Monday, October 19, 2009

0 Drag Race Addiction

Legazpi City, Albay—TALK ABOUT SOMETHING IRONIC. “There is no law constituting (and penalizing underground unlawful) drag racing,” said Police Chief Inspector Erwin Rebellon of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) in Bicol region.

Drag racing, as defined, is a competition in which vehicles compete to be the first to cross a set finish line, usually from a standing start, and in a straight line. Racing events, like this, become unlawful if “illegitimate vehicles are used, if traffic rules are violated, and if there is bet money involved,” Rebellon clarified.

On the other hand, drag racing is legalized “if safety measures are observed, if the organizers secure permit from the local government before holding the race, and if the race event is under the observation of HPG,” he explained.

For the record, Rebellon said the HPG monitors no illegal speed contest in the province of Albay.

Only if he knew.

Racers in the dark
Greg, Ron and Ed (real names withheld) are self-confessed car drag racers.

Greg, 31, was formerly a drag-race negotiator for ‘Speedmoto’—a drag-race team in the province well-known at least in the world of unlawful drag racing. The 23-year-old Ron and Ed are currently driving the wheels for the same team.

“’Speedmoto,'” according to Ed, “was founded in Manila. We have members coming from Metro Manila and throughout the Bicol region.”

Inside the race
Negotiators or bet-managers like Greg play a big role in unlawful drag racing. “(Negotiators) are the ones who decide how much the bet money would be, and where and when the race must be held,” explained Greg who has now chosen fatherhood over drag racing.

Greg added “if other drag-race teams are interested to race with (our team), we negotiators would talk among ourselves.”

Greg and Ed said that the amount of bet money to be put up for every “round” would depend on what the two competing teams have agreed upon. And when asked what the usual odds of the bets are, Greg stated: “Between 10 to 70 thousand pesos.” This statement was supported by Ron, Greg’s younger brother, on a separate interview.

“The winning team should receive the prize money immediately after the game,” Ed said. He added that in their team, “10 percent of the prize is allotted to the racecar driver and to the car’s owner while the remaining 90 percent goes to the other members of the team.”

Ed also shared that the biggest winning their team has received to date amounted to 78 thousand pesos.

Underground drag racers are nocturnal. “We hold (the race) in the middle of the night, at around 12 to 1 a.m.,” said Ron, who is not into the so-called “friendly racing” wherein no bet money is involved. He added that they usually hold the race along the national highway in Barangay Tabon-Tabon, Daraga Town and in Barangay Bogtong in Legazpi City.

Furthermore, Ron and Ed admitted that if their team has enough money, they fund their own racecar. “We would buy car parts and have it assembled in Antipolo (City),” the two revealed. The team would throw at least a hundred thousand pesos just for the car assembly.

Race with authority
More often than not, reports on unlawful drag racing show that the police have difficulty apprehending those involved because drag racers are usually in close contact with each other and always on the lookout for the law enforcers. The police could also not get wind of the venue and the race time because underground drag racers would constantly change the ‘where’ and the ‘when’ of the race.

Here in Albay, there are two other reasons why the police could not easily catch up with underground drag racers. First, it is hard to draw near with them. “It is hard to catch up with these racers especially they are using racing vehicles,” said PO3 Tomas Calubaquib of the PNP Regional Office 5. And second, these drag racers are allegedly being protected by a ‘police backer’ involved in underground racing activities. “Though illegal, it’s hard to quit this kind of racing because this is our hobby. The bet money only spices up the game. We haven’t met any trouble yet because most of underground drag racers have a police backer,” Greg revealed, refusing to name their benefactors.

But when asked for a statement concerning the alleged backing up of the police, Rebellon said, “It’s not us, it’s them. I deny it categorically that (HPG has a) connivance with these drag racers.”

Directly affected
Barangay Chairperson Ma. Jane Azotillo of Bogtong, Legazpi City strongly condemned unlawful drag racing.

“We don’t tolerate it because of the noise,” she said. “When I was still a barangay councilor, we had received reports of drag racing from the residents who were highly affected by the noise (brought by the race),” Azotillo added.

Ron said their team holds illegal speed contest in Bogtong; but it is surprising to know that the barangay officials in the said village do not have any knowledge about it. “As of now, there is no (drag racing event) reported to us,” Azotillo said.

To prevent unlawful drag race in their place, Azotillo said they have barangay tanods to help monitor illegal racing activities.

Law needed
Since there is no definite law prosecuting unlawful drag racing, Rebellon said there will only be police intervention if the racers that they would catch broke certain laws like Republic Act 6539, otherwise known as the Anti-Car napping Act of 1972 (if a drag racer is found in possession of a stolen vehicle); Presidential Decree 1612, otherwise known as the Anti-Fencing Law of 1979 (if a drag racer is caught in possession of illegal or stolen car parts); or if a drag racer violated a particular law relative to the land transportation and traffic rules (Republic Act 4136).

Reports have shown that law enforcers could hardly arrest underground drag racers because most of the time, they have complete registration and license. Thus, a law directly penalizing unlawful drag racing itself, let alone regulating it, should be enacted. If not, this dangerous and illegal sport has a long way to go.

Hell ride
Behind the excitement drag racing provides its aficionados, this sport is undoubtedly risky. But why is it that a lot of enthusiasts still engage in this kind of activity despite the health perils these racers are facing everytime they rev up the engines, heat the tires and run their big toys?

“It’s our hobby and at the same time, we gain money from it,” Ron said. “We haven’t met any untoward incident yet and we also observe safety measures (before the race),” he added.

To Greg, drag racing is not all about money. “It brings us happiness and we establish camaraderie through it.”

On the other hand, drag racing to Ed is all about exhilaration and reputation. “The feeling is different everytime we win the race. And winning contributes a lot to the reputation of our group.”

But at the end of the day, addiction especially to something unlawful will never bring these big boys any good.

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