Traffic > Appraisal

NCAP punishes you even if you’re innocent

The process to appeal is arduous, so you’re better off paying either way

When you see this sign, take it as a warning and not a suggestion. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Everyone’s still talking about the No Contact Apprehension Program, and the controversy around this topic is not showing any signs of cooling down. Quite the opposite, actually. The more the scheme is scrutinized, the more flaws and problems seem to be uncovered. Did you realize, for example, that even if you’re wrongly ticketed, you’re being punished financially? Let us explain.

Most of the currently active NCAP schemes and accompanying websites seem to be carbon copies of each other, so let’s look at the Valenzuela one for this article. The sleek web presence allows visitors to do a number of things. You can check the FAQs, search for your number plate in the NCAP system, and of course, you can also conveniently pay for your violation online.

Do you know what you can’t do online? File a dispute. To do that, you first of all have to find the relevant menu point hidden in the FAQs, and then download a document.

You fill that in and then have to print it because, for some inexplicable reason, the city insists on the form being notarized. That means a trip to the nearest notary public, and then either hand-deliver the thing to the city hall or mail it there via snail mail because there’s no e-mail address given where you could scan and send it to.

All of the above has to be done within five days of receipt of the violation notice. So, let’s say you’re a delivery rider or taxi driver who was wrongly ticketed. The mountain of complaints about apparently wrongly issued tickets indicates that this is a very likely occurrence for anyone driving in the areas covered by NCAP.

To avoid a huge fine, you have to spend time and money to fill in the dispute form, have it notarized, and mail it. If you’re lucky and the ticket is canceled, you may only be P100 to P500 out of pocket (cost to notarize and mail the form, plus loss of earnings due to time spent on this).

It's pretty easy to see why many are not in favor of the No Contact Apprehension Program. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

If you’re really unlucky, you’ll be asked to attend a hearing about your case. Having recently seen firsthand how busy Manila town hall is and how many people are waiting for their turn to be heard in a day, it’s fair to say that if you have to attend any kind of hearing, the whole affair will easily take half a day or longer.

This means you either have to take time off work to attend or you give up at this point and just pay the fine. Either way, you’ll be out of pocket.

Effectively then, NCAP punishes you even if you’re innocent, and that’s fundamentally wrong

Nowhere in the FAQs does it state anything about innocent motorists being able to claim their costs back after a dispute or being compensated for time and loss of earnings if they have to attend a hearing and are subsequently cleared. Effectively then, NCAP punishes you even if you’re innocent, and that’s fundamentally wrong.

For starters, there is no real reason why motorists have to download, print, and then notarize a form. What’s wrong with an e-mail address? Nothing, unless you’re deliberately trying to make appealing a violation more difficult. I’m not saying the powers-that-be are deliberately doing this, but it sure feels that way. Then, there should be a mechanism in place whereby motorists who are found not to be at fault during a hearing can claim compensation for time and money spent contesting the ticket.

At the moment, the whole system is skewed in favor of the cities running it, and that’s simply not fair or right. If there’s money on the line when they get it wrong, it may motivate NCAP operators and reviewers to be more careful and only send tickets out where they are really certain that a violation occurred. Right now, they can essentially just bully you into paying, and that’s surely not how things should be.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.