• When in Cotabato City, take off motorcycle helmet

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    COTABATO CITY: A warning to motorcycle enthusiasts planning to tool around this city: Do not—repeat, do not—wear your helmets.

    City authorities banned the wearing of helmets on Thursday night, two days after a car bomb killed eight people and wounded 30 others in a busy street here.

    The ban disregards the Motorcycle Helmet Act (Republic Act 10054), which requires motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

    But a task force set up by the city’s police and civilian officials believes helmets make it difficult to identify motorcycling-riding criminals.

    City police chief, Sr. Supt. Rolen Balquin said the no-helmet policy is a security measure “not made for our own sake, but for the majority of the people in this city.”

    The task force, made up of police, Marine contingents and barangay officials, also bans extended parking in busy places and streets.

    The device in the August 5 blast was rigged to an abandoned car along busy Sinsuat Avenue.

    Balquin said task force agents will accost helmet-wearing persons and tow away vehicles parked for a long time in streets and public places.

    Helmet-wearing was made optional in this city during the nine-year term of Mayor Muslimin Sema, when crimes committed by helmeted perpetrators were on the rise.

    Sema himself was wounded when he was attacked last year by two helmeted gunmen on a motorcycle near his residence.

    Cotabato City officials must have taken the cue from Lumayang, a barangay in Zamboanga City which has banned motorcycle riders from wearing a full-face helmet and warned violators will be shot.

    Lumayang Barangay Chairman Frederick Atilano insisted the new law would make the village and its 1,600 residents safe from hired killers, who usually use visored helmets.

    Atilano said that last February, helmeted riders gunned down a school principal, Wilson Recisio, 40, in Lumayang.

    “This is for the safety of our people against killers. We are banning the use of full face helmets in Lumayang because we wanted to protect the safety of everyone. Motorcycle riders who insist on entering Lumayang with their full face helmet will be shot,” he said.

    Not every Lumayang resident agrees with Atilano.

    “It is a stupid idea. All they have to do is intensify their anti-criminality campaign and for the police to deploy more foot patrols and to aggressively run after hired killers.

    Guns-for-hire will always find their targets with or without any get-away vehicles or full face helmets,” said one resident, Benjamin dela Cruz.

    Radio commentaries also criticized Atilano’s order to shoot violators. Gun attacks and killings in Zamboanga are not uncommon and most of the murders were largely blamed to hired killers on motorcycles.

    Besides his grave warning, Atilano’s order to ban the use of helmets also violated the Motorcycle Helmet Act, which was signed in March 2010, said Aminola Abaton, the regional director of the Land Transportation Office for Western Mindanao.

    “The law does not provide condition where an exemption may be made and while it is true that lately we have observed increase in the numbers of crimes perpetrated by motorcycle riders in tandem, relaxing the law on use of helmet may not be the solution. In fact, Zamboanga has been cited as one of the most compliant cities in the country as far as the helmet law is concerned,” Abaton said.

    With report from Al Jacinto

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