driving Without a Number Plate or Readable Number Plate
According to the Doble Plaka Law, driving without a number plate or readable number plate, within fifteen (15) meters will be subject to the following penalties:
- The driver of a motorcycle without a number plate or readable number place shall be punished as follows:
- prision correccional
- A fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) but not more than One hundred thousand (P100,000.00) or
- A motorcycle driven without a number plate or a readable number plate shall be stopped and seized by law enforcers to be immediately surrendered to the Philippine National Police (PNP) within twenty-four (24) hours.
- Any apprehension will be reported immediately to the LTO, PNP, and the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) through the Joint LTO and PNP Operations and Control Center.
- The owner of such a motorcycle may redeem his or her ownership, payment of the costs of seizure, and compliance with a number plate or readable number plate.
Registry of Motorcycles
The law also has provisions requiring the LTO to maintain a Data Privacy Act compliant registry of motorcycles in a database to facilitate information retrieval for official investigation and law enforcement purposes.
The said registry of motorcycles will include the following information:
- name of motorcycle owner
- motorcycle owners license number
- motorcycle owners address and contact details
- motorcycle identification number
- motorcycle plate number
- motorcycle body color
- motorcycle brand/make
Use of a Motorcycle in the Commission of Crime
If a motorcycle is used in the commission of a crime, or in the escape from the scene of such crime, regardless of the stage of commission, whether attempted, frustrated, or consummated, then the following penalties will be observed:
- If the crime constitutes a grave felony under the Revised Penal Code, the owner, driver, backrider or passenger who participated in the same shall be punished by reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua.
- If the crime constitutes a less grave felony or light felony under Revised Penal Code or any other crime, the owner, driver, backrider or passenger who participated in the same shall be punished by prision correccional to prision mayor.
- If a seized motorcycle is used in the commission of a crime, the maximum penalty of the relevant crime or offense shall be imposed.
- If the crime constitutes death or serious physical injuries, resulting from the unlawful use of a motorcycle, the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
Loss Number Plate or Readable Number Plate
If the number plate or readable number plate of a motorcycle is lost, damaged, or stolen, the law says that the following procedures should be observed:
- The owner of such a motorcycle shall immediately report the same to the LTO and PNP through the Joint PNP and LTO Operations and Control Center, to request a replacement number plate. Failure to do so will entail a fine of not less than Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) but not more than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00).
- If the lost, damaged or stolen number plate or readable number plate is used in connection with an offense penalized under the Revised Penal Code or special penal laws, the failure of the owner to report within three (3) days that the motorcycle is lost, damaged, or stolen, shall entail a penalty of imprisonment of arresto mayor to prision correccional.
Erasing, Tampering, Forging, Imitating, Covering or Concealing a Number Plate or Readable Number Plate and Intentional Use of Such
Erasing, tampering, altering, forging, imitating, covering, concealing a number plate or readable number plate, or the intentional use of such erased, tampered, altered, forged, imitated, covered or concealed number plate or readable number plate, is illegal and punishable as follows:
- The owner seller is subject to the following punishment:
- prision mayor
- a fine of not less that Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) but not more than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00), or
- If a person knowingly sells or buys an erased, tampered, altered, forged or imitated number plate or readable number plate, both such buyer and seller shall be punished as follows:
- by prision mayor
- If a person who sells or buys the number plate proves that he or she has no knowledge that it was erased, tampered, altered, forged or imitated, he or she shall be punished as follows:
- by arresto mayor
Use of a Stolen Number Plate or Readable Number Plate
The use of a stolen number plate or readable number plate in a motorcycle is also prohibited and shall be punished as follows:
- by prision mayor as provided under the Revised Penal Code,
- A fine of not less than Fifty Thousand pesos (P50,000.00) but not more than One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00), or
- both as decided by the court.
Failure to Surrender Seized Motorcycle
As mentioned earlier in the article, some violations of this provision may result in the seizing of the motorcycle. According to the law, a seized motorcycle must be reported by the apprehending officer to the LTO and PNP through the Joint LTO and PNP Operations and Control Center immediately. It must be surrendered within twenty-four (24) hours, too, to the local impounding center provided by the local government unit (LGU).
In case the apprehending officer fails to surrender the motorcycle, then the following penalties will apply:
- Failure to surrender motorcycle within twenty-four (24) hours from seizure, then the LTO officer, PNP officer or deputized law enforcement personnel willl be punished by prision correccional without prejudice to the filing of proper administrative charges against said officer.
- In case of loss of, or damage to, the motorcycle in the custody of the said officer, the law enforcement officer shall also be held monetarily liable for the full worth of the motorcycle lost or the cost of repairs for the damage to the motorcycle.
- For any damage on an impounded motorcycle, the LTO officer, PNP officer or deputized law enforcement personnel shall be held criminally, administratively, and monetarily liable.
Joint LTO and PNP Operations and Control Center
The law also has provisions for the establishment of a Joint LTO and PNP Operations and Control Center according to the following guidelines:
- The Operation and Control Center will be operational and accessible real-time, twenty four (24) hours a day and seven (7) days a week,
- It will be equipped with the latest available technology and adequate computers and software sufficient to immediately address any emergency or inquiry.
- There is an LTO and the PNP-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) hotline to specifically address concerns related to crimes or offenses committed with the use of motorcycles.
- It will be under the supervision of the DICT.
Prohibition on Sale and Importation of Non-Compliant Motorcycles
According to RA 11235, the following guidelines should be observed regarding sales and importation of non-compliant motorcycles:
- No person, whether natural or juridical, shall be allowed to sell motorcycles unless such motorcycle has the capability to bear and showcase the required readable number plate.
- The Bureau of Customs (BOC) shall not allow the importation into the country of motorcycles whose design will impede the placement of the required number plate on the front and back sides of the motorcycles firmly and securely.
- Any motorcycle which does not have any capability to bear and showcase the required readable number plate shall not be allowed to register with the LTO.
Controversies and Notable Complaints About RA 11235
While the law was created with good intentions, the signing of the law was met with controversies and nationwide protests initiated by riders and rider groups in the country due to the following complaints:
- Transferring ownership within five days from the reported sale is impossible due to the barriers and slow process at the LTO.
- The law is discriminatory because it assumes motorcyclists are criminals.
- The front plates may pose dangers to riders.
- The fines and penalties are too excessive to the point of being discriminatory to motorcycle riders as they are about 10 times higher compared to those charged against violations committed by drivers of four-wheeled vehicles.
- Some unscrupulous law enforcers have more opportunities to extort money from motorcycle riders.
The Doble Plaka Law is,perhaps, one of the most unpopular laws ever enacted in the Philippines. Though it was created with good intentions, the fact that it was met with controversies and nationwide protests say more than it being just a new law. Thankfully, the implementation of the said law is temporarily suspended, rendering it null and void for the time being.