Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dealing with shakedown cops

This is my column today.

Now that the threat has dissipated—or at least we think so—and we are finally allowed to bask in anticipation of the holiday season, it seems people have moved on to other things.

I originally meant to continue where I left off last Monday and write about the implications of last Thursday’s failed efforts to wrestle control of Malacañang via the posh confines of the Peninsula Manila. Quite incongruous, I know. Street parliamentarians battle Manila’s noxious gases, play patintero with jeepneys and buses, expose themselves to the scorching heat of the sun and depend on the kindness of strangers for sustenance. The members of the New People Army survive on kamote and suffer the harshest living conditions possible.

Trillanes and Company do it in style. They simply take a whole five-star hotel hostage. Why suffer the elements when one can swagger around in air-conditioned surroundings, commandeer function rooms, order room service, and enjoy world-class amenities?

Others give up their lives for their causes. Trillanes and company began by making bold pronouncements about how they were willing to give up their lives for their cause. When push came to shove, they surrendered with nary a whimper. Of course, they claimed to have done so to avoid bloodshed. People who were expecting heroism were sorely disappointed. My neighborhood tanod said it best “Naging Mr. Pogi ang labanan!”

I also meant to weigh in on the latest brouhaha involving military officials, ABS-CBN, and Ces Drilon’s high heels and animal-print headband. To dispel widespread suspicion that ABS-CBN was in on the plans to takeover the Peninsula Manila, Drilon offered this excuse: Had she known, she shouldn’t have worn high-heels. Or that particular headband, Pinky Webb added. I don’t know what the standard attire for covering coups and attempted rebellion is; or for that matter how fashion sense is relevant to the issue. But, only in the Philippines do we have journalists citing fashion sense as an alibi.

And then it struck me. It seems broadcast journalists, radio commentators, and columnists whose job descriptions require that they formulate and peddle opinions to get people worked up emotionally, are the only ones stuck in this time warp dated Nov. 29, 2007. Most everyone, it seems, has moved on to other more interesting and exciting issues. If media does not make it a point to remind us constantly, in the process even making itself an inserting itself squarely in the middle of the issues, it would seem as if that whole caper did not happen at all. Trillanes and company has been displaced as headline material by more recent events.
The shelf life of even the most shocking events has become shorter.

I am sure that there are many out there who will bewail this development and label it “collective apathy,” “condoning immorality,” and “unprincipled citizenship.” I prefer to see it differently.
I think that people have moved on to other things precisely because they have made up their minds on the guilt and culpability of Trillanes and company. Having made that conclusion, what else can be said and done but to leave the matter in the hands of the authorities? I think that most everyone has moved on with their lives, not because they don’t care about what is happening in this country, but precisely because they feel that there are other things that are more important than the sourgrapings of disgruntled has-beens. The best way to show scorn for Trillanes and company is to ignore them. Yup, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Of course it is also possible that the reason why the shelf life of even the most shocking controversies has become so short is because we’ve become immune and desensitized to all kinds of political disturbance. We’ve seen them all. Another coup? Been there, done that. Another bribe-taking story? What else is new? Hardly surprising when we consider that scandals and controversies have become some kind of a cottage industry in this country and certain quarters have become experts on creating, amplifying, and sustaining scandals to suit their own purposes.

***

Taking my cue, I will move on to a different matter. Because the Christmas rush has descended upon us, we expect traffic to become worse in Metro Manila. Christmas and traffic make a fatal combination particularly to those who are magnets for shakedown cops.

I received an e-mail entitled “What to do about abusive Metro Manila Development Authority officers.” The identity of the “original” source of the e-mail has unfortunately been taken off from the e-mail path when it got to me so I don’t know who actually wrote the lament. If he or she is reading this, I would be happy to acknowledge his or her identity as the author of the e-mail.

I checked with the offices of the MMDA to verify the information in the e-mail. I was met with a blank wall as everyone I talked to on the phone refused to comment on the contents of the e-mail. Apparently, there is a standing gag order not to confirm or deny the advice given in the e-mail. Someone finally referred me to the Traffic Management Office where I was met by another round of buck passing.

Here is what I know so far. Mr. Antonio Pagulayan was indeed interviewed by the author of the e-mail. The advice given is valid and legal. My source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed however that Mr. Pagulayan was not aware that his “advice” would be written up as an e-mail that would get forwarded to the world. Mr. Pagulayan is now on leave, and MMDA officials who seem to prefer keeping people in the dark about their rights, are in a bind. I am reprinting the e-mail below:

“I just reached my limit last weekend, and decided to take action against the abusive MMDA enforcers. I basically called up the MMDA head office and inquired from the personnel officer, Antonio Pagulayan, to clarify their policies. Here is what I got.

If any of these abuses seem familiar to you, Mr. Pagulayan has asked that you call either the MMDA hotline (136) or call the METRO BASE at 0920-938-9861 or 0920-938-9875 and ask for an inspectorate. They will send inspectors to the place where these MMDA officers are extorting, even while you are arguing out of your apprehension.

1. MMDA officers are not allowed to group together in order to apprehend. They are not even allowed to stand together in groups of two or more. The only time they are allowed to work together is for special operations (probably when they apprehend groups of buses for smoke belching).

2. Swerving IS NOT a traffic violation. Moving one lane to the left or right is not swerving, no matter where on the road you do it. And it is even less of a violation when you do it with a signal. Swerving is defined as shifting two or more lanes very quickly. So you can argue your way out of this, and call the Metro Base for help.

3. Sadly, using the yellow lane is a traffic violation and will get you a ticket. However, buses are really not allowed to go out of the yellow lane, so if you see selective apprehension of private cars only, you may complain.

4. MMDA has confirmed that YOUR LICENSE MAY NOT BE CONFISCATED at a traffic apprehension. The only time they can do so is if you are part of an accident, or it is your third violation and you have not settled your fines yet. They are only allowed to give you a ticket, which you can contest. He recommends actually receiving the ticket in some instances, so that you can report the officer who did it.

5. Also, you are free to ask any of these officers for their “mission order,” which is written by their supervisor. If they apprehend you for a violation that is not in their mission order for the day, you can report them and they will receive disciplinary action.”


1 comment:

JT said...

are those "chocolate boys (i think orange boys na sila ngayon)" along macapagal avenue part of the mmda group?

I hate them. I really do. particularly those stationed just across the street from the gasoline station beside blue wave.

wala lang. im just wondering if i could like use that forwarded email so i could slap it at their faces....