Power, responsibility and road traffic enforcement in CDO

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Monday, April 28, 2014


THE creation of Task Force Hapsay Dalan to strictly enforce traffic discipline initially in Divisoria of this city following City Ordinance 10551-2007, though met with skepticism from some sectors, has been quite a success.

Kudos to Mayor Oscar “Oca” Moreno, the city traffic czar Atty. Jose Edgardo “Egay” Uy and all constituents of the Roads and Traffic Administration (RTA).

If done effectively, efficiently and true to its purpose, it could easily be duplicated in all parts of the city. With great traffic discipline implemented skillfully within the bounds of the entire City of Golden Friendship, this could even become a good model for many other localities to adopt for their own benefit.

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Power always comes with responsibility. Whatever our status, each one of us wields power by virtue of our position or profession.

A business owner has great power over his employees. And with it comes the great responsibility of acting like a responsible father to them all. Physicians have great power by virtue of the high level of trust given to them as a privilege. Anytime a doctor shirks away from the big responsibility of taking care of his patients, it could easily mean one life lost at perhaps an inopportune moment.

My friends doing Neurosurgery as a calling would certainly agree - it is too tempting to think that at times they feel like "gods" for one wrong stroke of the scalpel could easily mean the end of one person's life on the operating table.

An ordinary pedestrian can have the power to hinder the smooth flow of traffic. Imagine if someone suddenly goes berserk and thinks it funny to feign having an epileptic fit and falls flat in the midst of C. M. Recto highway. What a great traffic jam he would indeed create, all to his satisfaction and enjoyment!

What about a jeepney driver stopping to pick up passengers in the middle of nowhere, grossly disregarding the obstruction he causes to all other motorists? Such chaos he would create. And what great power to stop the flow of traffic he has!

And what about our friendly (and some unfriendly) RTA enforcers standing on the wayside? Quite great power they wield. If an RTA enforcer knocks on your window, I bet not just one among you would have sudden skipped heartbeats with the incessant thought pounding your minds: "What wrong did I do now?"

About a month ago, an acquaintance of mine parked at a Divisoria street side at past 10 in the evening, and went inside one of the fast food chains to buy food. A few minutes later, she emerged finding her vehicle's front wheel getting clamped by an RTA enforcer, apparently because she inadvertently positioned her vehicle in the motorcycle-parking slot. A few days later, when reporting to the RTA office to settle her due penalty, she found out that not only has she been charged with parking in the motorcycle slot, but to her surprise two other violations were cited but which were never mentioned on the scene.

Indeed, they were quite bothersome to hear – "parking at the corner" and "driving with tinted license plates." Definitely, she thought, parking about twenty meters away from the intersection of the curb lines (and obviously a contradiction if she were caught parking within the motorcycle slot itself!) cannot be served a "parking at the corner" violation.

And secondly, unless the RTA enforcer was wearing extremely dark shades, she swore never in the world could anybody declare her vehicle's license plates to be tinted in any way whatsoever.

Plain and simple, I sensed some kind of power abuse. On further investigation with the RTA, such abuse of power was admitted by no less than the involved traffic enforcer himself. At times some lessons are learned the hard way. It was good that he made no further excuses for such an errant and abusive behavior, otherwise things would have gotten more complicated.

Traffic enforcers, like police officers, have the preemptive duty to warn motorists of a possible infraction of the Traffic Code the moment they see one. When a motorist mistakenly thinks a street side slot is appropriate to park though it's actually not, a visible traffic enforcer could always approach him and give the much needed warning to relocate.

If he gets hardheaded and doesn't heed the call, then he can be served a citation in obvious violation of the traffic ordinance. But if traffic enforcers keep hiding in the shadows, showing up only when a violation has been made whether willfully or not, and plainly with the sole intent of just issuing a traffic citation ticket for the motorist to settle with its corresponding monetary penalty, then I sense something amiss.

In 2007, the Cagayan de Oro city council formalized a compendium of the city's Traffic Code under City Ordinance No. 10551-2007. Apart from stipulating all other details of the proper enforcement of traffic rules within the city, part of its provisions under Section 210 also specified the sharing of the proceeds of the administrative and judicial fines.

Apart from the 50% share which the general fund of the city receives, Section 10.A.c more specifically states that “in case the arrest was made by a member of the Barangay Police, elected barangay official, RTA enforcer and deputized private individual traffic enforcer, twenty percent (20%) shall be given to the arresting person.”

Perhaps this was originally meant by the city council to encourage greater enforcement compliance since some amount goes into the enforcers' pocket. If you are fined P1,500 for a "no parking" violation even if you're in an area that you're not familiar with, then the dictum "ignorance of the law excuses no one" still applies.

However, if the conspicuous RTA enforcers were present to forewarn you of a possible infraction, then you would have been guided effectively to perform your role as a law-abiding citizen in good faith.

But if they opted to be inconspicuous, hiding it out in the corner while waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting victim to commit a violation with the malicious intent of issuing a citation ticket for the 20% "commission" they are going to receive, then this ought to ring warning bells of potential abuse. Imagine an RTA enforcer issuing total tickets amounting to an average of PhP7,500 a day (or 5 citations each worth PhP1,500) for twenty days a month, that could easily amount to a net of PhP20,000 on top of the regular RTA pay!

To Mayor Oca Moreno and all the leaders in the city council, I pose these questions: 1) Do you think this "commission" scheme for RTA enforcers is actually working for the good of the general public? Or does it offer a room for potential abuse, like what has actually been exhibited by the RTA enforcer issuing the ticket to an acquaintance I mentioned as an example? 2) Do you think this provision needs to be revised? How come in Section 210.A.b of the same Code, it also states that if the arrest was made by a city policeman, all remaining 50% of the administrative fine accrues entirely goes to the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office "as the city's financial support thereto for its operational funds"? Does this translate to less motivation for the policeman to perform his job then?
As the Irish statesman Edmund Burke once declared, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

As concerned citizens, let's all do our share and assume power as responsible pedestrians and motorists. However, we should also be always vigilant for potential abuses of power. Let's all create a more "hapsay" Cagayan de Oro! - Dr. Adonis P. Agcopra

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(Dr. Adonis Agcopra, MD, MBA, CIS, RFC® is a practicing Neurologist and financial consultant.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 28, 2014.

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