Press Release
May 30, 2016

Senate approves bill penalizing distracted driving, 4 other measures

The Senate today approved on third and final reading five new bills, including a measure which sought to prohibit and penalize 'distracted driving,' or the practice of making phone calls and other activities while driving a motor vehicle.

The five pending legislation were passed by the Senate before both houses of Congress will reconvene as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) on Monday afternoon, May 30, to proclaim the winning presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the May 9 elections.

Senator Serge Osmeña, acting chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said Senate Bill No. 3211, known as the Anti-Distracted Driving Act, aimed to safeguard the public "from the ruinous and extremely injurious effects of vehicular accidents."

"While the State recognizes the vital roles of information and communications technology in nation-building, the State also takes cognizance of the inimical consequences of the unrestrained use of electronic mobile devices on road safety as to cause its regulation," Osmeña's bill said.

Once passed into law, the measure would make 'distracted driving' unlawful, which was defined by the bill as performing any of the following acts while driving a vehicle in motion or stopped in red light: "using a mobile communications to write, send, or read a text-based communication or to make or receive calls," along with "using an electronic entertainment or computing device to play games, watch movies, surf the Internet, compose messages, read e-books, perform calculations, and other similar acts."

Under the bill, stiff penalties would be imposed on violators, including a fine of P15,000 and suspension of driver's license for individuals upon committing their third offense of the proposed act.

However, the proposed bill would not apply to people "using mobile phones for emergencies, including calls to a law enforcement agency, healthcare provider, fire department, or other emergency services, agency or entity," or to people "using mobile phones while operating vehicles providing emergency assistance," such as ambulances or fire trucks.

The Senate also passed SBN 2948, which sought to establish a National Vision Screening Program (NVSP) that would help screen the eye vision of kindergarten pupils with visual problems.

Senator Pia Cayetano, sponsor of SBN 2948, said that the bill would establish a centralized and organized program for vision screening tests for schoolchildren across the country, with the help of the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Education (DepEd), and other institutions.

Under the bill, the NVSP would provide attention to kindergarten pupils found to be visually impaired, so that they could be checked and treated by eye care practitioners.

"It is important that vision screening tests be conducted at an early stage, precisely to prevent complications in the future," Cayetano said.

Two other bills on education and healthcare, HBN 4366 and HBN 5746, were also passed by the Senate.

Once enacted into law, HBN 4366 would establish the Science and Technology High School in Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City, Rizal, while HBN 5746 would convert the old Mayor Hilarion Ramiro Sr. Regional Training and Teaching Hospital in Misamis Occidental, into the Mayor Hilarion A. Ramiro Medical Center.

The Senate also passed House Bill 6080, which would amend Presidential Degree 269 as amended by Republic Act 10531, or the National Electrification Administration Reform Act of 2013, to modify the qualifications for, and create a screening committee in the election or appointment of directors and officers of electric cooperatives.

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