Dindo Manhit, President, Stratbase ADR Institute
The Supreme Court has finally wrapped up oral arguments on the No Contact Apprehension Policy (NCAP). Two petitions that raised legal issues caused the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on a policy that was meant to make the enforcement of traffic rules more efficient, less vulnerable to human intervention, and bolster overall road safety. In fact, a significant decrease in the number of traffic violations had been attributed to the NCAP.
One of the petitions was by transport groups, who claimed that motorists were under the constant threat of being arbitrarily apprehended. They also said that the penalties under the NCAP were unreasonable.
The second petition was filed by a lawyer who claimed that the NCAP violates his right to due process. He also claimed that the NCAP compromises people’s right to data privacy since traffic violation records and personal details of motorists could be accessible by anybody who keyed in the plate number of the vehicle involved.
It is fair to acknowledge the right of these petitioners to raise these concerns. It is a given, for example, that the system must have safeguards to protect personal data in compliance with the Data Privacy Act and safeguards are in place against this risk.
However, we must go back to the main principle that gave rise to the NCAP in the first place: to discipline erring motorists which would in effect help ease the flow of traffic and avoid vehicular accidents often caused by reckless driving.
Local government units (LGUs) control the implementation of the NCAP in their respective jurisdiction and has yielded very positive results.
In the City of Manila, fatal and non-fatal injuries dropped by 917 from its 2019 numbers, according to the Metro Manila Reporting and Analysis System 2021 Annual Report of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA). Average daily violations per camera dropped significantly from 56 in December 2020 to just three in August 2022.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said in August last year that traffic violations in areas under the city’s NCAP program fell by 75%.
Parañaque City adopted the NCAP in 2018 using artificial intelligence and technologies in identifying traffic violators 24/7. On a per-camera basis, traffic violations dropped by a staggering 84% according to recorded data from 2018 to 2022.
Meanwhile, in Valenzuela City, Mayor Wes Gatchalian said that since they implemented the NCAP in 2019, some 200,000 traffic violators had been apprehended.
Public perception strongly supports the NCAP as revealed by a Pulse Asia survey that we in Stratbase commissioned. The vast majority of Filipinos agree that NCAP will be effective in instilling driver discipline and improve road safety. No less than eight of 10 of the respondents in the nationwide survey approve of the NCAP’s implementation.
Foremost is the non-discriminatory nature of the NCAP technology. It does not matter what kind of vehicle you drive, what prominent stickers are displayed on your windshield, or which influential people you know. The cameras of the system records in video the act of a violation, a Notice of Violation is sent to the registered owner who is subjected to penalties accordingly.
It thus does not hold that the penalties for the violations are unreasonable or unconscionable. There is one foolproof way to avoid these penalties: to drive carefully and conscientiously. Drivers wantonly disregarding traffic regulations are a serious safety risk to all road users and expecting light punishment for a life-threatening offense is downright outrageous.
Through the lens of good governance, the NCAP is very effective because it removes opportunities for bribery. There is no chance for apprehended drivers to slip a bill with their licenses when they hand them to enforcers, whether or not these motorists acknowledge their wrongdoing. If they want to explain their case, they will, instead, have to go to their LGU’s traffic adjudication board — personnel amply trained to review and approve the violations.
Finally, the NCAP is consistent with the government’s push for e-governance. President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., in numerous pronouncements, the most recent of them being at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, acknowledged that digital transformation is a priority of his administration, and a significant part of it is enabling the bureaucracy to transact its business and provide services to the people with digital technologies. He also committed to certify the proposed law on E-Governance as urgent.
The gains and benefits from the NCAP far outweigh the issues raised by the petitioners because these issues can easily be addressed with the proper implementation by the LGUs. It is in the interest of the LGUs, in turn, to make the NCAP work for them for the benefit of their constituents and in pursuit of our nation’s digitally driven development and governance.
The NCAP is a technological innovation that greatly enables the enforcement of traffic rules that are there to ensure the safety of our roadways. Only habitual offenders are afraid of NCAP and getting them off our streets will be best for all.
This article was originally published in BusinessWorld.