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Top Gear Philippines

Philippine protocol license plate

As you know, another privileged child of a powerful individual has gained instant notoriety on social media by posting on his Instagram account a photo that shows his penchant for improperly using his father's protocol license plates. A protocol license plate is one specifically assigned to someone holding a high position in public office--the most popular of which (in the Philippines, that is) is the number 8, which is assigned to members of the House of Representatives.

But because this country is inhabited by corrupt people who will seize every opportunity to gain an unfair advantage over others, these protocol plates get abused like they're cheap candies sold at sari-sari stores. The common practice is splitting a pair of protocol plates so that another family member--a child, a sibling, even a friend--may use one. So instead of the public official attaching both protocol plates to the front and the back of his/her vehicle, he/she only uses one in front and gives away the other one intended for the back of his/her vehicle.

This is wrong. This is an improper use of protocol plates. By decree of the Office of the President, the use of protocol plates is regulated by the following guideline:

These low-numbered/protocol plates shall be issued in pairs for motor vehicles duly registered in the name of the above listed officials or to their respective spouses. However, not more than two pairs of the said license plates for issuance to two motor vehicles shall be assigned to any of the said officials with the exception of the President of the Philippines, the Vice President of the Philippines, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Senators and Congressmen of the Philippines may be assigned not more than four pairs of low-numbered/protocol plates.

The key word there is "pair," which means these special plates must be used in pairs.

Now, what does the law say about the improper use of protocol plates (assuming, of course, that Philippine justice has the moral will to implement it)?

Our legal columnist, lawyer Robby Consunji, who writes the monthly column "Wheels Of Justice" for our magazine, explains the law that should apply to the improper use of protocol plates: "A protocol license plate is an insignia pertaining to a government office. The protocol license plate announces the presence of a high-ranking government official, making his identity transparent to the public and at the same time risking his security. For his spouse, family and driver who publicly and improperly make use of the protocol license plate, they may be prosecuted for the crime of 'illegal use of insignia' under the Revised Penal Code. For the officers of the law who shall refrain from instituting prosecution for the punishment of violators of the law or shall tolerate the commission of offenses, they may be prosecuted for the crime of 'dereliction of duty' to prosecute under the RPC."

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Wow. So not only are those abusive folks who misuse protocol plates committing a criminal offense, they are also, in fact, causing law enforcers to commit the same by turning a blind eye to this shameless practice.

Now we know.

Vernon B. Sarne
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