I am a motorist who regularly drives to and from work through EDSA daily. Recently, the MMDA became strict in implementing the yellow PUV and motorcycle lanes on EDSA. Knowing the stricter enforcement of the rules, I knew that I had to stay within the allowable lane for private vehicles, so that the MMDA will have no reason to flag me down. Unfortunately, I inadvertently crossed the PUV lane with my vehicle, and I was flagged down by an enforcer. Respectfully, I reasoned with the MMDA personnel that a tour bus cut me, so I had to swerve a little bit inside the yellow PUV lane. The MMDA traffic enforcer did not listen to what I said and told me to just explain my violation to the MMDA-Traffic Adjudication Division within seven days. Irritated, I slapped the enforcer’s arm and drove away. Since then, I cannot sleep soundly for fear that I have just committed a crime. Is this feeling correct?
You may be held criminally liable for committing direct assault when you slapped the arm of a Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) traffic enforcer before you drove away. Article 148 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) provides:
“Article 148 – Direct assault. – Any person or persons who, without a public uprising, shall employ force or intimidation for the attainment of any of the purposes enumerated in defining the crimes of rebellion and sedition, or shall attack, employ force or seriously intimidate or resist any person in authority or any of his agents, while engaged in the performance of official duties, or on occasion of such performance, shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods and a fine not exceeding 1,000 pesos, when the assault is committed with a weapon or when the offender is a public officer or employee, or when the offender lays hands upon a person in authority. x x x x” [Emphasis and underscoring supplied.]
Based on the definition of direct assault, an MMDA traffic enforcer is considered as a person in authority considering that he is in charge of maintening public order and the protection and security of life and property on EDSA. Article 152 of the RPC defines what persons in authority are:
“Art. 152. Persons in authority and agents of persons in authority; Who shall be deemed as such. — In applying the provisions of the preceding and other articles of this Code, any person directly vested with jurisdiction, whether as an individual or as a member of some court or governmental corporation, board or commission, shall be deemed a person in authority. A barrio captain and a barangay (village) chairman shall also be deemed as persons in authority
A person who, by direct provision of law or by election or by appointment by competent authority, is charged with the maintenance of public order and the protection and security of life and property, such as a barrio councilman, barrio policeman and barangay leader and any person who comes to the aid of persons in authority, shall be deemed as an agent of a person in authority. x x x” [Emphasis supplied.]
In your case, it is undeniable that your apprehension was in the performance of the MMDA traffic enforcer’s lawful duties to maintain peace and order on EDSA. Clearly, then, not only did you resist the authority of the MMDA traffic enforcer but your acts may also be deemed as an employment of force upon a person in authority. Worse, you admitted to slapping the hand of the MMDA traffic enforcer that is a qualifying circumstance for direct assault that serves to increase the penalty, as provided in Article 148 of the RPC.
We find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.