Public Nuisance
- Lester Dizon () - May 21, 2008 - 12:00am

A nuisance is legally defined as a substantial act interfering with the right to enjoy life or the right to use and enjoy one’s property. The nuisance may be intentional, negligent or ultra-hazardous in origin and it must be a direct result of a defendant’s activity to make him liable. The word “nuisance” literally means annoyance or anything that causes hurt, inconvenience or damage and renders the enjoyment of life and property uncomfortable.

Nuisances are either public or private nuisances. A public or common nuisance is such an inconvenience or troublesome offence that it annoys the whole community in general, and not merely some particular person. To constitute a public nuisance, there must be a number of persons annoyed and that the offence can no longer be considered a private nuisance. However, it is difficult to define what degree of annoyance is necessary to constitute a nuisance.

I don’t know about you but when I’m riding or driving anywhere around Metro Manila, I see a lot of public nuisances that many of our government officials have either neglected to correct or have intentionally ignored for his or her political agenda. Some of these nuisances are even public service projects designed and executed poorly by inept engineers and contractors due to the misappropriation of funds or perhaps because of plain and simply stupidity. Allow me to give specific examples of some annoying road nuisances:

EDSA Bus Lane Traffic Barriers. These concrete lane splitters were constructed along EDSA by the MMDA supposedly to organize the loading and unloading of passengers and to discipline bus drivers, who are the major cause of traffic on EDSA. But, as anyone who passes EDSA can attest, these bus lane barriers create more traffic problems than solve them. If you’re going southbound on EDSA, these traffic barriers cause traffic from Muñoz all the way to the Magallanes interchange, specifically the ones at Muñoz, West Avenue, Cubao, Greenhills, Guadalupe and Pasong Tamo. And it’s the same thing when you’re northbound – traffic crawls as you approach these bus lane traffic barriers. Perhaps Bayani Fernando should stop spending government funds on producing these concrete lane splitters and spend the money wisely on finding real and long-term traffic solutions like building a multi-tiered highway on EDSA or, better yet, save the taxpayers’ money by firing all his inept lieutenants, employees and traffic aides. Because, once you analyze it, the “experiments” that the MMDA had been conducting on our roads have been nothing more than mere public nuisances.

Construction of the C-5/Kalayaan Elevated U-Turn. On the surface, the elevated U-turn on C-5 and Kalayaan looks like a good solution to the traffic created by the volume of vehicles passing that intersection. I’ve personally seen and driven on elevated U-turns in Thailand and these were well-designed roadways that helped decongest traffic in certain areas. But the manner by which the MMDA undertook the design and the construction of the C-5/Kalayaan elevated U-turn smacks of grave incompetence and the general lack of concern for the public’s convenience. The engineers and contractors of this project never considered planning for road widening or re-routing in anticipation of the construction activities. I think they do not even have the foresight to see that once the elevated U-turn is completed, it will aggravate the traffic because it occupies two lanes and effectively creates a bottleneck. Knowing how Filipino drivers like jockeying for an opening instead of lining up properly, cars entering the elevated U-turn will block C-5 and create more traffic at Kalayaan because the elevated U-turn is too near the intersection. Perhaps, the money used for those vane PR-campaign-Metro-Gwapo-BF-for-future-President tarpaulin banners should have been put to better use hiring more capable designers, contractors and engineers for the construction of this U-turned public nuisance.

Improvement of the South Luzon Expressway. When the North Luzon Expressway was being improved by MNTC, nobody was really inconvenienced while it was being constructed. While traffic was indeed bad even before construction began, MNTC planners and engineers made sure that there were no bottleneck areas during construction and that the expressway always had two serviceable lanes available on either direction which guaranteed the smooth flow of traffic. Unfortunately, the contractors working on the South Luzon Expressway look like they made no such plans. When you pass the SLEX, you’d feel like you’re passing through a life-size maze. Roads are being patched up or broken left and right and there’s no sense of order in their seemingly chaotic construction schedule. Three lanes will merge into one and create a bottleneck which slows traffic to a crawl or even to a stop. It used to take less than 25 minutes to reach Sta. Rosa, Laguna from Magallanes but with the construction nowadays, it’ll take nearly an hour to cover the same distance. While you’re stuck in traffic on the SLEX, you can see road signs that say “Sorry for your inconvenience” when it should read “Sorry but we don’t give a damn about your inconvenience.”

Pipe-laying Projects of Maynilad and Manila Water. Like the improvement of roads, the improvement of water delivery is a commendable act and we appreciate the efforts of Maynilad and Manila Water to modernize and improve the efficiency of the water system in the metropolis. But we do not condone the manner with which their contractors implement the pipe-laying projects. The people involved in these projects do not seem concerned at all with the inconvenience they cause to road users. They hog the road with their equipment and the debris from the diggings and after they are done digging, they leave the debris and patch the hole they dug with inferior roadwork. Oftentimes, they have to come back and break the road again because of a back job. Do these contractors care about the public nuisance they cause? I think pigs have a better chance of flying than for the public to expect contractors to care about their inconvenience.

PNP, LTO, LTFRB and DENR Check Points. I’m all for enforcing the law and for protecting the environment and all that jazz, but when these government agencies set up check points that not only cause traffic bottlenecks but create road hazards as well, I get irked. Even worse is when traffic crawls to an unbearable pace and once you get at the checkpoint, the enforcers are doing nothing but chatting and waiting for a “big catch” like an overloaded truck, a noisy small motorcycle, a smoke-belching light truck (but not a smoke-belching, noisy jeepney) or other similar “offenders” to come along so they could mulch some money from the driver or the occupants. These unsafe and unprofessional practices displayed by some enforcers turn their checkpoints into real public nuisances.

There are other public nuisances that can be mentioned like illegal PUV terminals and the general incompetence of traffic enforcers, but we hope you get the point.

With fuel prices hovering at P50 per liter, these public nuisances cost motorists a substantial amount of money. For example, my Kia Picanto used to do 12 km/L but now, it does only 9km/L because of the heavy traffic. Despite the school break, which was supposed to make Metro traffic lighter, I effectively loose 3 km/L. My wife and I usually drive the car for about 1,200 kilometers a month so we need to gas up an additional 33.33 liters to cover the same distance. That’s an additional P1,667 in gas money per month or P20,000 a year of additional fuel expenses just because of the traffic. We also lose about two to three hours of productive work time sitting in traffic because of these nuisances and these lost hours also cost money. Now, multiply these amounts by the estimated 361,000 vehicles passing EDSA everyday and you’ll see that about P7.2-billions pesos in fuel costs are lost each year and countless billions more in productive man-hours are lost annually because of the heavy traffic on EDSA alone.

With the gravity and the huge financial burden of these losses, can’t we file a class action suit in court and sue these incompetent designers, engineers and contractors? While we’re at it, why don’t we include the MMDA, the governors, mayors, councilors and other government officials who approved these construction projects but didn’t bother to check on its pre-construction preparation, construction pace and post-construction quality? I bet that if we make them realize that their ineptness and negligence has become a nuisance to a large number of people and that they are equally liable for these nuisances which cost billions in losses, they’ll work more fastidiously and with more concern for the public welfare before, during and after construction. Heck, these government officials might even think twice before dipping their dirty hands into the funds of a road project lest they want to be included in a class action suit.

Fortunately for these rich bastards (and unfortunately for us poor motorists), there’s no single motoring body, association or club competent enough to file a class action suit against them for the inconveniences and financial losses that they cause. Likewise, we have not bonded together to show these inept contractors and unconcerned public officials that we are a very large and very influential motoring community whose collective right to enjoy life and pursue our individual dreams through our mobility is severely hampered by the public nuisances caused by inept road works, projects and other road hazards.

There is enough compelling evidence to file a case against the people who perpetuate these public nuisances. Furthermore, these public nuisances are causing us money and with the current economic situation, we cannot afford to lose money because of someone else’s incompetence. But more than these, it is more important for us to be aware of our inalienable rights as motorists because these are guaranteed by the Constitution. No public nuisance should hinder us from enjoying our rights.

Here are some of your Backseat Driver reactions and questions from last week…

I heard that LPG is a clean form of fuel. Can you recommend a reputable company to do the conversion? Is it safe? Will the power be the same? – 09209519143 (James Deakin has written about LPG conversion in this very column. Still, to answer your questions… 1) There are a few reputable companies out there, Tartarini and Naiadds are a couple of the reputable ones. 2) If done right, it’s very safe. 3) The power difference is almost negligible, especially if you use your vehicle simply for city driving.)

It’s exasperating to obey traffic rules when one sees around violations as if laws are meant strictly for lowly people like us. – 09164929959 (True, but the fact that others don’t follow traffic rules shouldn’t be enough reason for sensible people like you to give up on doing what is right.)

Is there no way pedicabs, tricycles and jeepneys can be disciplined to follow traffic rules? – 09178331934 (It takes a slow and painful process called education and believe me, there are sectors within private society trying their darnest best to improve the situation.)

Speak out, be heard and keep those text messages coming in. To say your piece and become a “Backseat Driver”, text PHILSTAR<space>FB<space>MOTORING<space>YOUR MESSAGE and send to 2840 if you’re a Globe or Touch Mobile subscriber or 334 if you’re a Smart or Talk ’n Text subscriber or 2840 if you’re a Sun Cellular subscriber. Please keep your messages down to a manageable 160 characters. You may send a series of comments using the same parameters.)

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