MANILA - The motorcycle-riding community has become a new political force to be reckoned with based on the results of the May 9 party-list elections.
While 1-Rider Party-list did not top this year’s roster of winners, its strong second-place showing next to the expectedly popular Tulfo-backed party-list ACT-CIS shows that the newbie political group has an active constituency backing it.
Retired Police Col. Bonifacio Bosita, the second nominee of 1-Rider, said he was not surprised by the group’s performance.
“Kumpiyansa kami na kami ay magta-Top 3,” Bosita said. He added that during their numerous meet-and-greet rides across the Philippines, they felt the strong support from the motorcycling community.
Brian Dulay, a 40-year-old motorcycle taxi rider, said he voted 1-Rider because he believes that it was about time that motorcyclists get the respect that they deserve.
“Kumbaga, para mabigyan din tayo ng karapatan sa kalsada,” Dulay said, noting that at checkpoints, only motorcycle riders often get flagged while car drivers are allowed to simply pass.
Ronnie Loriaga, a 32-year-old food delivery rider, also voted 1-Rider because he believes the party-list will work to improve the lives of workers like him.
“Sa amin, sa trabaho namin, bilang isang rider, kakampi [sila] sa kalsada,” Loriaga said, adding that riders are sometimes victimized by erring traffic enforcers.
A long-time advocate of the rights of motorcycle riders, meanwhile, is more skeptical.
Jobert Bolanos, chairman of the Motorcycle Rights Organization, said 1-Rider was unknown to the motorcycle community before the campaign period started.
“Prior to the election, we had no idea who is this group is,” Bolanos said.
WHO IS 1-RIDER?
The first nominee of the party-list, Atty. Rodge Gutierrez, said the group began as a club based in Bicol, which would hold charity rides and extend legal aid to riders. But it later decided to throw its hat into the party-list race.
“We as a group decided to go national, with the intent of joining the party-list system as representation of our fellow riders,” Gutierrez said.
The group soon linked with Bosita’s group, Riders Safety Advocates of the Philippines (RSAP), as it launched its bid for a congressional seat.
This partnership with Bosita’s RSAP proved key in securing support for 1-Rider. Bosita, who is a former officer of the PNP Highway Patrol Group, is known in the motorcycling community for his safety seminars, and his sizeable social media following.
RSAP has over 1.7 million followers on Facebook and over half a million on YouTube. A Facebook Page of Bosita’s supporters has over a million followers. Several of Bosita’s videos on Facebook and YouTube have racked up over a million hits. In contrast, 1-Rider’s Facebook itself just has around 147,000 likes.
Bosita, who said he originally wanted to run for senator, immediately welcomed the chance to run for office.
“Fortunately, narito yung 1-Rider Party-list at nag-offer po na makasama nila ako kaya po nabuo yung aming partnership with Atty. Rodge and other party members,” Bosita said.
Bosita became the face of 1-Rider, appearing on its campaign videos and artcards, which was key to the group’s win.
Thus it came as a surprise to many of his followers when they learned that Bosita was not the first nominee of 1-Rider.
“Yun din naman ang ina-ano ng ibang rider eh. Kaya sila bumoto ng 1-Rider dahil kay Bosita,” Loriaga said.
Bolanos also said that 1-Rider’s first nominee, Gutierrez, was unknown to the motorcycle riding community.
“We have no idea who he is,” Bolanos said.
“Hindi talaga sya kilala,” Loriaga said, adding that riders like him expected Bosita to be the first nominee.
In terms of legislative agenda, Gutierrez said the party-list is eager to represent its constituency.
Gutierrez did not specify a legislative agenda for the group, but said some of the issues they would tackle are rising fuel prices, the “doble plaka” law, and wider access for motorcycles in tollways.
Gutierrez noted that the number of delivery riders boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic. As mobility restrictions prevented people from going out to eat and shop, food delivery apps, as well as app-based courier services, saw spikes in usage and demand. Many who lost their jobs due to the pandemic found work as delivery riders.
But the recent spike in gasoline prices has put a damper on the sector.
Gutierrez said many delivery riders have asked them for help as spiraling gasoline prices have eaten into their earnings.
“Usual reklamo nila: ‘Sir, may magagawa po ba tayo sa gas?’ Kasi ang taas na pero yung price ceiling ng kanilang mga deliveries nandun pa rin, same lang,” Gutierrez said.
According to Gutierrez, a “price war” between the different delivery apps is also weighing down riders’ earnings. He said 1-Rider wants to give delivery riders “some of form of protection” by reviewing the country’s labor laws, especially their status as independent contractors of the delivery apps.
Gutierrez and Bosita also said they would work to amend some of the provisions of the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, otherwise known as the “doble plaka” law authored by Sen. Richard Gordon.
Bosita said that some provisions of the law were good, as it would result in faster registration of newly bought motorcycles, and would also curb the selling of stolen motorcycles. Other provisions, such as the steep fines, and the requirement of a decal or another license plate in front of the motorcycle, work against riders. This is why he said they will push to change some of its provisions.
“Meron naman talagang naka-open for amendments dito,” Bosita said.
“We don't want to repeal the whole law, there are provisions that we would like to keep of course,” Gutierrez said.
Meanwhile, Bolanos, whose group has filed a court case against the 'doble plaka' law, said trying to amend the measure was misguided.
“Amendment takes how long? We are already in the middle of a case to declare the law as unconstitutional,” Bolanos said. His group has maintained that 'doble plaka' discriminates and unduly punishes all motorcycle riders for the crimes committed by a few.
Another issue that 1-Rider wants to tackle is lowering the engine displacement required for motorcycles to use expressways. Only motorcycles with engines 400cc and up are currently allowed to enter expressways.
Many motorcyclists have said that this requirement, first passed in the 1970s, should be updated to reflect the currently technology and advances in the development of modern motorcycles.
A NEW HOPE?
More than 8 million motorcycles were registered in 2021 nationwide, based on data from the Land Transportation Office.
Motorcycles make up over 61 percent of the 13 million vehicles registered last year.
For motorcyclists like Dulay and Loriaga, 1-Rider represents hope that riders will no longer be discriminated against by lawmakers who pass laws for motorcyclists, but who are not motorcyclists themselves.
Bolanos said 1-Rider will need to live up to its promise to represent motorcyclists.
“The thing is, they have to be very careful because everyone’s eyes are on them, especially the riding community,” Bolanos said.
After capturing over 990,000 votes representing at least 2.74 percent of the votes cast for the party-list polls, 1-Rider is poised to take 2 seats in the 19th Congress.