By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Road rage and the need for stiffer penalties

“If you wait by the river long enough the bodies of your enemies will float by”- Sun Tzu

Yesterday, a stay-in driver was shot and killed in an alleged road rage incident which occurred on the EDSA Ayala tunnel. According to witnesses and reports, the victim had an altercation with the suspect prior to the shooting incident.

Lately, there seems to be an alarming surge in road rage incidents. Although most of these incidents did not result in a fatality, many of them involve people brandishing guns or issuing grave threats. The situation has prompted several lawmakers to file several bills related to road rage. Last year, House Bill 8991 or the proposed Anti-Road Rage Act of 2023, which seeks to impose stiffer penalties on aggressive driving and criminalize road rage, was filed to address the growing number of road rage incidents. The bill’s rationale is that if all acts of road rage are penalized stiffly, then it would prevent escalations of such road rage. The bill would criminalize several manifestations of road rage such as wild gesturing at other parties, cursing or hurling verbal insults, physically attacking or any attempt thereof, reckless driving, issuing threats or intimidation or using any forms of force.

The standard advice for drivers is to stay calm in the face of aggressive or reckless driving. Arguing with someone on the road is never a good idea. You never know what someone undergoing road rage is capable of doing. Regrettably, it is difficult to keep cool in situations where someone is shouting at you or threatening you on the road. Having stiffer penalties for road rage can motivate people to adhere to this advice. Why get angry when you can get even later?

If the House Bill becomes law, then you can always file a case against the road rage driver later or expose his actions on social media where he could be bashed and vilified by everyone. Unfortunately, Filipinos often easily forgive the other party especially if no physical damage was done. Also, many of us do not have the time or emotional stamina to pursue a legal case.

It must be remembered that if you let perpetrators of road rage go free, they will not learn their lesson. People, in general, must be taught painful lessons so that they will not repeat their actions. In addition, these same perpetrators may commit a more heinous crime if they are not punished for their smaller crimes. Stiff punishment is still the best way to curb road rage behavior.

A provision in HB 8991 can address litigation fatigue by allowing government authority to prosecute road rage suspects on behalf of the victims “in cases where victims are unable or unwilling to pursue legal action due to fear, intimidation or other reasons”. As such, victims need not actively spend time to pursue the case.

Admittedly, there are some drivers who can trigger road rage by their reckless driving. How often have many people wished harm on “camotes” of both the two and four wheeled varieties. As I have always advocated, a no mercy application on traffic violations should be implemented along with the passing of the aforesaid bill. It is easy to tell people to keep calm on the street and to avoid altercations. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for a race as emotional as ours to keep calm in the face of aggression and reckless driving. Perhaps, putting teeth on present laws and passing the road rage bill can convince many to keep cool and use their anger to obtain justice legally.

Sun Tzu once stated “If you wait by the river long enough the bodies of your enemies will float by”. We need to teach people that taking direct action can lead to dire consequences. One should exercise patience and wait for the right moment to strike. Persistence and resilience can allow us to reap a more satisfying conclusion.

This is my oblique observation.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.