LATE in January last year, then mayor Tomas Osmeña ordered the impounding for 30 days of vehicles that were caught counter-flowing. The drivers were unhappy especially since the directive, contained in an executive order that was issued a few weeks later, did not allow early releases; impounded vehicles had to remain in custody for 30 days.
Besides, the penalty was stiff: P15,000 for trucks, P9,000 for light vehicles and P3,000 for motorcycles as storage fees. But Osmeña said he was not interested in the money; he just wanted to instill discipline among the drivers, especially those who operate motorcycles.
The campaign drew praise from the public who had grown weary of dealing with the abuses on the road committed by motorcycle drivers. Even opposition councilors at that time indorsed the move with Raymond Garcia merely cautioning that the campaign be conducted “within the bounds of the law.” Joel Garganera, on the other hand, declared he was “100 percent supportive of the move of the mayor.”
After a year of implementation, more than 6,000 vehicles had been impounded, mostly motorcycles. The Cebu City Transportation Office declared that the anti-counter-flowing campaign was a success; the drivers have become disciplined, resulting in less traffic accidents involving a motorcycle.
Mayor Edgardo Labella did not repeal Osmeña’s executive order when he assumed office on the last day of June. He had privately expressed reservations on the confiscatory nature of the huge fines but made no mention of it when he announced that the campaign against counter-flowing and all forms of traffic violation will be pursued with equal vigor under his administration.
Unfortunately, the message apparently did not reach the drivers or if it did, they had chosen to ignore it. Counter-flowing, mostly by motorcycle drivers, is back and with a vengeance. Anyone who uses the road, whether as pedestrian, driver or passenger, can attest to this undesirable resurrection.
I watch it happen every day with a growing sense of helplessness. Vicente Urgello St. has been temporarily declared one-way because of an ongoing road concreting project. As a result, it is closed to vehicles coming from Osmeña Blvd. and there are two huge “No Entry” signs at the Osmeña-Urgello junction to announce it. Yet, there has not been any day when, heading towards Osmeña Blvd., we have not encountered an oncoming motorcycle.
Other violations are not as blatant but they’re counter-flowing just the same. Overtaking motorcycles cross to the opposite lane to gain advantage. I wonder how many motorcycle accidents we have had during the last three months.
The message is clear: The drivers have to be reminded again that they do not own the road and that when they act like they do, there is a hefty cost to pay. As I have said, Mayor Labella has declared in no uncertain terms that his administration will strictly enforce traffic regulations. The ball is in the hands of the police.
Last week, we went to the San Roque gymnasium where the victims of a recent fire in the barangay are currently housed. The conditions were pitiable despite the efforts of the city government to help them. A gym is not a house and is definitely not a home.
Maybe, the government should seriously consider establishing a temporary shelter for all victims of fire and natural calamities instead of continuing the current practice of utilizing gyms and classrooms as evacuation centers. The practice is specially harsh on the little children who have to sleep on bare pavement just like the rest of the victims. This scene so disturbed Labella when he visited the San Roque gym hours after the fire that he had to call his friends in the middle of the night looking for plywood, mattresses and anything else to cover the backs of the children.
I would not be surprised if at that very moment, the mayor, who had to hold back tears when he spoke to the victims three days later, vowed not to let what he had seen happen again. Shame on us if it does.