traffic violations in the Philippines

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As you probably know already, I am driving my own car in the Philippines. The reason: I like driving myself and I do not like to hire a driver and sit in the back of my own car when I have to go somewhere.
Driving in the Philippines sometimes is difficult because of the traffic, not well implemented traffic rules etcetera. As I foreigner I am not completely used yet to the way the Philippines is letting drivers know what is allowed or not. Traffic signs are not always placed on the best spots or not visible when it’s dark or covered with parked cars or placed billboards and other commercial signs. Aside of that, Filipinos are just doing what they like to do. Traffic signs are merely a suggestion, not a ‘must follow’. I have adjusted to that a lot already. That’s one of the reasons I am violating traffic rules at times. And sometimes I get caught.
You can read my earlier post about driving in Manila HERE.
Once, on Congressional Road in Fairview Quezon City, I drove through a yellow light going to red, together with other cars; but I probably had a bad day and was stopped by an officer who said that it was red already. My wife and I had some discussion with the officer that we were going to pick up her sick sister (who recently passed away), to bring to a doctor for her cancer treatment. The officer told us about the danger and the fine for such violation. We ended up with a warning and no further consequences.

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An other time I was in the wrong lane at a traffic light on Aurora Boulevard in Cubao, bringing my sister in law to the doctor to St. Lukes hospital. All traffic in the left lane had to go left and I wanted to go straight ahead. So was stopped and explained by the officer that that was a violation, but that it could be settled. After paying 100 pesos secretly to the officer we could go without ticket.

The third occasion was a traffic sign again. Again through red. It happened at España (Espanya in Filipino) Manila coming from Quiapo and going to Quezon City. This time I really go through red but I noticed it too late. Other cars are going through too and I just followed. I just had another unlucky day: they only picked me to stop. Sweet talks from my wife to the officers (there were more of them, all wanted to know what kind of fish they caught this time) didn’t help much. The official fine for such violation was 500 pesos (I was told by them), to be paid at City Hall and temporary confiscating my drivers license. It took a lot of discussion but finally the highest in rank on duty (and now alone with us) agreed with giving (paying) him 100 pesos and no further consequences.

A few days ago we drove home around 7 pm. We came from Cubao and we had to go home (Antipolo City, Masinag, along Marcos High Way). We wanted to avoid the (around this hour) usual traffic near Santa Lucia mall along Marcos High Way and went through Sumolung High Way, Marikina to go home. What I didn’t realize was, that lots of streets in the surroundings of cemeteries were closed because of the Undas celebration. Also in Marikina near Loyola Memorial park. Once In Marikina we were directed to take a different route along Riverside Mall, along Marikina River, going to Marcos High Way. At the detour route, on a non lighted corner I went right on the ramp to enter Marcos High way to go home. At the entrance of the high way I was stopped. I was told that this was the exit of the high way and the entrance was about 50 meters further. Because of the darkness and no lighted signs on the street I did the wrong thing. After explaining to the officer our reasons for being there he was telling us that such violation was dangerous and he should have to write a ticket of 2000 pesos for it. “But”, he said, “I will just make it a lesser violation which cost only 500 pesos.” Again my wife started sweet talking to the officer and I apologized to him for the violation. We ended up with a warning and he was even guiding us safely going into the high way.

Last Monday, still Undas holiday, it was very quiet in the streets. After we came back from the Himlayang cemetery in Tandag Sora, Quezon City we wanted to see a subdivision near SM Taytay. At the intersection of C5 and Ortigas we had to go down (not on the overpass) to go to Taytay direction Antipolo. Under the overpass a few police officers were talking to each other. When the light turned green I started driving and go left, signing properly and slowly. Then I suddenly saw the sign that it was not allowed to go left or to make a U-turn but I was already half way going on Ortigas. The two police officers didn’t react, so for a moment I thought to be lucky. Wrong….. about 50 meters further we were stopped by another officer who told us that it was dangerous to go left there and that we should have go straight and take the U-turn under the overpass. The fine for such violation was 1500 pesos and confiscating my drivers license for 3 months. We ended up saying thank you to the officer and paying him 100 pesos!!
So there goes my ration of San Miguel for that day…!!!! (according to my wife Flor)

If a ticket is given, the drivers license is confiscated. The fine needs to be paid at the justice office in the city where the ticket is issued. I am told that if so, it could cost you a whole day to be able to pay the fine and to get the drivers license back. It didn’t happen to me so far, but I am afraid it will be one day……
Traffic violations should be fined. It is done in all countries in the world, so it should also be done in the Philippines. I do not have problems with it.
Corruption in the Philippines is making it different. I wonder how many tickets are really written every year in the Philippines. It could be some huge extra income for the government. Fact is that most police officers are stopping drivers to tell them that they have made a mistake (true or not) and that they will be issued a ticket. What actually is happening is that the officer is given some money for not writing a ticket. This is very common in the Philippines. Those ‘leeches’ or ‘crocodiles’ as the police officers are called do not like to write tickets, they prefer cash in stead. Most of them are only making 20 thousand or so a month, so it is a welcome surplus to their salaries.
Some police officers already make clear that there are other ways for not having a ticket. They just say that “it can be settled differently” when they talk about a fine and taking in the drivers license. They are even willing to negotiate the ‘fine’. Most of the times 100 pesos will do. But if a foreigner is stopped, driving an expensive brand of car, they might increase the amount proportionally.

But I also have the impression that there are also honest police men, who are not after your money. They also do not like to go into issuing a ticket and the administration to go with it, they just give you a warning.

Leave a Reply or Comment

  1. Hi Jan. First of all let me thank you for your post about The Rooster. It is very kind of you. I am going to write a post and link this great story you have. I have sincerely enjoyed reading it.

    Jan, all I can say is that you are a better man than me. No way would I would drive in a big city in the Philippines. Our little island of Guimaras would not be too hard to negotiate, but Iloilo City where we do our major shopping, no way.

    It is a way of life here, isn’t it? Pay someone some pesos on the side and everything is taken care of. Thanks again for plugging my blog. It is very much appreciated. I owe you some san migs when we meet!

  2. I didn’t drive in Baguio and outside the city, where I lived for a year. I rode jeepneys and taxis (fast and inexpensive for Americans). In Malaysia, where no jeepneys were, I bought a motorcycle. Not knowing all the rules of the road, such as NO left turn on red, I got stopped by a traffic cop who tried in very broken English to get me to pay him for the violation and lack of a Malaysian license or motorcyclist permit on my Florida license rather than take a ticket home with me.
    I honestly didn’t understand what he was getting-at initially, because he wasn’t understandable. Eventually I realized that I could pay on the spot, BUT I knew that I didn’t have sufficient cash (about $43) in my wallet. So I continued appearing dumb and agreeing to take a citation,… and the patrolman tired of me and waved me away rather than write a citation. Cool!
    Weeks later I was stopped again at a checkpoint for motorcyclists (sobriety? helmets?). I was wearing my helmet, and had no alcohol on my breath, the cop looked at my Florida driver license, recognized it/me, and rather than harass me again about not having a Malaysian license, an ‘international license’ or motorcycle endorsement on my FL license, waved me on. Cool.

    • Hi Brian,
      Nice of you to stop by on my site.
      driving in the Philippines will be different from other countries in Asia because police officers here are all speaking some english. You can’t get away with it. But with some money they usually let you go….

  3. I also drive in the Phils with mine car. Mine driver license is dutch with a declaration from the VVV office that i have a driver license. If i make a mistake will thy also confiscating my driver license (the dutch one)? By the way i am not living in the phils yet.

    • Wilfried,
      All foreigners are allowed to use their foreign drivers license until their 90th day of stay in the Philippines. If they intend to stay longer and want to drive they need a Filipino drivers license. At every LTO office they will be able to issue one.
      If a foreigner is getting a ticket for a traffic violation it depends if the officer is a Police man or an officer from MMDA.
      MMDA officers are not allowed to confiscate licenses, but Police officers can and do so. Also foreign licenses will be confiscated. After paying the corresponding fine at the police station in the city where the license was confiscated, the drivers license will be returned.

  4. Kung hindi kayo magpapa-kotong, walang mangongotong. You shouldve given ur license instead of giving them money. It’s like tolerating them na mangotOng. Just saying.

    • I have driven once on a color-coding day and get a ticket. License was confiscated. To get it back costed me a whole day.

  5. Hey Jan!
    The prices, that you’ve negotiated with the police officers are amaizing small… 100 pesos? Once I borowed a motorbike from my wifes friend and had a trip around the area. Unluckyley there was a police control on the road. The other drivers shouting to me and wave the hands, but I didn’t know what’s going on till I was stopped :). I’ve got no helmet, registration documents or driving license :). I’ve askqed to pay a fine of 5000 pesos and ofcourse motorbike confiscation. After very long talk I payed 1000 pesos to the police officers pocked and called myself lucky. Later on my friends said me that 200 will do and I’ve overpad extremely :). Lesson for future.

    • Hi Lucas, I had my wife sitting next to me and she did most of the talking….
      But today police and mmda are a little affraid to do so, at least they are not offering these practices anymore.
      I do not klnow how they react if a driver is offering to settle things….

  6. Hey y’all. I just moved here last summer (2012). But I had visited here a few times before. My wife is filipina and she now refuses to talk to them when they flag me over. I was a police officer for several years and they just need to be challenged. I have paid several bribes to them and I’m going to start standing up to them if they don’t back down. I’m retired and I’ll go to the courthouse if they write me a ticket and maybe jail one time, but I will also get a picture of them and write a complaint if they suggest any corruption. I have printed a list of violations from the MMDA website that I will carry in my vehicles. The fines they give are usually bogus and they cannot take your license or tow your car for “any offense”. More than likely you will not violate any of them. Check out this website if you have time and arm yourself with this info. I will try and let you know if this works or not, or see me on an episode of “locked up abroad”. I see the eyes of these guys “light up” when they see a tall white dude driving here. They need to be trained to look away when we pass by.


    • Hi Troy,
      First a difference in Police and MMDA officers.
      MMDA officers are not allowed to confiscate your drivers licence in a traffic violation. But Police officers can. Just like your wife, mine doesn’t want to deal with these crocodiles anymore. They are obligated to speak English to you, because it is the second official language in this country, but they are more comfortable in speaking Tagalog. Ask them to speak English because YOU are the driver and does not understand Tagalog. Let them explain what mistake you make and why. (90% they do not like to do that, and just let you go)
      My experience is that they do not like the hassle in speaking English, and in confiscating your licence, they just wait in writing a ticket until you ask them if some money (100 pesos usualy will do) make them look the other way. They still prefer the extra money, but are very carefull these days. They do not ask anymore like they did a few years ago. The national government is fighting corrupt police officers, and they know that. One tip: Always write down the name of the officer, date and time and location, if you get a ticket or not; this might scare them already. If you do so before they issue a ticket, big chance that they just let you go with a warning. BUT always be polite and keep on smiling.

      Better be carefull in getting a ticket in a different city. To get your drivers licence back cost you a full day and you have to go to a hot town hall in that city. I’ve done it once. This is definately NOT more fun in the Filippines.