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Higher penalty means more ‘kotong’

/ 12:10 AM April 12, 2017

I was stuck in traffic for what seemed like an eternity. My cell phone was ringing incessantly. As my speaker phone was not working well at that time, I picked it up. A client wanted to know why I was one hour late for our 5 p.m. meeting. I replied it might be better to cancel the meeting given the gridlock I was in. No chance, he said, because he was flying out of the country the next day. It being very urgent, he was willing to meet me somewhere else later.

Just about then, two MMDA traffic enforcers showed up out of the blue. One of them tapped on my car window and pointed to my cell phone next to my ear. I replied I was neither “driving” nor “stopping on red light.” The long queue I was in was due to a snarled-up traffic at an intersection some 30 meters ahead, where the traffic lights were dead—and where they should be to help untangle the mess, instead of being such assh—s scavenging elsewhere for “negotiable” violations. I handed over my calling card so they could reach me at my law office in case they wanted to pursue the matter any further. When I also asked for their full names, they backed off and walked away.

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Moments later, I got out of my car to see how bad the situation was. I found out that no one was yielding to anyone at the intersection. It was an absolute standstill. With another civic-minded motorist’s help, we managed to make vehicles move forward or backward just enough to let other vehicles squeeze through. Toughest of all was to convince jeepney drivers to move away from the corners where they occupied all lanes to wait for passengers, totally oblivious of the total chaos they had created at that intersection.

After about 45 minutes, traffic started flowing again. Later, a kagawad in that neck of the woods appeared to take control. And where were the MMDA guys who slunk off after realizing I was no easy prey to their scam? Gone.

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That incident shows how easily a good law can be misused and abused in a setting like Metro Manila where eight out of 10 traffic enforcers are perceived to be “kotongeros.” Needless to say, I could have been really in trouble had the douchebags who tried to hustle me insisted that I was on the phone while my car was moving even at a snail’s pace, and relied on that so-called “presumption of regularity in the performance of their duty.”

Ordinarily, a motorist in such a pickle would have just forked over P500 (or perhaps P1,000) rather than be inconvenienced by the tedious process of paying the fine. What usually happens when another law is passed with higher penalties supposedly to deter violations? It just raises the kotong.

Under the new Anti-Distracted Driving Act, the use of a mobile communications device while driving or even temporarily stopping on red light is penalized by a stiff fine of P5,000 for the first offense, P10,000 for the second, P15,000 and suspension of the driver’s license for the third, P20,000 and revocation of the driver’s license for the fourth. It’s another gold mine for scalawags.

Not a few, knowing President Duterte’s legendary impatience that pushes him to resort to shortcuts, wonder why he has seemed indifferent to the manifest menace that continues to plague Metro Manila’s traffic. Instead of obsessing too much with the need for “emergency powers,” all the Duterte administration really has to do is to abolish the graft-ridden MMDA to put the well-entrenched “payola” syndicates there out of business and create another agency with a clean slate.

ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo “Failon Ngayon” frequently shows on TV how chokepoints develop almost everyday along Edsa and everywhere else: MMDA traffic enforcers do nothing about the blatant violations by bus and jeepney drivers. In not a few interviews, MMDA acting chief Tim Orbos has admitted marami talagang tamad sa mga traffic enforcers natin. Somehow, making kaway-kaway all day gets them too tired to do anything else. To many of us who were not born yesterday, such “alternative” fact does not even begin to describe what they actually do.

STEPHEN L. MONSANTO, Monsanto Law Office, [email protected]

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TAGS: kotong, letter, Letter to the Editor, MMDA, opinion, traffic, Transportation
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