Swift action vs drunk driving
Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today asked the Senate leadership to act with dispatch on a measure increasing fines and penalties against the act of driving under the influence of liquor and/or prohibited drugs.
Gordon made the call as he expressed serious concern over an increasing incidence of vehicular accidents in the country that either maimed or killed not only drivers but also passengers and pedestrians alike.
"Drunk driving - or driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs - remains a big problem in our country that has not been properly addressed," he said.
Government statistics shows that road accidents in Metro Manila involving fatal and non-fatal incidents have increased, from 5,584 incidents in January to June 2007 to 5,702 incidents in 2008 for the same period.
Gordon said a significant increase in the number of road accidents is much possible for the second half of the year considering that such incidents had already risen in the first half of 2008.
He explained that the country badly needs to amend the 1964 Land Transportation and Traffic Code, which is already antiquated and thus, should be overhauled to address the gravity of the drunk driving problem, among others.
"Liquor is the most abused substance in the country and in the whole world today. Therefore, there must be full personal and social responsibility for the incidence of drunk driving in our country," he said.
Gordon has filed Senate Bill (SB) 141 which seeks to penalize drunk driving, such that a person found driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs shall be punished with the penalty of prision correccional under the Revised Penal Code (RPC), or a fine of P20,000 to P80,000, or both.
Meanwhile, a person driving under the influence resulting to: (a) physical injury will be punished with penalties as provided in Art. 263 of the RPC; and, (b) homicide shall be punished with the same penalty as provided for murder in Art. 249 of the RPC.
The Gordon bill and four other similar measures - SB 83, 760, 770, and 1527 filed by Senate President Manuel Villar, Antonio Trillanes IV, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor Santiago, respectively - have been long referred to the Senate justice and human rights committee chaired by Sen. Francis Escudero.
The House of Representatives had already passed on third and final reading a similar measure, logged as House Bill 4893, more than two years ago. It was authored by Rep. Eduardo Zialcita.
Gordon said the government should view drunk driving as a "grave public concern" that should be dealt with more seriously not only by imposing stiff fines but also by tackling it through a comprehensive systems approach.
This approach, he pointed out, includes the importance of driver education, mandatory alcohol and drug testing of drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents, and the establishment of a drunk driving prevention fund.
Gordon also said his proposed measure also seeks to require alcohol beverage manufacturers to conduct public information campaigns about drunk driving and its deleterious effects.