THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) has suspended the implementation of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act following calls from Congress to review its implementing rules that banned even the hanging of rosaries under rear-view mirrors.
“To respond to the call of both Houses of Congress to defer the implementation of [the law], the Department of Transportation (DoTr), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the PNP Highway Patrol Group (HPG) take heed to the Congress, being the authors of the law, to defer the enforcement of Republic Act (RA) 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act,” the Transportation department said in a statement.
The DoTr said it would revive its technical working group to conduct a review of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) in coordination with stakeholders. An information and education campaign will be conducted as soon as the new IRR is crafted, the DoTr said.
“In the meantime, we invite the public to continue the constructive discussion on this new law so as to contribute on how we could all better promote road safety, discipline, and responsible driving,” the DoTr said. Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito has filed proposed Senate Resolution 386, which sought to temporarily suspend the enforcement of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act.
“There is an urgent need to suspend the law’s implementation in order to review and fine-tune the IRR of the law so that the true intent is carried out,” said Ejercito, the vice chairman of the Senate public services committee.
RA 10915 lapsed into law on July 2016 and its IRR was promulgated on April 4, 2017 by the DoTr. The law lists prohibited acts while driving a vehicle, including the use of mobile communication devices to make a call or write, send and read text messages.
It also prohibits the use of electronic entertainment or computing devices to play games, watch movies, surf the internet, compose messages, read e-books and other similar acts.
But transport officials also prohibited any item on vehicle dashboards and windshields, such as rosaries and air fresheners.
At the House of Representatives, lawmakers called for a massive information campaign before the law’s implementation.
“Yes, the law should be implemented. But considering the prevailing confusion due to lack of information campaign, it would be unfair to the public for the authorities to proceed given that the implementing agencies failed comply with the six-month long information campaign [required in the law],” Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of Catanduanes said.
“The LTFRB appears going overboard on its fresh drive against distracted driving in going after even harmless accessories like rosaries on rearview windows—something that infringes on religious freedom. Besides, many motorists today rely on navigational apps on smartphones to avoid congested roads. It would be unfair to unduly restrict the use of such apps and may even have unintended consequences,” said Camarines Sur Rep. Lray Villafuerte.
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal, in a statement, said the LTFRB has “no legal basis nor any authority in law to ban hanging rosaries and other religious images from car dashboards.”
“Rosaries and similar small religious items displayed on a car are not even mentioned or subject of Republic Act No. 10913, the Anti-Distracted Driving Act. The law is merely directed to ‘the inimical consequences of the unrestrained use of electronic mobile devices on road safety as to cause its regulation (as) the State recognizes the vital roles of information and communications technology in nation-building’ as stated in its Section 2, declaration of policy,” he said.