JUST when I think we have one of the most incompetent governments in the world, there’s a bright spot now and then to contradict that way of thinking.

I’m writing about how one unfortunate event unveiled a positive one and changed the way I think about the people who work for us (a.k.a. government employees).

It started when I bought some painting materials at a hardware store along Gonzaga Street. Essential to the story is a list of what I bought last June 19, i.e. 2 gallons of latex paint, 2 quarts of glossy paint, 1 quart of marine epoxy, 1 gallon paint thinner and 10 kilograms of kalsomine. They were packed separately in two boxes for easy lifting.

I hailed a taxi and the hardware clerk loaded the boxes in the trunk. As soon as I sat down at the back seat, the driver told me that he was going to charge P20 extra for the load. I protested because not only has this never happened before but also because there is no such rule that allows a taxi driver to charge beyond the figures shown on the meter.

The driver saw that I vehemently refused so he said that it’s all right if I don’t pay up. I told him: look, there’s only one of me. Now, if there were four passengers are you going to charge extra because of the extra weight, too? He retorted that it’s okay if I refuse to pay. Hmmm… he sounded as if he was doing me a favor.

When I arrived at my residence, I went down, took out my planner and jotted down the plate number. The driver saw me doing that when he went round the back to open the trunk. I entered the house to get some cash and when I went out, the driver was back in his seat. He opened his door to accept my payment, pointed to his door and said some incomprehensible words until I realized that he was telling me the name of his taxi company. He said it in a manner that was discourteous and arrogant as if to show me that he wasn’t afraid of being reported to the authorities.

When I finally was able to understand his garbled speech (because he had the wrong ‘pronawnshishun’), I told him calmly that I already took the name down. I told him, “Shouldn’t taxi drivers wear red shirts? Why aren’t you in a red shirt?” The driver replied, “Wala man na ya problema ya kay kun madakpan ‘ko, mabayad man lang ‘ko ya sang multa.” He closed the door; I made my way to the gate. He opened his door and yelled, “Do you want to get my name, too?” I said, “Yes, what is it?” He replied, “Robin.” I asked, “Robin what?” Here’s the comic relief. “Robin Padilla.” He shut the door and drove away. Despite myself, I just had to laugh. “Hadlok ka man gali,” I shouted after him.

I refuse to mention the name of the taxi company here because that would be unfair to the owner who does not have total control over his erring drivers. Besides, as of this time, I already had a conference with the driver, and the taxi company manager in the presence of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) officer Mr. Getes and had settled the matter. What the taxi driver did could also be done by drivers of other taxi companies.

The incident happened on a Thursday. Work and other pressing matters kept me from complaining to the LTFRB immediately and I only had the chance to do so on a Tuesday because I happened to see the LTFRB phone number only on that day. I know, I know, it could be quite inconvenient to take the time to do what needs to be done but many incidents are left unreported because of our habit of not taking time to complain. But this is one incident that I was glad that I made the extra effort. A friend told me it would be a waste of time when I hurried out of a seminar to go the LTFRB office to fill up a complaint form. She said, “I-pa-Bombo na lang.” Yet, I believe that if we have to prevent others from being a scourge to society, we have to do our part and not just wave away thoughts of making an official complaint and charge everything to experience. In this experience, it pays to be a little inconvenienced.

On Tuesday of the following week, I called the LTFRB office at 433-4142. Mr. Getes asked for my name, my contact number, the taxi company’s name, and a background of the case. I was surprised to have him call me that same day to ask me to come to his office for a filing of the complaint and also for a date when I can attend a conference with the taxi driver and the company owner. I went to his office (which is inside the City Health compound) the next day, Wednesday, and the conference was scheduled on Thursday, June 26. I asked him, “What if the driver doesn’t show up?” He said, “They have to show up. We can’t allow them not to show up.” The first violation, it turned out, may be tolerated but a second will no longer be taken lightly.

Sure enough, while I was waiting for the 9 o’clock conference, two gentlemen showed up at the LTFRB. There was Mr. Robin Padilla and his boss. I cannot go into details for I have given my side. The driver, of course, came up with his version all in his favor – that I loaded five boxes instead of two, that I said this and that, etc. What is admirable about Mr. Getes is how impartial he was throughout the proceedings so don’t expect that he would be on the side of the complainant. Just tell the truth and bring a piece of evidence to back up your suit. So, in my case, I brought the receipt from the hardware store as proof that my cargo was light, in fact, lighter than another human being, so, my weight and my purchases’ combined did not allow the driver’s claim to hold water.

Being a DOT-accredited tourist guide, I often think in terms of how the Philippines’ most livable city is truly livable. I don’t even want good public service to be extended only to tourists but “livable” should also mean “livable for the locals” or Bacolod’s distinction of being The Most Livable City would only turn out to be inauthentic and an embarrassing title. I love my city. I am proud of Bacolod. My pride extends to contributing what I can for a better society. This sure beats just grumbling and complaining and allowing the guilty to get away with their dirty deeds.