Commentary

Is it time to professionalize our traffic enforcers?

I just came from Sogod, Cebu, where I spent the weekend.

On my way to Cebu City, passing through Consolacion, Cebu, there was some build up of traffic near the SM Consolacion mall, despite that it is a holiday.

Since I am riding a motorcycle, and usually we can wiggle our way towards the front of the stalled vehicles, I was able to reach near the front, but not the first lane because there were already many motorcycles there.

The traffic enforcer was directing traffic from the perpendicular street, and he was ordering us to stop, although there was no more traffic coming from the perpendicular street towards us; the traffic in that street was turning right to the opposite lanes of our street. Some of the drivers then started moving forward, because the road was now open, but I waited because the traffic enforcer did not order us to move. I did not take the chance to move forward, because as far as I could see his actions, he (1) did not order us to move; and (2) did not order the traffic from the perpendicular street coming to us (although there was none at the moment) to stop. Some of the drivers behind me honk their horns, but I remained steady. One motorcycle wiggled its way and moved forward. It almost collided with another motorcycle from the perpendicular street, whose driver rightfully moved forward because there was no order for them to stop. Thankfully it was only a near collision and everyone moved on.

Reflecting on this, I thought to myself that no such potential disaster could have happened had the traffic enforcer reiterated through hand signals our state which is to stop. But he did not, despite the honking of horns behind me.

This is not the first time I witnessed an incident where the indecisiveness of the traffic enforcer almost caused an accident.

Last Friday, August 24, 2018, after a hearing for a rape case at the Lapu-Lapu City Hall of Justice, I was coming back to my office and took the EO Perez St. from Mantawe Ave., Mandaue City, intending to turn left on M. Logarta.

Now, from the Subangdaku Flyover, you cannot turn left to E.O. Perez St.; in fact I confirmed on Saturday that indeed there is still a sign there that turning left is not allowed, although on Friday, right after I arrived at the office, I called up the TEAM of Mandaue City and I was informed that temporarily they are allowing turning left to E.O. Perez from the Subangdaku Flyover because of the on-going roadworks.

I admit I was a little bit distracted that time, for some personal reasons. I was in the second group of motorcycles in the front.

The TEAM officer ordered the traffic from the Subangdaku Flyover to stop, or so the drivers of the first group of motorcycles in front thought. And rightfully so, because any motorist who frequents that route know that stopping the traffic from Subangdaku Flyover means letting the traffic from E.O. Perez go left to M. Logarta.

When the first group of motorcycles started moving, I was hesitant to follow suit, because as I’ve stated above I was a little bit distracted, and I did not see the TEAM officer ordered us to move forward. However, because of the honking of the horns from the vehicles behind me, I moved forward, just in time to see that the TEAM officer was ordering the traffic from Subangdaku Flyover to turn left to E.O. Perez, which would cut us off. I stopped in the middle of the intersection and got the thrashing from the TEAM officer. Meanwhile, the first group of motorcycles got away and he did not even bother radioing to the next TEAM officer to apprehend the three (what I’ve counted) motorcycles which went through. I was telling him it is a bit unfair that he would be apprehending me, but not the first ones which went through, which I just followed suit. He would have none of it, and I was telling myself that after seven years of having a driver’s license, I would finally have a violation. Nonetheless, after asking me to get to the side of the road, he just looked at my license and allowed those vehicles behind me to go forward then he let me go. I think he was just trying to save face.

In another instance, at the intersection between the national highway and H. Abellana St., while we were waiting for our traffic light going south into Mandaue City to turn green, an ambulance materialized from behind. One of the motorcycles in front of me, to give more space to the ambulance, counterflowed a bit of distance (just two cars, really) to hide in the spot in front of the 2nd car from us. He was seen by the traffic enforcer and he was issued a ticket.

In still another incident, in Cebu City, there was a checkpoint manned by CITOM. The woman who inspected the registration of my motorcycle (bought in August 2015, with a plate number ending in 64, and renewed in 2016) insisted that I should have renewed its registration in 2017, despite the very explicit notation in the receipt that I paid an extra 3/4 year so that I would only need to renew again in 2018. We went back and forth on this, until I insisted that she calls her immediate superior, who agreed with me.

My point in narrating all these anecdotes is my view that there seems to be good reason now to professionalize traffic enforcing in the Philippines. What I am saying is, those persons tasked with managing our traffic and enforcing our traffic laws must have some qualifying examination to be administered by an independent body. The reality is that in some LGUs now, traffic enforcers are designated as traffic enforcers not necessarily because they are trained in traffic laws and rules, but because their being hired is an act of political patronage. Thus, you see in some LGUs that traffic enforcers are replaced when a new administration comes in. This is not to say that most or even many of the traffic enforcers are incompetent; traffic rules are quite simple that a little common sense, some training and just pure confidence on the road would make one competent in enforcing traffic rule. But without the presence of an independent and impartial qualifying examination, there would bound to be some incompetent persons who would penetrate the system.

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