MANILA, Philippines — Over 7,000 motorcycle riders have been apprehended accosted across the country since July 10 for violating the rules on pillion riding—which the government's coronavirus task force rules say is exclusive to married and live-in couples only—the quarantine enforcement task force disclosed Sunday.
In a statement, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield disclosed that said a total of 7,091 violators recorded during the nine-day period when pillion riding was allowed from July 10 to July 18, of which, a total of 6,476 were not only unauthorized couples but did not have motorcycle barriers installed.
The remaining 615 violators had installed barriers, but were caught back-riding with relatives, friends, neighbors and were not couples. Cops also accosted a total of 7,680 motorcycle riders who were couples but did not have the prescribed barriers installed on their motorcycles.
The task force disclosed that Police Regional Office 7 in Cebu City, which has since been relaxed to modified enhanced community quarantine and where over 200 cops and special commandos were deployed to enforce the ECQ, had the most number of accosted violators for that period with 1,755 unauthorized couples.
The national government earlier banned the practice in all areas under community quarantine because it does not observe social distancing. The deadline for motorcycle riders to comply with the required barrier for pillion riding has since been moved from July 19 to July 26.
Only two proposed barriers—one prototype by Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap and another one designed by Angkas—conform to the standards set by the NTF Against COVID-19 and have been approved for usage.
Users on online motorcycle forums have raised concerns on the safety of the barriers, which affect the aerodynamics of the motorcycle.
'Brazen disregard of rules'
Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, JTF COVID Shield commander, reminded the public in his statement that installed barriers, which include dividers and even handles wedged between riders and passengers, that conform to the quality safety standard of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 are required and that riders must be married or living-in couples.
“For a long time, motorcycle riders had repeatedly requested the government to allow at least their partners to back-ride with them due to limited public transportation. And now that the government finally granted their request, they openly and brazenly disregarded the rules that the government was asking from them in return to ensure their safety from the coronavirus infection,” said Eleazar.
“Those who were accosted were either warned or cited for a violation. Our personnel on the ground were instructed to make sure that those accosted would comply with the rules set by the NTF Against COVID-19,” he added.
The JTF-CV Shield commander is one among many public officials who pin the blame in the spread of the virus on the "discipline" and "failures" of the public despite data showing otherwise.
At an earlier press briefing, the Palace said that authorities would ask couples to show proof of marriage, such as a photocopy of their marriage contract, as the relaxing of rules applied only to married couples living together. Siblings and relatives also living together are still prohibited from back riding even if they conform to the NTF standards.
Eleazar also appealed for patience, saying that the limitation of pillion riding to married and live-in couples could be expanded to eventually include non-couples "when the community quarantine is lifted."
“Let us allow the government to slowly implement these rules in order to ensure that everybody would comply and at the same time, for our law enforcers on the ground not to be overwhelmed by the large number of violators which was actually recorded in just a few days after pillion riding was allowed," he said.
"The success in the compliance of the rules on pillion riding could serve as the basis for our policymakers to expand and allow more people for back-riding,” he added.
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