I usually do road trips around the country in my motorcycle. During one of my tour rides in a rural area not far from Manila, I encountered one interesting incident that got my attention. I saw a local traffic enforcer flagging down a kuliglig or small farm tractor while traversing the national highway, and then issuing the farmer-driver a ticket. Out of curiosity, I stopped where the apprehension occurred. I learned that the driver was issued a traffic violation ticket for distracted driving. It appeared that he was caught using his mobile device while operating the kuliglig in the highway.
As much as I’m aware of the law against distracted driving, this kind of traffic violation involving a mere kuliglig seemed absurd and unreasonable for me. Because of this, I’d like to know if farm tractors, including the kuliglig, are included in the coverage of the law on distracted driving? What other vehicles are included? Are farm carriages pulled by carabaos and horses also included since they are more or less similar to kuliglig?
Republic Act (RA) 10913, or the “Anti-Distracted Driving Act,’ makes it unlawful to use mobile communication devices while operating motor vehicles (Section 4). This is in line with the policy of the State to safeguard the public from the dangerous and possibly injurious effects of unrestrained use of electronic mobile devices that distract motorists while on the road (Section 2).
With regard to the types of vehicles covered by this law, it is important to understand how the law defines a motor vehicle under the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10913, to wit:
“Motor vehicle — any vehicle propelled by any power, other than muscular power, using the public highways, but excepting road rollers, trolley cars, street-sweepers, sprinklers, lawn mowers, bulldozers, graders, forklifts, amphibian trucks and cranes if not used on public highways, vehicle which run only on rails or tracks, and tractors, trailers and tractor engines of all kinds used exclusively for agricultural purposes;” (Section 3 [g]).
In this cited definition of a motor vehicle under RA 10913, it can be seen that the law considers machine-powered vehicles as motor vehicles, especially if used in public highways, while not including those that are used exclusively in agricultural purposes. Based on this definition, the kuliglig, or small farm tractors such as the one you mentioned, are considered motor vehicles covered by the law if used in public highways despite its agricultural functions.
The IRR of RA 10913 further clarifies this matter when it expressly mentioned kuliglig among the types of agricultural machineries covered by the law, to wit:
“Wheeled agricultural machineries such as tractors, and construction equipment such as graders, roller, backhoes, pay loaders, cranes, bulldozers, mobile concrete mixers and the like, and other forms of conveyances such as bicycles, pedicabs, habal-habal, trolleys, kuliglig, wagons, carriages, carts, sledges, chariots or the like, whether animal or human-powered, are covered by the provisions of this IRR as long as the same are operated or driven in public thoroughfares, highways or streets, or under the circumstances where public safety is under consideration” (Sec. 5 [b]).
This exhaustive definition unmistakably included kuliglig under the law’s coverage. As such, the traffic enforcer you mentioned was legally justified in issuing a traffic violation ticket to the driver for distracted driving in operating his kuliglig in the highway while using his mobile device.
As to whether animal-driven carts are included in the subject law, it is interesting to point out that the aforementioned provision expressly mentioned animal-powered carts as part of the coverage of RA 10913 as long as they are operated in public roads. Thus, drivers of such animal-powered carts can also be penalized for distracted driving in public roads.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]