MMDA chief: Don’t video my men while extorting

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Don’t video my traffic aides while they’re extorting money. That in effect is what Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino meant when he held a motorist liable for illegal wiretapping in secretly videoing an MMDA man who had pulled her over. Unaware that the motorist’s smartphone camera was on, the guy demanded cash to let her go, from a concocted traffic violation. Crooked traffic aides prefer preying on female drivers, on misbelief that they’re poor drivers, panicky when accosted, and won’t fight back. It’s a new world, bubs. Posted on social media, the video went viral, adding to the growing list of administrative incompetence, for which Tolentino is being scored of late.

Metro Manilans hate the sight of those traffic aides. On weekday traffic they just stand under the shade, aimlessly waving motorists to go-go-go ... nowhere, precisely because of gridlock that they don’t know or care how to untangle. Otherwise, they clump in big numbers – strength in unity – to mulct jitney and bus drivers. They can’t be seen during downpours when traffic quickly snarls up, or after sunset, and on weekends.

But Tolentino defends his traffic aides like they’re cherubim. Last week he played hero in getting demoted two Highway Patrolmen who manhandled one of his boys. He left out why the cops got rough, though. It turned out that the two had requested the aide to hold on to the licenses as they issued citations to erring drivers they successively had pulled over. But the aide let two or three away after returning the licenses. The cops found out why from the separately folded peso bills inside the aide’s pockets. They tried to arrest him, but he resisted and made a scene.

The two Highway Patrolmen are the true heroes. They are part of a 250-strong contingent from the elite PNP unit that Malacañang fielded a month ago to untangle EDSA, the metropolis’ “traffic-kest” thoroughfare. To the cheers of motorists, the unit magically has lightened traffic somewhat, despite the inability of infrastructure and transport officials to add roads and lessen vehicles. It just employed commonsense in: removing “colorum” (un-franchised) buses even if owned by powerful retired generals, closing down traffic-causing public markets for no environment clearances, diverting provincial buses to side roads, and enforcing the tricycle ban on highways and the 10-second loading-unloading rule on buses. Most of all, it did what Tolentino hasn’t been able to do in the past five years. It sternly warned motorists against bribing the highway cops as they do the traffic aides, or else they not only pay the higher fines that the former impose but also land in jail. People know the Highway Patrol means business: invariably in gunfights it wipes out all the carjackers and takes no prisoners.

With the traffic aides it’s follow the leader. If they disappear during crucial hours, it’s because Tolentino also does so. In the past four months he has seldom been seen at his Metro Manila jurisdiction. Instead he has been stumping the provinces, trying to up his popularity ratings enough to make it to the ruling Liberal Party’s senatorial ticket. His excuse: to teach other cities to straighten up traffic. Duh! He would make a good comedian, if his antics were not distressful to Metro Manilans. In the two nights in a week in Sept. that they were trapped in eight-hour-long traffic caused by 30-minute thunderstorms, he was out as usual. Reportedly he gave away Metro Manila traffic lights to other cities. He not only misappropriates public property, but directly sabotages traffic. That’s no different from street gangsters who stuff storm drains with plastic to create floods, then collect money pushing stalled vehicles across. Another time Tolentino was away, the retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales had to alight from his car after two hours of gridlock to untangle it himself. Two days later Tolentino thought to mimic the stunt for personal publicity. Instead of issuing traffic alerts to the public, he fired off media alerts about three intersections where he would be at certain times of the morning, so please send camera crews.

After the video of the mulcting traffic aide went viral, Tolentino vainly disowned his televised warning about wiretapping. “Where did that come from,” he shrugged, “I didn’t say nothing.” Meanwhile, his deputy for traffic discipline repeated his earlier threat that the traffic aide would sue the motorist for surreptitious videoing. That good cop-bad cop trick is so worn out.

Social media is the Netizens’ weapon against crooked officers. In vogue is the impromptu videoing of mulcters and brutalizers. Sue if the officers must, on bad legal advice of lawyers like Tolentino. But they can’t stop it. Ironically one of his traffic aides was able to exact justice when passersby videoed two motorist-brothers mauling him for citing them for a traffic violation. Another was exposed to be a professional misuser of YouTube in extorting money from motorists whose secret videos he intercalates to portray them as villains. Motorists would do well to go on videoing not only traffic aides but Tolentino himself, loafing around in cities where he shouldn’t be.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA


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