FIRING LINE: Menacing Manila traffic policy

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Have you ever figured in a vehicular accident in Manila and ended up being slapped with a “Code 89” ticket? Believe it or not, this might be the most oppressive if not ridiculous traffic “violation” in the country, and here’s why.

Last June 18, a Saturday, at 8 in the evening, businessman Manny Tan parked on the side of Teresa Street in Old Sta. Mesa to drop off his wife at their lotto shop to collect the day’s remittance. As he waited in their Toyota Fortuner, Mr. Tan felt a nudge as a passing taxicab sideswiped his vehicle.

The cabbie – a senior citizen named Antonio – admitted his fault and apologized but refused to pay for the damage he’d caused. Hence, both agreed to settle the matter at the Manila District Traffic Enforcement Unit at the Port Area.

Waiting for hours for their turn with the investigator (P/Cpl. Francis Conwi), Mr. Tan and Antonio parted ways after midnight but not before shelling out P250 each (P500, an amount entirely shouldered by Mr. Tan) as a “voluntary contribution” for resources used to draw up their Traffic Accident Investigation Report. (Traffic investigators claim that these resources like paper, ink, software, hard drives, and such were their own out-of-pocket expenses. But that’s another story.)

Although the taxi driver went on record admitting his fault in the vehicular incident, Cpl. Conwi issued both Antonio (the offending party) and Mr. Tan (the aggrieved party) a traffic violation ticket for supposedly violating “Code 89.” Explained simply by Cpl. Conwi, any party involved in a vehicular accident is penalized P2,000 as a policy of the Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau (MTPB) and that the amount was to be paid within five days at Manila City Hall, where they could reclaim their driver’s licenses.

Since the 20th of June was a Sunday and the 24th was a holiday (Manila Day), Mr. Tan appeared at the MTPB on June 25, Friday, to contest the penalty for his “traffic violation” and was given a schedule with the Adjudication Board last July 6. Full of hope that on that day justice would be served in his case, Mr. Tan asked Adjudication Officer III Narciso Diokno: “How could I have violated any traffic law by sitting inside a parked car sideswiped by a passing taxi?”

But Diokno merely echoed the same traffic lunacy cited by Cpl. Conwi that Mr. Tan, having been involved in a vehicular accident – whether or not it was his fault and even if he was parked – must pay the Code 89 traffic violation penalty of P2,000. And since it had been more than five days since the incident, Mr. Tan had to pay an additional P400 penalty. 

It’s widely known that since Isko Moreno became mayor, the MTPB’s battlecry has been “No to Kotong!” How convenient, though, things have been for the MTPB. With their enforcement of this Code 89 violation – who needs “kotong”?

I don’t see why Mayor Isko should not call this – as in his parlance of street codes – a “tolongges” way of collecting “tangga” that’s not “etneb-etneb lang” but a “dalawang bulig” score. (*Note: kotong means suborn; tolongges, a foolery; tangga, an illicit fee; etneb-etneb, 20-peso denomination; dalawang bulig, P2,000.)

I’m sure the good mayor of the city will not have any of it. And that once he realizes he is breathing all this crap right under his nose – I expect the ultra-decent Mayor Isko to sneeze the author of this ludicrous traffic policy out of City Hall.

Otherwise, Manileños like myself might start believing this nasty rumor that the MTPB has a “tara” or quota on collections for City Hall and that slapping both parties in a vehicular accident (including the innocent party) with a “Code 89” penalty delivers the bacon (this one’s an English slang).

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