By Darryl John Esguerra

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has prohibited government officials and personnel from using sirens, blinkers and other similar signaling or flashing devices.

In his Administrative Order (AO) No. 18, Marcos said the unauthorized and indiscriminate use of sirens, blinkers and other similar signaling or flashing devices has been rampant, causing traffic disruptions and unsafe road and traffic environments.

“All government officials and personnel are hereby prohibited from utilizing sirens, blinkers and other similar gadgets that produce exceptionally loud or startling sound, including dome lights, blinkers, or other similar signaling or flashing devices,” Marcos said in his order.

Exempted from the prohibition are vehicles of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Philippine National Police (PNP), fire trucks, hospital ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

Marcos warned that unauthorized and improper use of signaling or flashing devices will be dealt with following applicable laws, rules and regulations.

“In this light, all government officials and personnel are hereby reminded that use of sirens, dome lights, blinkers and other similar devices shall only be under exigent or emergency circumstances or situations or to ensure the expedient and safe passage of emergency responders,” he said.

The Department of Transportation, along with other government agencies, is directed to review, regulate and evaluate and update existing policies and guidelines to ensure the effective implementation of AO 18.

Regulation of low-numbered protocol plates

Meanwhile, Marcos ordered a regulation of the issuance of protocol license plates to government officials amid increasing complaints on proliferation and unauthorized use.

The President issued Executive Order (EO) 56, to amend EO No. 400 (s. 2005), cutting the number of government officials entitled to use protocol license plates to 14 from the previous list of 16 officials.

On the list are the President with number 1 designation; Vice President, 2; Senate President, 3; Speaker of the House of Representatives, 4; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 5; Cabinet Secretaries, 6; Senators, 7; Members of the House of Representatives, 8; and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, 9.

The Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals (CA), Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), Sandiganbayan, and Solicitors General were given the number 10 designation; the Chairperson of Constitutional Commission and Ombudsman, 11; and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Chief of the Philippine National Police, 14.

Under the EO, the use of protocol license plates by authorized officials are upon the recommendation of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), approval of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), and based on the list of all officials with equivalent rank as the above-authorized officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The EO made clear that although the Associate Justices of the CA, CTA and Sandiganbayan may be allowed to use protocol license plates upon LTO’s recommendation and transportation secretary’s approval, this shall not be “construed to authorize all other officials with equivalent rank as the Associate Justices of the CA, CTA and Sandiganbayan and below to use protocol license plates.”

The authorized officials will only be allowed a maximum of two pairs of protocol license plates, while the President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court may be allowed a maximum of three pairs.

The assignment and transfer of protocol license plates to unauthorized persons or motor vehicles is also strictly prohibited.

The DOTr is tasked to develop and maintain a registry of protocol license plates issued to all authorized government officials or motor vehicles, and implement guidelines, along with the LTO, that will not in any way expand the list of officials authorized to use protocol license plates.

AO 18 and EO 56, both signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on March 25, will take effect immediately after publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation.

Setting a good example

Several senators lauded President Marcos for issuing AO 18.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said President Marcos is setting a good example to constituents, especially when it comes to dealing with traffic.

He also suggested limiting the sale of sirens, blinkers, dome lights, and other similar emergency devices to vehicles used only by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Police Departments, Fire Departments, and hospital ambulances.

In a separate statement, Senator Grace Poe said President Marcos’ move prevents abuse and the display of self-entitlement on the road.

Pantay-pantay tayo dapat kahit sa kalsada. Ang byahe ng government officials ay kasing importante rin ng byahe ng ordinaryong mamamayan (There should be equality even in the roads. Travels of government officials are as important as the travels of ordinary travelers’). The rule should be enforced fairly and universally,” Poe said.

Senator Imee Marcos, who chairs the Committee on Foreign Relations, also agreed with the directive, but suggested that the exemptions should also include foreign dignitaries who are on official visit to the country.

Naiintindihan naman natin yung Pangulo kung gagamit ng ‘wang-wang’ patungo sa Kongreso [during his State of the Nation Address] o di kaya ay yung bisita na opisyal (We understand the President when he uses sirens and blinkers in going to Congress during his State of the Nation Address, or official visitors) from other countries should be given the courtesy of avoiding the traffic,” she said in a Zoom interview.


The Philippine National Police (PNP), meanwhile, said the President’s AO 18 would reinforce their crackdown against the illegal use of sirens, blinkers, and similar signaling or flashing devices.

PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo, in a press briefing in Camp Crame Thursday, said an earlier ban on the use of these devices has been in place under Presidential Decree (PD) 96 by Marcos’ father and namesake, the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr.

“There would be no sacred cows in our implementation of this measure, regardless of their status, whether they are on board an SUV (sports utility vehicle), ordinary car, or a motorcycle, we should all follow the law,” Fajardo said.

She said they would also run after sellers of these devices.

“Hindi lamang tayo magbabantay sa mga kalsada at major thoroughfares, yung ating visitorial power ay gagamitin na din natin katuwang ang ibang ahensya ng gobyerno para bisitahin ang mga motor shops na nagbebenta ng mga ganitong blinkers, sirens, at similar gadgets po, para doon pa lamang sa source ng mga illegal blinkers na ito ay masasawata na natin (We are not just monitoring the streets and major thoroughfares. We are also using our visitorial power in coordination with other government agencies to inspect motor shops that sell these blinkers, sirens and similar gadgets, so that we can curb their sources),” she added.

The PNP said it has confiscated a total of 2,546 blinkers and sirens from January to March this year. (with reports from Wilnard Bacelonia and Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)