POSTSCRIPT / November 13, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Just tell us if EDSA is beyond solution

SWERVING: A favorite trick of extortionist Kotong Kops is to accost drivers for “swerving.” When asked what “swerving” is, these hoodlums in uniform say the driver had changed lanes suddenly.

You ask in Tagalog what the difference is between swerving and changing lane – and you end up with an irritating exchange with a supposed person in authority who does not have authoritative knowledge of the rules he presumes to enforce.

In its recent advisory, the Metro Manila Development Authority itself does not sound like it knows. Saying that “swerving” is not a traffic violation, the MMDA defines swerving as “shifting two or more lanes very quickly.”

But what is “quickly”? Is being “quick” now an offense?

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DISTANCE: The MMDA adds: “Moving one lane to the left or right is not swerving, no matter where on the road you do it. And it is even less of a violation when you do it with a signal.”

Curious, but what is a full violation and what is “less of a violation”?

Going back to changing lanes “quickly,” they should define “quickly.” If you cut through two or more lanes within 50 meters that is obviously reckless. But if you do that safely over 250 meters, that is something else. The rule on swerving should define the allowable distance.

The MMDA should also point out that if solid lines separate the lanes, no swerving or changing of lanes is allowed.

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EDSA TEST: I am not trying to split hairs. I am just one of the millions of harassed motorists who must endure daily the nightmare that is EDSA.

How I wish President Noynoy Aquino and his traffic experts drove INCOGNITO the length of EDSA duringbusy hours. So they would know what is out there.

To many people, EDSA is the acid test of the Aquino administration (not Aquino “government,” another source of confusion over definition of terms).

I submit that if the Executive cannot even solve a basic and costly problem like EDSA, it has no right or competence to try ruling the country and resolving more serious issues.

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HOTLINE: The MMDA advises harassed motorists to call “Metro Base” when they encounter Kotong Kops or believe they are victims of wrong or malicious apprehensions on the road.

When in trouble, call the MMDA hotline (136) or the Metro Base at 0917-5618711 or 0917-5277304 and ask for Inspectorate. They promise to send inspectors where the extortion or harassment is being committed.

But try doing that and honking vehicles will be held back kilometer-long behind you as you struggle with the phone numbers.

It seems MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino and his traffic managers can be called 24/7 only by popular radio and TV anchors during their programs. Not by plain motorists in trouble.

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WHAT TO DO: Anyway, MMDA says that if Kotong Kops arrest you for swerving, you can deal them these 1-2-3 jabs:

1. Confidently and politely assert your knowledge of the rules and your rights.

2. Ask for a violation ticket and the name of the arresting officer. The ticket will identify the policemen and serve as evidence if you complain against them for extortion.

3. Drop the name of Coratec Jimenez, MMDA vice president in charge of traffic officers. She is a graduate and former professor of the Asian Institute of Management, personally recruited by Chairman Tolentino, also of AIM.

Our additional advice is to pray to newly canonized San Pedro Calungsod, who may be able to work out a miracle.

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LTO DEPUTATION?: By the way, not just any policeman or MMDA officer can cite you for violations of the traffic code. Only authorized officers of the Land Transportation Office can legally do that.

One school says policemen and MMDA personnel enforcing traffic laws must carry a deputation from the LTO. This is a legal point that MMDA officials dispute, saying that their authority is based on the MMDA charter.

As a matter of routine, ask the traffic officer to show his LTO deputation. When he senses that you know your law, he might slink away or call for backup a buddy who has an LTO paper or at least an MMDA mission order.

All throughout, stay inside your vehicle. The officer should walk to where you had pulled over and talk to you through your rolled-down window, your hands on the wheel. Never get off and walk to him scratching your head and holding what looks like a bribe in your other hand.

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MISSION ORDER: The MMDA says that your license may not be confiscated for a traffic violation. The only time that can be done is if you are involved in an accident, or it is your third violation and you have not paid your fines.

Officers are allowed only to issue a violation ticket, which you can contest. Sometimes when you ask for a ticket and act like you are not willing to come across, a Kotong Kop leaves you alone as an unwilling victim.

You may also ask for his written mission order issued by his supervisor. If he is citing you for a violation not in his mission order for the day, he can be subjected to disciplinary action.

Another interesting point of some colleagues who had experienced it is that when a vehicle is accosted with a senior citizen on board, the driver goes scot-free. My guess is that they just happened to bump into an MMDA officer sympathetic to seniors.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 13, 2012)

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