I DIDN'T know the Talisay City Government hired a former military officer as traffic czar until I read Justin Vestil's report in Sun.Star Cebu about the drive of the City of Talisay Traffic Operation Development Authority (CT-TODA) against tricycles that are operating without city-issued franchises. So Hiram Benatiro, a former military man who closed out his career as senior superintendent (colonel in the Army) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), is the current CT-TODA chief.
I don't personally know Benatiro but his name grabbed the limelight from time to time especially when he was still in the service. On this, two things stood out: one, his having been linked to a coup attempt against former president Corazon Aquino in 1987 and, two, his stab at politics in his hometown of Daanbantayan where another former top police official, Vicente Loot, is now mayor. (President Rodrigo Duterte recently linked Loot to the illegal drugs trade, which Loot denied.)
For those who were still young at that time, Benatiro was one of those charged with mutiny in 1989 for the failed coup attempt against Aquino led by former colonel and later senator Gregorio Honasan. Among the prominent figures charged with Benatiro, then a lieutenant colonel in the defunct Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP), were then brigadier general Edgardo Abenina and then lieutenant colonel Tiburcio Fusilero.
Those were tumultuous times and many people were in awe of the putschists, who were later pardoned and reinstated in the military, with some of them going on to join the PNP when it was created in the '90s. The awe was partly because they were also part of a bigger undertaking, the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) that helped topple the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos via the 1986 Edsa uprising.
Benatiro later plunged into Daanbantayan town politics together with his brothers but on the side of Augusto Corro, who managed to defeat long-time mayor Maria Luisa Loot, Vicente's wife, only in 2013. Corro in turn was defeated by Vicente in this year's elections. Benatiro on the side of Corro meant an interesting political tug-of-war between former military/police officers. Now Benatiro is in Talisay City.
A colleague, who is from Talisay City, relayed to me the observation that the portion of the south highway that traverses Tabunok in Talisay City has been cleared somewhat of sidewalk vendors. The vendors are still there, he said, but they are no longer allowed to spill beyond the gutter and into the side of the highway. That has made for a smooth traffic flow, he said.
I could not confirm that because the times I went to Tabunok recently I was more focused on my errands and not observing the changes after former congressman Eduardo Gullas defeated Johnny V. de los Reyes for the post of Talisay City mayor in the May elections. Perhaps the appointment of Benatiro is starting to make a difference in the chaotic setting that is the area near the public market.
But Justin's report did not mention Benatiro going after the trisikads, which have long been the bane of the traffic not only in Tabunok but also in the part of the Cebu South Coastal Road that traverses Talisay. In Tabunok, trisikad drivers during JVR's stint as mayor became so brazen they would get angry at motorists that honk at them while they leisurely cruise the middle of the highway. At the coastal road, trisikads ferrying passengers, especially at night, are inviting accidents by going with the traffic flow at the sides of the highway.
How Benatiro would straighten out Talisay City traffic is interesting.
(firstname.lastname@example.org/ twitter: @khanwens)