Saturday, May 28, 2011
With the tragic death of journalist Lourdes "Chit" Simbulan, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has once again dialed up its campaign against over-speeding drivers on Commonwealth Avenue, dubbed "the killer highway". I notice, though, that the traffic enforcers appear to only be situated at certain points; from where I drive, there's a whole passel of enforcers at the Ayala Techno Hub, and at the intersection at Tandang Sora Ave.
However, it's apparent that the ones at Tandang Sora Ave. aren't doing their jobs, as buses routinely violate the bus lanes in plain sight of the enforcers. To think that there's even a police station right under the Tandang Sora flyover. What's more is that the enforcers seem to be more engrossed in catching up on the latest gossip, as they often appear huddled deep in conversation while chaos reigns just a few meters away.
It's also noticeable that the enforcement of the speed limit is only done at certain times, since I've had the opportunity to see buses careening down Commonwealth Ave. during the night, since apparently, the MMDA has no means to implement a 24/7 cycle of patrols. The speeding buses, notably, belong to the Nova bus line, whose buses have been tagged by the driver as having been responsible for his hitting Simbulan's taxi (more on that later). Mayor Herbert Bautista and MMDA Director Francis Tolentino clearly have their work cut out for them.
As for the bus driver Daniel Espinosa, who had made it all the way to Davao before surrendering to Davao City Vice-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, he now claims that two Nova buses were racing in front of him, which was why he didn't see Simbulan's taxi. Judging from the way the taxi was crumpled up like a piece of paper, it's likely that Espinosa was doing a bit of speeding himself, and is guilty of the crime, no matter how his lawyer Salvador Panelo tries to spin it.
Espinosa claimed that he feared for his life; it's interesting that he had to go all the way down to Mindanao to feel safe, and it took a week before he surrendered. Well, I guess I can't blame him for losing his head on the matter, but the fact that he ran and took a week to surrender indicates some guilt on his part. He and Panelo cannot wash their hands off the matter, since he was the driver of the bus which smashed into the taxi.
Going back to Commonwealth, it's clear that a lot has to be done about setting things right, and it will take a lot of political will in order to get it done.
Philippine Star feature writer Paolo Alcazaren gives some helpful suggestions on how to fix things on Commonwealth. Here's hoping that the Mayor and the MMDA are listening.
Monday, May 16, 2011
In the wake of last Friday’s tragic accident, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) officials were hard-pressed to explain how such an event could have happened, given the supposedly stricter traffic rules along Commonwealth Ave., the metropolis’ so-called ‘killer highway’. For one who normally has to drive along Commonwealth, like myself, it’s fairly easy to see why last Friday’s tragedy happened.
Last Friday, University of the Philippines (UP) professor and journalist Lourdes “Chit” Estrella-Simbulan was killed when her taxi was hit by two buses; the first bus apparently sideswiped the taxi, while the second bus, identified as a Universal Guiding Light bus, smashed into the back of the taxi. The bus driver and conductor of the second bus then escaped on foot, and are still at large as of this writing.
The tragedy occurred, despite the fact that the MMDA set a maximum speed limit for vehicles along Commonwealth, and established bus lanes for the buses to follow.
I remember when the guidelines were first enforced. In front of Shopwise Commonwealth, dozens of traffic enforcers lined up along the designated bus lane, and traffic police were out in force, apprehending violators of the guidelines. I also remember, sadly, that the enforcement of the traffic guidelines lasted less than a month, and buses once more ignored the lanes, and vehicles careened down Commonwealth as if their drivers were Formula One racecars.
One of the main problems for the failure of the guidelines is the lack of visible enforcement of traffic laws. One glaring example can be seen in the afternoon near the main temple of the Iglesia ni Kristo. There, in front of the New Era General Hospital, buses and jeepneys stop in the middle of Commonwealth, or stop at a diagonal position, to pick up passengers, causing heavy traffic in the area. A few meters away, one can see a group of traffic enforcers and policemen, ignoring the chaos, and apparently, catching up on the gossip of the day. It is this failure that helped bus drivers become more reckless in their actions, and this helped contribute to Friday’s tragedy.
As it is, last Saturday, barely a day after the tragedy, I saw several buses, one from Jell Transport, another from Nova, and the third, surprisingly, from Universal Guiding Light. All three buses were barreling down Commonwealth, with nary a thought about the speed limit.
While no less than the President has expressed his dismay at the goings-on, and has ordered a stricter crackdown on reckless drivers, I cannot help but be cynical and tell myself that I have seen this zarzuela before. Sure enough, there will be stricter enforcement of rules in the next few weeks, but complacency is the curse of the Filipino, and, once the issue has died down, so will the vigilance in enforcing the rules.
I believe that the MMDA has to establish a more visible presence along Commonwealth, since drivers appear to ignore the rules when they think that no one is watching. There is a pressing need to establish 24/7 patrols along Commonwealth, since the tragic accidents tend to happen during the late hours. While I understand the MMDA’s concern about bribery and ‘kotong’, there appears to be a need to immediately apprehend the violators as they break the rules, to be able to impress upon the minds of the erring drivers that their violations did not go unnoticed.
It’s ironic that it took a tragedy to highlight the failings of the MMDA guidelines, considering one of the reasons the guidelines were established to begin with was because of another tragedy, when a judge and his wife were killed by a speeding bus after they had attended the Christmas “Simbang Gabi” last December. One can only hope that this latest tragedy will force the MMDA to be more consistent in its vigilance, but past practices tell us that we’re likely to see more tragic accidents in the future.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
With the surprise resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, the Judiciary and Bar Council (JBC) has begun deliberations on selecting possible candidates to replace her. Already, the factions in the Aquino administration are reportedly jockeying for their respective candidates to be included in the short list, which is unfortunate, considering that it was the perceived partisanship of Gutierrez towards former President and Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that caused Gutierrez to be impeached in the first place.
As of now, I am not aware of whom the candidates of the factions are, but they would do well to refuse their selection in order to ensure that the next Ombudsman will be free of partisan politics. President Aquino would do well to discern very carefully whom he is going to appoint to the position. The only way for the Ombudsman to be empowered to go after all corrupt officials is for him or her to be unfettered by political concerns. President Aquino cannot just appoint an Ombudsman specifically to go after Arroyo and her cronies; that would be too obvious a vengeance trip. Corruption is not exclusive to the Arroyos and their ilk; the current members of the Aquino administration are not saints themselves.
At this point, I’m also not aware of who the candidates are, although I’ve read that former Senator Wigberto Tanada, and soon-to-be-retiring Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales have been mentioned as possible appointees. Whoever is to be appointed, what is important is that the next Ombudsman is independent, intelligent, and honest, so that he or she will have a clear mandate to root out corruption in our government.
Friday, May 06, 2011
This weekend, Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao will face American Shane Mosley in a match which Pacquiao and his fans hope will continue to add to his legendary status. While Mosley is a huge underdog in the betting odds, he still has a lot to bring to the fight, and it's entirely possible that he will manage to give Pacquiao a tough match.
With the death of Osama Bin Laden, the rest of the world finds itself on heightened alert in the event that Bin Laden's supporters and followers will take revenge for the death of their leader. Even here in the Philippines, a group of Muslims apparently met at the Golden Mosque in Quiapo to honor Bin Laden, whose terrorist group al-Qaida was responsible for thousands of deaths, particularly those killed in the terrorist air attacks made in the United States on September 11, 2001, wherein thousands died when planes struck the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
If there's an event I would've liked to have written about when it came out, it would be when Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned from her post last Friday. Gutierrez, who was facing an impending impeachment trial at the Senate this week, resigned, citing family concerns as the reasons, although Ombudsman critics saw it as a way to continue shielding former President and Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Here's hoping I can get some rhythm back into my posting.