Abusive traffic enforcers

The MMDA chairman has asked motorists to report to his office abusive traffic enforcers. I say to motorists: dismiss the MMDA’s statement as just empty talk. I reported in writing an incident of abuse and delivered personally the complaint letter to his office. A certain Chie received the letter. I submitted a copy of the letter to the Traffic Adjudication Advisor. A certain Frank received the copy. I never heard from either office.

The complaint stemmed from my apprehension by traffic aides for allegedly obstructing traffic. I was cruising on the innermost lane of the westbound side of Alabang- Zapote Road (the one going towards Las Pinas) one early Sunday afternoon when I stopped at the intersection of Filinvest Avenue because the red light was on. When the green light came on, I shifted gear from neutral to first and moved slightly, expecting the left-turn signal to turn green momentarily as is common with traffic lights. However, the arrow remained red. It was the traffic lights facing Filinvest Avenue that turned green.

As is usual at that time (1:00 pm) on a Sunday, traffic was very light on Zapote-Alabang, hardly any on the short Filinvest Avenue (its entire length is only 600 meters).   When the left turn signal eventually came on, I drove into Filinvest Avenue, where four MMDA aides blocked my way and told me to pull over.

When I asked them why, they said I had obstructed traffic on Filinvest Avenue as my vehicle had crossed the white line on the left-turn lane on Alabang-Zapote, supposedly blocking the northbound traffic on Filinvest Avenue.

Each side of the avenue is 3-lane wide. My vehicle, although one foot past the white line on the innermost lane of the road, did not obstruct traffic coming from the south end of Filinvest Avenue. Besides, nary a car on Filinvest crossed Alabang-Zapote Road at the time. The traffic is on Bridgeway which connects the Supermall side of Filinvest Corporate City to the call centers on the north side of West Gate.

On their insistence I showed them my license. One of them (he looked like in his early 20s, got it and started to write on his booklet of TVRs. I protested saying he should not be issuing me a TVR as I did not violate any traffic rule. When he ignored me and kept filling out the ticket, I told the group I would complain to the MMDA chairman and if they are disciplined by the chairman they should not come to me begging for mercy.

One of them (he looked like he was in his late 40s) asked me politely where I live and what my name is. Upon getting the answers, he grabbed my license from his TVR-happy associate, handed it to me, and said, “Sigue na po, okay na” in a tone like he wanted me to drive away fast. He must have concluded from my place of residence and my last name that I could have connections with the powers that be and get them into trouble.

My driver’s license having been given back without any notation or mark and not having been given a TVR, I shrugged off the whole incident. Well, when I was renewing my driver’s license at the Alabang extension office of the LTO, I was told that the renewal of my license would be held pending until I shall have obtained clearance from MMDA.

At the MMDA I was presented a traffic violation report, not for obstruction of traffic as verbally told me when I was apprehended, but for “disregarding traf.” The report was submitted by “Enforcer Warmy Alejo, Badge No. 02955, AOR 7607 Taguig. Status: Not Assigned.” I wondered if that meant Alejo had no assignment when he issued that TVR.

I had no recourse but to pay the fine so I could get my driver’s license renewed. I overheard one motorcycled messenger mutter to another, “I should have paid what the traffic enforcer asked for. It turns out that that costs less than having to come here all the way from Muntinlupa, lose working hours by lining up here, and paying the fine after all.”

My expereince with MMDA and PNP officials who preceded the current ones was more positive. One time two motorcycle cops issued me a ticket for driving a car on the road with a supposed expired license. The license was still valid because there were still several days of the month left. But the cops thought that because the middle digit of my car’s license plate was 1, the license had expired by the second week of the month. Actually I had renewed the license of the car but had not placed the new stickers on the car precisely because I was afraid that some poorly trained LTO field inspector might apprehend me for not having the stickers for the current period.

I tried to clarify to the two cops that the middle digit of the license plate merely suggests in which week of the month the LTO prefers that licenses be renewed so that applications for renewal are spread out during the month and not jammed up in the last days of the month. I told them it was not mandatory that the license be renewed in the week indicated by the middle digit. The two cops, both named Reyes and both just six months out of the Police Academy, just dropped the TVR on my lap and walked away.

I immediately fired off a complaint letter to PNP Director-General Ebdane, a copy of the letter sent to DILG Secretary Jose Lina. I did not know either official personally. But within a couple of days I got a letter from Director-General Ebdane directing me to go to the PNP Highway Patrol Group office in Camp Crame. The two cops were told in my presence that they were wrong in issuing me a TVR. They were told in my presence that the punishment for their apprehending me and issuing me a TVR would be suspension and forfeiture of all fringe benefits, including the monthly rice subsidy, for the entire year.

After the briefing at Camp Crame, the two cops sought me out, going to my office first and when they missed me there, they tried to see me at my home. They wanted me to withdraw my complaint so that no punishment would be imposed on them.

There were two other incidents involving my driver – one time for going the wrong way on a one-way street (the sign was hidden by the thick foliage of a tree) and another for parking in a no-parking zone when he was just unloading stuff from the car. Both cases where resolved to my satisfaction.

That is why I warned those who apprehended me on Filinvest Avenue of dire consequences for their abuse of discretion. That is also why I was quick to complain to MMDA.

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