Just this week, the LTO and its deputized traffic enforcers have been active in apprehending heavily modified vehicles, particularly those vehicles modified for off-road use, sporting changes like a lift kit, LED light bars, and larger wheels and tires.
Many off-road enthusiasts have cried foul over social media, flustered over the legality of the apprehension, confiscation, and in some cases, impounding of their vehicles.
The LTO says these modifications are illegal. To further clarify what specific laws these vehicles violate, we took the opportunity to talk with LTO Director for Law Enforcement Service, Francis Almora, regarding the matter.
Upon entering his office, the director gladly showed me an example of such a vehicle. Sitting in the LTO Main Office’s parking lot was a heavily modified pickup truck (not pictured), sporting a lift kit, larger wheels and tires, LED light bar, snorkel, steel bumpers and many more.
“It had violated a lot,” said Director Almora. “We have several parts that should not have been modified. Suspension, rims, exhaust… Then putting those lights is a violation of PD96.”
PD96 refers to Presidential Decree 96 which bans the use of sirens, horns, blinkers, etc. While PD96 does not specifically state that LED light bars are banned, a more recent LTO Memorandum, dated March 15, 2016, enumerates specifically how many are allowed, however this is intended to apply only for motorcycles. The are still no specific restrictions for LED lights on cars.
“Yung medyo tolerable, pinapatanggal namin, confiscated in favor of the government. (The more tolerable modifications, we just have them removed, confiscated in favor of the government.) We just keep those things and let them go with a ticket. If we encounter these things, they have to remove those modifications.”
Besides the more recent memorandum on LED lights and bars, we pressed on for the legal basis for apprehending vehicles fitted with these parts.
“What is the purpose of these modifications? Off-roading. Therefore, they are not for the highways. You should not drive it in the national roads because that is dangerous. You modified it for a special purpose, off-road. Then why do you bring it to the national road?”
The director contends that while these modifications make the vehicles perform better off-road, they compromise their ability to perform as certified on regular roads.
“These vehicles were designed to meet a certain speed and perform in a certain way on national roads and highways. Those were the abilities that were certified by the manufacturer.”
As such he recommends, securing a permit for such modifications, citing the intended purpose.
“Modifying it as an off-road vehicle is OK, provided you ask for a permit and use it for the purpose you have modified it for. Do it off-road, not on a daily basis. So really, it had violated the Land Transportation code.”
Those curious to see what modifications are allowed or banned can look up DOTC Department Order 2010-32: Harmonization of Motor Vehicle Classifications of LTO and LTFRB. Dir. Almora presented this document, citing it as their basis and the most recent amendment to the Philippine Land Transportation and Traffic Code (Republic Act 4136). It also specifically states which modifications are allowed or not.
Under Section 5, it states:
5.1 The modification of the brake system, steering wheel assembly, air conditioning system, suspension and interior and exterior trimmings shall not be construed as a change in vehicle type classification.
5.2 The modifications involving safety and environment shall not be allowed, such as the following: axle modification, chassis modification, extended chassis/ body, additional sidings of dump trucks, extended overhang, change of rim size, modification of handlebar and muffler, and reconfiguration of body dimension and design.
We couldn’t help but notice one particular article citing that a change of rim size is prohibited. To this Dir. Almora conceded that the law is old, however suggested that it must be amended.
“They have to amend these. These modifications are new designs. This law (RA 4136) was made in 1964. So, if you want to change the provisions of the law — what we are trying to implement — then this has to be amended,” he said.
As such, unless our lawmakers are willing to undergo the herculean task of updating the outdated Land Transportation Traffic Code first written in 1964, we might see more apprehensions based on outdated standards for safety. Soon, we might see the LTO go after vehicles with larger wheels. After all, it is against the law.