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Business

No contact highway robbery

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Alas and alack, our government has given us another big headache. Throbbing and persistent, it will leave you impossibly frustrated.

I’m talking about the No Contact Apprehension Scheme of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, now implemented by the different local government units. The policy utilizes digital cameras to capture videos and images to apprehend vehicles violating traffic laws.

In principle, a no-contact apprehension policy can be effective, laudable even. It works in other countries.

But certainly not here in the land of mayhem — where driving through Metro Manila’s nooks and crannies sometimes feels like entering a no-man’s land or a series of blind alleys; not here where even the main roads are riddled with potholes, every one hundred meters or so; not here where you can hardly see the street signs, usually covered with dirt and the polluted Manila air; not here where lane markings suddenly disappear like Harry Houdini, and especially not here where, the roads are teeming with drivers who don’t know how to drive properly.

Make no mistake, if this scheme isn’t suspended, reviewed thoroughly or significantly improved, it will explode like a tempest in a teapot.

Let me tell you why.

The system, you see, is flawed. You leave the house and go on about your daily rhyme and rhythm. You drive the best way you can — potholes, missing signs, reckless drivers and all.

Two months later, you get a notice from another city, informing you of your traffic violation. You were there, says the notice — on this day, around this time.

You refresh your memory, but you can’t seem to remember. But there’s a photo of your vehicle caught on camera.

“Disregarding lane markings,” says the notice. You concede because you see your car in the photo. There’s no mistaking it. But you disagree with the violation because as the photo shows, you were clearly inside the lanes.

You can play the video to see for yourself how it happened, says the letter.

But lo and behold, the video will never play — not today, not tomorrow, not two, five or 10 days after. And on the 10th day you must pay!

You can pay online with the click of a button, but you’d like to go to the city hall to defend your situation. You must say your piece as if your life and liberty depended on it, you tell yourself.

But in fractions of seconds, you play the scenario in your head. Just going through the city hall would feel like walking the gauntlet. It’s true in every city hall, there’s just no walking-in-a-breeze kind of day. You will be head-to-head with supposed civil servants who make you feel, with every question, that you are disturbing their day. You will be given the runaround and by the time you reach the right office, you’re spent and tired and you just want to cry in frustration.

So you choose peace over hassle. You stay home and just pay — despite the defiance inside you — the P2,000 fee.

But it doesn’t get better. You navigate Manila City Government’s Go Manila website, but you realize soon enough it is as Jurassic as a government office portal can be. You need to log in and in the process, you end up giving your personal data as is required.

Several minutes more and you still don’t know which button to click. You finally reach the payment portal, but the final amount is P75 pesos more with the “convenience” fee. But really, it was anything but convenient.

That’s P2,075 down the drain for a violation you totally believe in your heart of hearts, you did not commit.

Numerous complaints

It’s no wonder the number of complaints against this policy has been piling up. Yet at the end of the day, motorists can’t do anything except to cry uncle.

But really, this is unfair and as silly as it can get. I skimmed through the list of complaints on social media and they’re as endless as they are varied, and it’s not just against one LGU or one city.

Some complained about how their plate numbers seemed to have been photoshopped. They swear on their mother’s grave, they just weren’t on that road at that moment. Unfortunately, the video won’t play, nothing to prove their guilt or innocence.

Others lament that they were just trying to veer away from the potholes. But in the MMDA’s cameras, that’s disregarding lane markings — no ifs or buts. If this isn’t corruption, tell me what it is.

Some of our lawmakers are calling for the suspension of the scheme. This is the right thing to do. Let’s fix our roads first before we can implement something like this.

Otherwise, it will just be another milking cow at the expense of the Filipino taxpayer.

Corruption

A no-contact apprehension policy is supposed to spare us from unscrupulous traffic enforcers, but the alternative only made corruption hi-tech.

Now, Filipino taxpayers are robbed and rolled over — again and again. Corruption is so endemic that it seems our government agencies or LGUs just want to keep finding ways to milk us.

It’s no wonder solving poverty in this country feels like going around in circles, with society ending up in the same slime and sleaze.

Oh how badly we have plunged in a maelstrom of incompetence and corruption.

 

 

Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com.

NO CONTACT APPREHENSION

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