POSTSCRIPT / March 19, 2002 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter

Like drivers, gov't execs must first pass drug tests

POLITICAL, NOT LEGAL ISSUE: We expect the escalation of American involvement in the military’s anti-terrorism campaign in Muslim Mindanao to be so managed by the government that it will remain a political instead of a legal question.

As long as American military presence is kept within the parameters of bilateral contracts, including the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Pact, the contentious issues could remain political and therefore more manageable.

Eventually, the question of American presence will be tossed to the people for a direct endorsement by way of public opinion surveys. We expect the Arroyo administration to be willing to take on the political risks of harboring US forces if the surveys say it has X percent of the population supporting such policy.

This is one of the reasons why such public relations activities as civic action must be stepped up before US Special Forces get involved in major clashes. So as not to stir a hornet’s nest, US soldiers should get involved in military operations only after the natives have learned to live with, if not welcome, their presence.

* * *

BUSH WIDENS TARGET: A favorable public response as gauged by surveys and other feedback mechanisms would embolden the Arroyo administration to allow, or even ask for, a higher level of US involvement in the military campaign against what the US regards as terrorist activities in this country.

The Abu Sayyaf holding an American missionary couple appears to be just one of the terrorist elements operating in the area. A candidate for inclusion on the target list is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that has been confirmed to be giving aid and comfort to its Abu Sayyaf brothers-in-arms.

It is significant that US President George W. Bush has linked the Abu Sayyaf depredations on Basilan and nearby areas to the secessionist campaign of Moro bands that he said were “trying to seize the southern part of the country to establish a militant regime.” This blurs in the American mind the difference, if any, between the Abu Sayyaf and the MILF.

With this development, expect the joint RP-US forces to target soon other Moro groups aside from the Abu Sayyaf. That is, after the public is conditioned to believe the Al Qaeda links that the US claims exist among the marauding Moro bands in the South.

* * *

CAST YOUR VOTE: As preliminary testing of public opinion on the subject of American military presence, we want to ask readers this question:

“Do you favor US forces’ helping the Philippine military pursue terrorist groups in Mindanao aside from the Abu Sayyaf? If so, what group should also be targeted? Whether in favor or not, please explain your stand in a 50-word paragraph.

To prevent responses from getting mixed with the rest of our mail, please type “US FORCES” on the Subject line if you’re emailing your response. If you’re sending your reply by post or by messenger to the PhilSTAR office in Port Area, Manila, please write “US FORCES” on the envelope.

Indicate your Age, Sex and Location for statistical purposes. Address emailed responses to: or to Responses sent by post or messenger must be addressed to this columnist by name.

* * *

DRIVING RESTRICTIONS: Have you bothered to check what restrictions have been imposed on your driver’s license? Better do, since a traffic officer might just accost you for supposedly violating the restrictions on your license.

There have been complaints of alleged shakedowns by traffic officers taking advantage of the vague text of the restrictions at the back of the license (that many drivers do not bother to read).

The most common is Restriction 2, which reads “Vehicle up to 4500 kgs GVW (gross vehicle weight).” Licensee with R2 is allowed to drive motor vehicles within that weight range. That covers most passenger cars, including most big American sports utility vans. (To be sure, check your van’s weight before you drive it.)

Some “kotong” cops tell surprised victims that their R2 does not cover automatic-shift vehicles, since automatic vehicles are covered, the officer points out, by Restriction 4 which says “Automatic clutch up to 4500 kgs GVW.”

Therefore, the mulcting cop continues, R2 allows licensee to drive only conventional or manual-transmission vehicles of not more than 45000 kgs gross weight, and that driving an automatic car violates R2. If one wants to drive an automatic-shift car, he adds, the driver must have Restriction 4 marked on his license.

The text of the restrictions printed on the license are that confusing to some drivers, and mulcting officers take advantage of the confusion.

* * *

LASTIMOSO CLARIFIES: We tossed the problem to Assistant Secretary Robert T. Lastimoso, chief of the Land Transportation Office, and he gave this clarification:

  • Restriction 2 allows licensee to drive all motor vehicles within the 4500-kgs range, whether with manual or automatic clutch (transmission). The controlling element is not the clutch, but the 4500-kgs weight limit.
  • Restriction 4 allows licensee to drive only automatic-clutch vehicles within the 4500-kgs range, and does not allow him to drive conventional or manual vehicles.
  • The general rule — which applies to similar restrictions for other weight brackets — is that if the restriction does not specify or differentiate between manual and automatic clutch, the licensee is authorized to drive both. If the restriction specifies automatic clutch only, the licensee is restricted to automatic clutch and may not drive manual-clutch vehicles.

On the drug test required of applicants for new or renewed licenses, Lastimoso said this is required by law and nobody is exempted. The LTO chief said that he himself would have to take the drug test when it is time for him to renew his license. Thousands of applicants who have been found positive in the drug tests have been denied licenses.

* * *

DRUG TESTS FOR OFFICIALS: Mostly out of pique, many drivers are saying that if they are required to pass a drug test, there is more reason to require the same test of individuals presuming to run for public office.

They point out that since the responsibilities of government officials are much heavier than those of drivers, candidates for public office must be similarly examined before being allowed to run.

Btw, none of the 50 states in the US has a drug test requirement for license applicants. Many of the states have vision and skill tests in addition to the basic requirements common US-wide.

In this country, the required medical examination includes a vision test, but it’s useless because the results are not considered in evaluating the license application and in imposing restrictions (such as the mandatory wearing of glasses when driving).

Requiring drug tests for candidates for public office is a long shot. Such a rule can be adopted only if approved by those running the government. Now, why would officials impose such a rule on themselves?

A drug test is not among the qualifications listed in the Constitution for persons running for public office. But if the public mind were bent on imposing such a requirement, a way would be found to do it.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 19, 2002)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.