In another display of “urong-sulong” governance, the implementation of the controversial car seat law was decreed postponed or deferred by the man who signed it into law but decided to use his awesome power to declare it no longer necessary for now.
Republic Act No. 11229, or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act, that was supposed to take effect February 2, disallows children aged 12 years old and below from sitting in the front seat of a vehicle, and mandates them to use “child restraint systems” when sitting at the back.
It is a well-meaning law that most other first world countries have implemented decades ago but it met stiff resistance from the public, especially after insensitive comments made by public officials from the implementing agency as they announced its impending implementation.
One official famously told motorists to get themselves bigger cars if their children cannot fit because of the car seats. He was probably a well-meaning guy who just wanted to be like his idol and use irreverent “Bisaya” humor to endear himself to the masses but he probably forget that sort of humor is so 2016 and no longer cute these days. Perhaps even the Bisaya have grown sick of such behavior.
Aside from implying that people with small cars and lots of kids should upgrade their ride to fit the law, other outrageous statements such as telling people who use taxis to bring their own car seats when traveling with children left a very bad taste in the mouth and added to the complaints on social media.
Even the initial confusion regarding the age vs height requirement, where it wasn’t immediately made clear that big kids below 12 are exempted from mandatory child car seat use. It was clear in the law that little humans bigger than 150 cm or 59 inches can use regular seatbelts but too many people probably either misread or didn’t fully read the law. Anyway, unfunny mean memes of former president GMA, who, legend has it, would be required to use a car seat if she were less than 12 years old, started circulating soon after.
Anyway, because election season is coming, our dear leader post-vetoed the law after seeing the outrage on social media, where opinions really matter in this country. He should’ve vetoed it properly by not allowing it to pass to law but this is a country where the president can do anything so why not? Instead of implementing a law he signed that has turned unpopular, we just conveniently ignore it for now… kind of like human rights.
So, people are happy again and we can go about our business without having to trouble ourselves with government-approved car seats purchased only from “authorized” suppliers.
The law no longer affects me because my youngest child just turned 13 this week. But if you come to think of it, the child car seat law becomes a bit of a joke considering the general safety and condition of our public transportation system. It is still 2021 but Filipino jeepneys, tricycles and habal-habals are still veritable death traps with neither safety features nor standards. Nobody wears seatbelts. There are no airbags. There are no crumple zones. Lights don’t work, brakes always failing, tires perpetually bald. The driver licensing process is laughable.Collisions almost always result in death or serious injuries.
As long as public vehicles are dangerous, forcing private vehicles to be extra safe doesn’t make a lot of sense. But like mandatory use of face shields, even when outdoors, nothing really makes sense in this country. We just follow whatever government says until our dear leader tells us we shouldn’t because it’s easier that way.
Filipinos use cars because our public transportation system is not only inefficient, it is also scary. Cars are generally safer and the thinking behind child car seats is making them a little bit safer for kids. If our roads are already as safe as they can be, the child car seat would definitely make everything safer. However, our roads are not safe. There are hazards everywhere, from design, construction, usage, and the vehicles that ply it. As long as those hazards are not addressed, the argument for child car seats becomes flimsy.
Even if the President didn’t intervene with his own special brand of magic and the child car seat law was implemented, the truth is it would’ve been good for a couple of weeks only. The same thing happened to the anti-distracted driving law. Even seatbelt use is not at 100 percent. There are so many more blatant violations of laws that are supposed to make our transportation system safer that occur every day and the only time anybody bothers with enforcement is during those pre-publicized “one-time big-time” enforcement drives.
If there’s anything this pandemic has taught us, our family’s safety is ultimately up to us. Government will make suggestions and foist crazy regulations upon us every now and then but it is our judgement that will keep our family safe from the dangers of the world. Child car seat usage has been suspended for now but it would be best for those who have kids and can see its value and afford it to start getting used to child car seats.*