We’ve been here a number of times already. A government official saying something casually, receives backlash for it, and backtracks on the statement saying it was said ‘in jest’ or as a joke.
The latest in this trend is LTO-NCR Director Clarence Guinto. Amy Perez, in her show on DZMM Teleradyo, asked him about the danger of putting taller kids under 12 in booster seats since their heads would touch the car’s ceiling. Guinto, without even pausing to think, said she should just get a bigger car. Perez clarified that the question wasn’t for her but for the public who might encounter the issue, to which Guinto said he will take note of it. Naturally, citizens were enraged and posted on social media.
An hour or so later, the Director made a statement via LTO’s official Facebook page stating that he made the statement “in jest” and “clarified” that children above 4’11 (150cm or 59-inches) are not required to be in a Child Restraint System (CRS) even if they are under the age of 12. It came already too late though, memes were already born and the director was condemned for such a tasteless remark.
Republic Act 11229 or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act, otherwise known as the Child Car Seat Law, was signed by the President in February 2019. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) was released by the DOTr in February 2020 and even back then, they said it would be implemented the same month this year. In that amount of time, our very casual director never bothered to review the details of the law before it was set to be enforced.
What’s worrying is the statement came from someone in the agency tasked to educate those who will be on the ground to enforce the law. The DOTr’s IRR states that the LTO is the one to deputize officers of the PNP and MMDA, among others, and that they’ll be the one to train them regarding the implementation. It must also be noted that despite the gap from the IRR and implementation, the LTO also haven’t done their part regarding the establishment and accreditation of fitting stations for these CRS’s.
But the bigger problem here goes beyond Guinto’s statement. After news of the Philippine economy shrinking by 9.5% in 2020 due to the pandemic, everyone was blindsided when the public was reminded of the Child Car Seat Law, one day before the official implementation. As expected, the public was angry and panic buying ensued.
In a statement on their Facebook page, the DOTr washed their hands clean from the resulting backlash and stated what I said earlier. The law was signed in 2019, and the IRR was approved in 2020. They also said that because it’s a new measure, “a transitory period of one year was provided before the mandatory compliance as stated in the IRR. Hence, its effectivity today is BY OPERATION OF LAW.”
Ask yourself then, during this one-year transition period from February 2020 to February 2021, have you heard of this law again? Lots of things happened during this pandemic, not to mention the other issues we have in the transportation sector; yet I can’t remember a single time that they reminded the public about pushing through with this law. It speaks volumes about their insensitivity to the public, in the guise of safety for the children.
There’s no question about the country needing this law. It’s necessary in order to make the kids safer during their trips, especially if you see the reports about the fatality rate of children in accidents on the road. The problem lies in the implementation at such a trying time for the parents who will shoulder the thousand-peso prices of these child car seats. People lost their jobs, struggling to do online work or online business to get by, and you will just say it was already signed or just get a bigger car? Very tasteless.
The Senate acknowledges the economic challenges of the public and have filed Resolution No. 633 that urges the DOTr and LTO to defer the implementation of RA 11229. Apart from the abovementioned reasons, they added that the LTO was not able to do its part according to Section 16 of the IRR of the law, the Bureau of Philippine Standards have yet to release a list of approved brands and models that meet the technical requirements of the CRS, and the cost of child car seats that go from P3,000 to P60,000 will undoubtedly add to the burden of families. It was signed by Senators Angara, Zubiri, Villanueva, Gatchalian, Binay, and Poe.
After their stern ‘clarifications’ in their Facebook post, the DOTr has also recently taken a more relaxed stance on the issue. Asec Libiran said it would take at least six months to conduct an information campaign, citing that Secretary Tugade said the current situation of the country must be considered, too.
Must we commend them for realizing things late again?