Today, we got this question from a reader (in italics):
Hi, Top Gear friends. Our driver was involved in a minor fender-bender last Saturday. He was following a jeep that suddenly stopped, so our driver decided to shift to the lane on his left. Unfortunately, a taxi that was approaching from behind in that lane hit our car as our driver changed lanes. The MMDA traffic officer gave him and the taxi driver a ticket with two violations listed:
* Involved in accident
* Reckless driving
Our driver and the taxi driver were also fined P4,000 each. I feel the MMDA officer was abusing his authority, and trying to bait the drivers into bribing him. My questions are:
1. Is being involved in an accident a traffic violation in itself?
2. What is the definition of reckless driving?
3. The P4,000 penalty was not written on the ticket. Is that really the penalty for reckless driving?
4. How do we contest the MMDA officer's assessment/judgment?
Please do not divulge my identity.
Let me try to answer your queries so that we can also provide guidance for everyone. Our reference document here would be MMDA’s Traffic Fines and Penalties FAQ as posted on its website.
1. The short and simple answer to your question is NO. However, the fact that you are involved in an accident will be noted down on the ticket issued to you (if one is issued for a different violation, like reckless driving), merely as a statement of fact and not as a violation in itself. If you check the MMDA website (see above link), you will see that "Involved in Accident" (Code 000) has a penalty of zero pesos. Hence, its notation on a ticket issued to you is not to provide a penalty but rather to provide an evidentiary fact that may be relevant later on--for example, in claiming insurance, when the accident is contested before the courts, or if LTO is reviewing your driving history in a proceeding for the suspension or revocation of your license.
2. Republic Act No. 4136 defines what reckless driving is in the Philippines. The Department of Justice, in an advisory opinion issued on May 2011, clarified further what reckless driving is under R.A. 4136 by stating that it is “the act of operating a motor vehicle without reasonable caution considering the width, traffic, grades, crossing, curvatures, visibility and other conditions of the highway and the conditions of the atmosphere and weather, or so as to endanger the property or the safety or rights of any person, or so as to cause excessive or unreasonable damage to the highway."
"In a nutshell, every time a person operates a motor vehicle in violation of traffic rules, at the risk of harming others and with less than the full attention, focus and skill required of every driver, he is driving recklessly," added the DOJ.
I can tell you that MMDA’s definition when they train their traffic enforcers is aligned with this definition.
3. As provided in the MMDA Traffic Fines and Penalties FAQ referred to earlier, Reckless Driving (Code 004) carries a penalty of P500 on the first offense, P750 plus suspension of driver’s license on the second offense, and P1,000 plus revocation of driver’s license on the third offense.
It should be noted that MMDA will issue a recommendation regarding the suspension and the revocation to LTO, and the latter will be the one to impose these accessory penalties if proper.
4. You may contest the MMDA officer’s assessment/judgment by filing a protest at the MMDA’s Traffic Adjudication Division. This is located on the 7th Floor, MMDA Office at EDSA corner Orense in Guadalupe, Makati City. There is a full team whose role in the MMDA is to process protests like this. You should file your protest within seven days from the incident.
If you need CCTV footage from MMDA to support your protest, it would be best to call MMDA hotline 136 in advance and ask them to save the footage from a specific camera for a set date and time.
Separate but connected to your traffic protest, you may also file an administrative complaint against the traffic officer if you feel that he/she exceeded his/her authority or acted arbitrarily. You may do this at the Traffic Discipline Office (Complaints Division) at the 3rd Floor of the same building.
I hope the above helps clarify this matter. If based only on your narration of events, your driver should not have been issued a ticket for reckless driving, and you may also file a complaint against the officer for making it appear that the penalty was P4,000. Of course, the other parties should also be heard so that all the facts are put on the table, and the proper due-process proceedings are observed.
UPDATE: Based on the city name at the top of your ticket, the enforcer that apprehended you is a San Juan City deputized officer. Hence, the applicable regulations here would be the Traffic Code of San Juan, and any complaint you might want to file should be with the San Juan Traffic Bureau as this falls within its jurisdiction.