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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Stricter penalties for theft and possession of road signs and manhole covers sought
Writer: Ma. Victoria I. Palomar, Media Affairs and Public Relations Service
28 April 2016 08:32:01 AM

A lawmaker has filed a bill, which seeks to impose stiffer penalties to reduce, if not eliminate, the theft or illegal possession of manhole covers and road signs to safeguard Filipino drivers and pedestrians.

Rep. Alfredo D. Vargas III (5th District, Quezon City) said House Bill 6490 imposes the penalty of 12 to 15 years of imprisonment or a fine of P200,000 to P500,000 or both, at the discretion of the court on any person found guilty of stealing or in possession of road signs and warning devices including manhole covers.

Likewise, the same penalty is imposed on any person selling or buying disaster warning and risk reduction instruments and their accessories.

On the other hand, any person who is found guilty of damaging/vandalizing or destroying road signs and warning devices and their accessories shall be meted the penalty of six to 10 years of imprisonment or a fine of from P100,000 to P150,000 or both, at the discretion of the court.

Under the bill, to be known as the "Stealing and Vandalism of Traffic Signs Act of 2016," it shall be unlawful to dismantle, remove, transfer, and take into possession the road warning devices installed by national and local governments or non-government organizations for the purpose of warning motorists of dangers along the road.

The measure refers to traffic signs and accident warning devices and instruments as road or traffic signs exemplified by 'stop', 'yield', 'slippery when wet', signs of zigzagging sections of roads, railings, and similar devices. Manhole covers shall also be included as part of the accident-prevention devices warning the public to avert, or prevent the loss and (of) properties covered under this Act.

Vargas, vice chair of the House Committees on Health and on Social Services, explained that road accidents are one of the leading causes of deaths in the country.

"According to the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group, the number of road accidents in the country is going up ever year due to human errors and lack of discipline," Vargas said.

Vargas said one critical factor that leads to road accidents is the lack of proper road signs. "In the Philippines, in particular, these are either stolen or vandalized," he observed.

Citing a report by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Vargas said a total of 42,558 road signs have already been stolen and vandalized in 2013.

"The reported vandalized road signs can still be seen in various areas in Metro Manila and rendered almost useless," he said.

The bill provides incentives to a person or persons who will provide information leading to the apprehension of violators of this Act.

Vargas pushed for the approval of the bill saying it will help safeguard Filipino drivers and pedestrians.