ANTIPOLO City, Rizal – Roads are built and designed to ensure safe transportation, and not for adrenaline rush, says the local police chief moments after a fatal road crash along Marcos Highway in this component city.
According to Antipolo police chief Ryan Manongdo, four persons died on the spot after their car crashed into the tail end of a truck in what appears to be another incident of drag racing.
Fatalities were identified as Juanito Cataylo, Ereneo Balmonte, Lawrence Ivan Jose, and Kidrock John Magsino – all of them in their early 20s and residents of Antipolo City.
Citing eyewitnesses' accounts, Manongdo said that the black Honda Civic car driven by Cataylo was moving at high speed along Marcos Highway when it crashed at the rear of a truck at around 3 AM. The car reportedly developed engine trouble, causing the driver to lose control of the wheel.
Truck driver Glen Gumban, 48 years of age and a resident of Marikina City, was arrested by responding policemen and is detained at the Antipolo Custodial Facility.
As a matter of protocol, Gumban will be charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides and damage to property.
"Hindi ito head-on, ito ay isang linya at bumangga sa likod," said Manongdo, adding that they are seriously looking into what is believed to be fatal drag race along the Marcos Highway.
Manongdo said they have yet to review footage of a closed-circuit television camera installed in the area.
Marcos Highway which connects the northern part of Metro Manila and Rizal has long been notoriously famous not just for heavy traffic during the day but also for illegal drag racing involving cars and motorcycles from midnight onwards.
While authorities claimed that drag racing along Marcos Highway has been neutralized, CCTV shots prove otherwise. Sometime in June this year, motorists were caught on camera while taking part in drag racing in Antipolo City.
No less than GMA television news reporter Connie Sison admitted that she has personally witnessed racing enthusiasts burn rubber during the wee hours of the night along Marcos Highway quite a number of times.
Sources said that an organized group is behind the drag racing where bets are pegged at P20,000 to the very least per race. In some instances, beaten riders also get to lose their bikes which forms part of the bet.
Former Antipolo City Police Chief Lieutenant Colonel June Paolo Abrazado said the incident happened beyond a checkpoint, adding that drag racing on the highway has already been prohibited.
“Sa tingin ko… siguro nag-try lang ng isang beses. Pero paigtingin po ulit namin ang aming pagbabantay dito at hindi na ulit (sila) makakasingit dito sa aming area of responsibility,” he added.
Legal or Otherwise?
According to an advisory issued by the Department of Justice, drag racing per se is legal when done within a controlled and regulated environment, and adhering to safety standards is not illegal when sanctioned.
In the Philippines, there are automobile clubs and other sports associations that sponsor legitimate drag racing events in various race circuits.
However, when conducted on public streets, highways, and other thoroughfares without permits and without regard to the safety of motorists, spectators, and innocent third parties, drag racing becomes a punishable act.
Many drag racing activities in the past have been reported, and continue to be reported, especially in certain "hotspots" like Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City, Diosdado Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City, and other major avenues in urban areas which are wide and with sparse vehicular traffic for the 'conduct of unauthorized races.
More often than not, these activities result in harm to persons involved in the race or not, and unduly put at risk motorists who pass through the roads.
In most cases, drag racers are using improvised race cars not subjected to safety tests. Being a clandestine event, drag races are conducted late at night to evade the authorities and do not observe the same safety precautions that sanctioned races do.
Fines Not Enough
There are existing laws strictly prohibiting drag racing and individuals caught participating in drag racing could face charges for violations of traffic rules such as speeding and reckless driving.
The Anti-drag Racing Act of 2005 law prescribes classifies drag racing as a crime and persons caught driving a vehicle or participating in any manner in a race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance or exhibition of speed or acceleration or for the purpose of making a speed record on a street or highway may end up in jail.
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Under Republic Act 4136 (Land Transportation and Traffic Code), engaging in drag racing constitutes either a speeding or a reckless driving violation, as provided for under Section 35.
Violators caught overspeeding will be made to pay a fine of P 1,200.00 (or P 2,000.00 if occurring in Macapagal Avenue). A reckless driving charge, on the other hand, shall merit a fine of P 500.00 (or P 2,000.00 if apprehended in Pasay or Parañaque).
In the upland area of Tanay, riders are not racing but are driving their modified bikes just like in action movies for which the PNP Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) has been regularly conducting operations.
Drag Racing Casualties
The Department of Transportation, together with its attached agency Land Transportation Office, is coming out with statistics on road mishaps.
According to their latest data, road traffic deaths are increasing as per figures coming from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) which indicated a 39% increase in deaths resulting in road accidents.
The increase was pegged at 39% – from 7,938 deaths in 2011 to 11,096 deaths in 2021.
Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among Filipinos 15-29 years old, and a major killer among children. In 2020, the number of deaths dropped to 8,746 deaths, and this is likely due to the reduced mobility of the population during that year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the number of deaths again increased to 11,096, coinciding with the end of lockdowns and mobility restrictions. Road traffic injuries cost about 2.6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Interestingly, death while racing was not part of the report.
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