A year after it was passed, the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act (RA10586), now has a set of IRR [Implementing Rules and Regulations] and the Police are ready for its application starting June 1, 2014. Besides the huge fines and impound of the vehicle involved, it all seems strict and should, the learned scribes of the Law believe, discourage driving under the influence of excessive alcohol consumption. 

Foreign practice.

We've seen it in the movies; Police check on excessive alcohol consumption by putting up random roadblocks/checkpoints along access roads to party zones. At such roadblocks, motorists are obliged to blow into portable breathalyzers, relatively cheap hand held devices that read alcohol levels in one's breath. If one is over the legal limit, a ticket is issued and the motorist is usually required to get off the road to sober up before continuing driving. Other countries are stricter and there absolutely drunk drivers are taken out of their vehicles and hauled into the police car.

Another excuse for checkpoints?

One might think that enforcing RA10586 here would be as simple as what Hollywood teaches us. After all, we are used to Police checkpoints for Anti-illegal logging, overloading, security against robbers on public busses, no-plate-no-travel, expired motorcycle registration, illegal firearms, town fiesta contributions, peace and order and the like. But not for RA10586.

Probable cause vs. actual effect

Before a drunk driver can be cited, he or she must first be seen committing a moving traffic violation, like swerving or excessive speeding or driving below the speed limit or not keeping to one's lane; which is the way even teetotalers from here drive. Only then can such a driver be pulled over.  Then the suspect is subjected to the following: 

  • First the Eye test: suspect must follow with his/her gaze an object that the officer moves horizontally, a foot away from the subject's face. 
  • Second; Walk-and-turn test: suspect must walk nine steps forward in a straight line, turn, and then walk back the same distance. 
  • Third; One leg stand: suspect must be able to stand on one leg and raise the other at least 6 inches from the ground and hold that position for sixty seconds.

Now, legally drunk

If the suspect fails the three stage test, he or she is considered drunk, then he or she is hauled to the police station for a proper alcohol level test. It is not clear if the car to be used is the suspect's car in case the Police checkpoint doesn't have a mobile vehicle for shuttling suspects. If the station doesn't have such a testing facility, and it usually doesn't, the nearest hospital lab, accredited, of course, can deliver the blood test STAT. 

Guns vs. breathalyzers

Why our police can afford to buy excellent handguns and not buy far cheaper alcohol breathalyzers is beyond many of us. We suppose there may be many generous private and dedicated anti-drunk driving NGO's out there itching to donate such, so it could turn out to be a pork barrel PDAF in the reverse.

Civil libertarians, rejoice!

At least the civil libertarians should be happy that the IRR of RA10586 didn't take a draconian turn by giving another excuse for Police checkpoints. It also better guarantees the assumption of innocent until proven guilty; i.e. the drunk driver must have first caused an undeniably massive accident scene before he or she can be subjected to the drunk driving test. We leave it to your imagination what kind of accident scene merits the modifier “undeniably massive”.

Sin tax or not, bring it on!

It's also the best news for our binge drinking culture, you know that kind of drinker who makes it a personal challenge to push distillery and brewery production to overtime. Hit by the sin tax, this can only be good news to all our breweries and distilleries. As the late Pocholo Ramirez used to say about challenges [of the fuel economy kind ONLY] “Bring it on!” It's more fun in the Philippines!