A HIGH-RANKING official of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) was “relieved” from his post for his alleged involvment in a road payola.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino relieved of MMDA Traffic and Transport Management Office (TTMO) Executive Director Angelito Vergel De Dios from his post Monday.

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“Yes, if you ask me if it is related to the payola investigation,” Tolentino said in a phone interview, adding that investigation is ongoing on De Dios possible involvement in the alleged racket.

De Dios was reassigned as Director IV of the agency’s Health, Public Safety and Environmental Protection, after serving as traffic head of the agency for nine years.

At the same time, Tolentino said the crackdown is also looking at other corrupt MMDA officials and traffic enforcers.

Last week, Tolentino bared that several bus firms and FX terminals were paying a monthly and weekly “payola” to erring MMDA traffic enforcers and even officials.

The revelation was supported by several bus operators namely the South Luzon Bus Operators Association (Suloboa) saying they are prepared to help the agency in the anti-kotong drive.

Soluboa president Homer Mercado said they are ready to give the names of the MMDA officials and personnel who receive the “payola” as well as the mechanism by which it happens.

Coding violators

Meanwhile, the MMDA flagged down 21 coding violators on Day One of the suspension of exemption for the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP).

The crackdown against non-qualified motorists in possession of the exemption certificates started Monday with the MMDA deploying some 50 teams at the Epifanio De Los Santos (EDSA) Avenue alone.

The 24-kilometer stretch of EDSA is the metropolis’ prime thoroughfare.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said traffic enforcers did not give citation tickets but only warned violators of the suspension of the UVVRP.

In his order (Memorandum Order Circular No. 04), Tolentino stated that “Exemption certificates which were previously issued are no longer covered by exemptions enumerated under this circular are hereby revoked accordingly.”

The cancellation of the exemptions is one of the agency’s responses to address the perennial traffic problem in the metropolis.

“The issuance of exemption is a privilege granted by the agency, not a right, and can therefore be revoked anytime,” Tolentino added.

The agency has so far issued around 8,900 exemptions for the third quarter, from July 1 to September 30. Seventy five percent of the total figure or 6,393 were found to have been issued to government officials and employees for their private vehicles.

According to Tolentino, the cancellation of the number coding exemption is in accordance with President Benigno Aquino III’s call of equality for everyone.

As per the memorandum, the following are considered automatically exempted from the UVVRP: cargo trucks, ambulance, fire trucks, police patrol cars, military vehicles, diplomatic vehicles with diplomatic plates, government vehicles with government plates or appropriate markings or stickers from the Land Transportation Office, duly enfranchised school buses, company shuttle service vehicles, official media vehicles with markings, duly accredited tow trucks, vehicles delivering perishable goods, and vehicles used by medical practitioners, among others.(AH/Sunnex)