EDITORIAL: Performing Puppet Role



The local officials of Naga City headed by Mayor Nelson Legacion are drawing flak from critics in connection with the prohibition being enforced against motorcycle back riding. In fairness, such prohibition is not an original idea of LGU Naga.

Efforts have been exerted by LGU Naga. In fact, a formal request has been submitted to the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) in order that back riding on privately owned motorcycles with certain limitations and protocols may be allowed. To date, IATF’s response appears to be in the negative.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año even personally appeared on television just to explain why motorcycle back riders are not allowed in absolute terms because of the risk involved, health-wise, in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in reference to social or physical distancing.

For purposes of a clearer discussion, there should first be definition of terms.

Back rider is the generic term used to identify one who rides at the back of the motorcycle driver. Angkas refers to franchise holders authorized to transport passengers for a fee, with the use of single motorcycles. Ka angkas is the Tagalog term for back rider. In Bikol, the term is kasuno.

For a considerable period of time “riding in tandem” has been adopted to describe two criminals riding together while perpetrating a crime. What used to be of no criminal implication has been availed of, apparently for want of an appropriate term, as if it is already an element of a crime. Sadly, some law enforcers, with the cooperation of media practitioners, have yielded to a lazy man’s practice and want of initiative.

Just what is really then involved in this no back rider ban? The nearest explanation is the social /physical distancing protocol.

Insofar as back riders being transported by motorcycles are concerned, the prohibition is justified, given the danger of transmission of the Covid-19 infection. But banning back riding among close family members is unreasonable or outright callous if not unrealistic. Members of the family live and in some instances, sleep together at home. Why require them to observe the distancing protocol when outside?

It is advanced that those tasked with law enforcement prefer it the easy way. They are spared of the complications involved in verifying certain documents supportive of the motorcycle riders’ claim of relationship.

In fairness, the law enforcers’ fear is not without basis. It will indeed entail so much time and effort to religiously implement the basic health protection protocols once modification is introduced in order to allow back riding among close family members.

It should not be overlooked though that while health is of primary consideration, economic survival is equally primordial. This is particularly highlighted by the fact that the public transport system, while theoretically already operationalized, is virtually at a standstill. Majority of the riding public are deprived of mobility in order to earn a living.

A more humane approach is a must and it is the government’s duty to apply innovations for the sake of the greater majority.

Meantime, let us face it. Most of the LGUs are now left no other role but that of a puppet. Sadly, some of them tend to overdo it by also adopting strategies of highhandedness just to please the powers-that-be.