Riding in tandem crime refers to the crime involving snatch thievery and other crimes while one drives a motorcycle and his partner rides pillion. The act of two people riding a single motorcycle together is not the crime, but the commission of crimes involving two perpetrators riding together on a single motorcycle is what is colloquially known as “riding in tandem” in the Philippines. At least, that’s how it was before some cities penalized most motorcycles with male back riders in what is known in Mandaluyong as the Ordinance Regulating Motorcycle Riding-in-Tandem in Mandaluyong City or the Motorcycle Riding-in-Tandem Ordinance.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported over 3000 incidents of violence and criminality committed by motorcycle-riding criminals, commonly referred to as the “riding in tandem” criminals, in the Philippines every day. These motorcycle-related crimes are not only limited to robberies, mugging, or shootings, but there are also cases of motorcycle-assisted abductions and sexual assaults. However, this phenomenon of motorcycle-riding related crimes is not exclusive to the Philippines. In fact, other countries such as Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, and Venezuela, for instance, have tried to curb motorcycle-assisted robberies, assaults, and shootings by forbidding riding pillions and compelling motorcycle drivers to wear vests and helmets printed with their license numbers. Some countries like China and Myanmar, on the other hand, solved the problem with a total ban on motorcycles in the streets of some major cities. Unfortunately, as motorcycles gain popularity in the Philippines, so do the motorcycle-related crimes otherwise known as “riding in tandem.”
What is Riding in Tandem
The phrasal term “riding in tandem” was one of those nominated for the 2014 “Salita ng Taon” or Filipino Word of the Year. “Riding in tandem” lost to “selfie” that year, but it has certainly entered the consciousness of the Filipino public, as well as those in position to implement the law.
The textbook definition of the word “tandem” says that it refers to having two things arranged one in front of the other or having two pieces of equipment, people, etc. that are working together especially well or closely. In the Philippines, tandem is usually used as a Filipino-English term “riding in tandem” which has since taken its own meaning. In the Philippine context, “riding in tandem” is being used as a noun to refer to a range of crimes—from snatching to murders motivated by anything from extramarital affairs to political rubouts—perpetrated by more than one person, usually two men, on a motorcycle.
Is Riding in Tandem a Crime
In a perfect world, riding in tandem is a normal occurrence and not a crime. It simply refers to two people on a motorcycle, one driver and one riding pillion, which is perfectly fine. Nowadays, however, there is an emerging “new use” of the versatility of motorcycles. Lawless elements such as criminal syndicates and guns for hire are now utilizing motorcycles as instruments or modus operandi for their criminal acts, ranging from robberies, murders, to kidnappings, terrorism and extreme violence. After all, motorcycles offer great mobility, allowing criminals to get close to their targets and offering an expeditious escape from the crime scene without any apprehensions or predicaments.
Because of the increasing incidence of motorcycle-related crimes in the Philippines and in other countries, riding in tandem has gained negative connotation, associated with criminal acts. Because of this, riding in tandem has become a term relegated to motorcycle-riding criminals and their illegal acts ranging from robberies to mugging, shootings, abductions, and sexual assaults. Laws and ordinances enacted in the Philippines, riding in tandem has become a traffic violation. Depending on where you are, you may face fines and penalties, ranging from ₱500.00 to ₱5,000.00 and even jail time, ranging from ten (10) days to up to six (6) months of imprisonment.
Laws Against Riding in Tandem Crimes
Riding in tandem has long become associated with criminal acts, hence the Philippine government finds it necessary to enact ordinances and laws to combat the increasing incidence of motorcycle-related and assisted crimes.
Some ordinances and laws filed and enacted to stop such crimes include:
Mandaluyong City Ordinance Nos. 550 S-2014, 595 S-2015, and 694 S-2018
Mandaluyong City Ordinance No. 550 S-2014, as well as the subsequent amendments in Ordinance Nos. 595 S-2015 and 694 S-2018, are all known as Ordinance Regulating Motorcycle Riding-in-Tandem in Mandaluyong City or Mandaluyong Riding in Tandem Ordinance, all prohibit males from pillion riding or back-riding on a motorcycle, except if the driver is their first-degree family member or the back-rider is seven to 10 years old. The ordinance also imposed fines ranging from ₱1,000.00 for the initial offense to ₱3,000.00, along with a maximum imprisonment of three (3) months for the third offense or violation of the city ordinance. It was later galted and declared unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals (CA).
Bangued Ordinance No. 48 S-2015
The ordinance No. 48 series of 2015 Regulating Motorcycle Riding in Tandem in the Municipality of Bangued is an ordinance authored by Councilor Joel Bolante and co-authored by all members of the Sangguniang Bayan. It prohibits male back riders or passengers who are not within the first degree of consanguinity of the driver of a motorcycle.
Bacoor City Ordinance No. CO 57A-2015 S-2015
In 2015, the City of Bacoor in Cavite also introduced their own “Anti Riding-in-Tandem Ordinance,” the Bacoor City Ordinance No. CO 57A-2015 S-2015. The ordinance prohibits two or more male passengers riding in tandem between 7:00am up until 10:00pm within the city premises. The ordinance also imposed fines ranging from ₱3,000.00 for the initial offense to ₱5,000.00, along with a maximum imprisonment of six (6) months for the third offense or violation of the city ordinance.
Caloocan City Draft Bill
In 2018, a draft bill on riding in tandem was filed in the city council of Caloocan. Just like the Mandaluyong ordinance, the draft bill in Caloocan restricts who can ride pillion in motorcycles. There are exemptions too, as females and first-degree relatives are not restricted. Also exempted from the ban are military and police personnel wearing their official uniform. Students and officemates who wish to ride together on a motorcycle must have proper IDs—school IDs or immediate certification from the boss to spare themselves from apprehension. Both the rider and passenger will be required to show proof of residency and their relationship with each other, too, when flagged down by local authorities. Violations of the proposed bill may entail fines ranging from ₱500.00 to ₱5,000.00 along with 10 to 60 days of imprisonment.
Republic Act No. 11235
In an effort to curb the spate of motorcycle-related and assisted crimes involving motorcycle-bound perpetrators, known as the “riding in tandem,” former Senator Richard Gordon, authored the Republic Act (RA) 11235, also known as the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act or Doble Plaka Law. As the head of the then Senate Justice and Human Rights committee, Gordon had said that RA 11235 was a means to protect the innocent public from criminals using motorcycles. It will allow easier identification of specific vehicles used in many crimes, through the requirement of larger, more legible, more identifiable motorcycle license plates and sticker/decal plates put in the front so that it might be readable 15 meters away. The effort was halted, of course, following nationwide protests.
Some local government units also considered options to curb the problem by exploring the possibility of banning motorcycle ride sharing on the streets of Manila” or launching campaigns intended to increase the awareness among the public.
Other pending laws regarding motorcycle-related crimes include:
Quezon City Anti Motorcycle Riding Criminals (Anti-MRC)
The Quezon City government, for instance, is planning to unveil its own campaign to curb criminality in their area known as the “Anti Motorcycle Riding Criminals” or ANTI-MRC. In the said campaign, a 30-kph speed limit among motorcycles will be imposed and riders are exhorted to wear vests with their license number indicated on the back.
House Bill 5720 (Riding-in-tandem Interdiction Act of 2012)
House Bill 5720, also known as the “Riding-in-tandem Interdiction Act of 2012, is a bill filed by Rep. Winston Castelo of Quezon City in response to the different viewpoints related to motorcycle riding crimes. The bill authorizes law-enforcement agencies, including the Philippine National Police (PNP), to adopt a strategic policy against criminals riding-in-tandem on motorcycles through more aggressive interdiction operations in the name of promoting public security and welfare.
House Resolution 2189
Las Piñas City Rep. Mark Villar filed House Resolution 2189 for the same purpose: to curb motorcycle riding in tandem crimes. The HB suggess imposing heavier penalties against motorcycle riding-in-tandem criminals and amending the Revised Penal Code.
PNP Police Integrated Patrol System (PIPS) and Motorized Anti-Street Crime Operatives (MASCO)
While these bills await approval to be passed into laws, the PNP had established its own formal crime prevention program called the Police Integrated Patrol System (PIPS). PIPS was designed to be the anti-criminality and police security operations involving higher police visibility measures, intensified foot and mobile patrols together with force multipliers, checkpoint/chokepoints operations, saturations drives, and police interventions against motorcycle riding criminals. The PNP PIPS also have the Motorized Anti-Street Crime Operatives or MASCO which deploys motorcycle riding-in-tandem policemen armed with high-powered firearms to counteract motorcycle mounted criminals in Metro Manila and other urban areas including Bacolod City and San Fernando City.
Riding in tandem crime may not seem as scary as other types if you haven’t been on the receiving end, but in reality, it’s more than simple snatch thievery and mugging. Other crimes involving motorcycle riders and their back-riding partner include abduction and in worse cases, murder. Unfortunately, riding in tandem crime remains a tough nut to crack not only because there are no specific laws against it, but also because each law must bear a certain balance between crime prevention and human rights violations.