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Duterte should fire MMDA’s Lim and Garcia

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It’s amazing. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the government agency in charge of managing the traffic situation in the metropolis, never runs out of abusive and incompetent officials. Two of its current officials are examples — MMDA chairman and former military mutineer Danilo Lim and MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia.

A new “high occupancy vehicle” (HOV) traffic scheme apparently hatched by Lim and Garcia prohibits vehicles from plying Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) from 7 to 10 a.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. if the vehicle has only one passenger– the driver. This scheme is said to encourage carpooling.

Because the HOV scheme begins its so-called dry run this week, the MMDA is appealing to everyone to give the proposed regulation a chance.

Good grief! Lim’s and Garcia’s HOV scheme is illegal and unreasonable and does not deserve a tryout period. Allowing it “to be given a chance” is like giving a cobra a chance to prove itself harmless.

The HOV scheme is illegal and unreasonable for many reasons.

First, Lim and Garcia subscribe to the stupid notion that the solution to the traffic problem in the metropolis is to issue restrictions. It’s easy for Lim and Garcia to do that because MMDA officials and employees are exempted from their own rules.

Second, the MMDA allows too many exemptions to its own rules and regulations.

For instance, government vehicles are exempted from the number coding regulation which bans vehicles from the roadways of Metropolitan Manila one day each week, depending on the last digit of their license plates. Private vehicles are not exempted. Why should government vehicles be exempted from the number coding rule when their passengers are supposed to be the servants of the private sector in the first place?

Vehicles of physicians are also exempted from the number coding ban on the sweeping assumption that a physician on the road is on his way to make a house call or to attend to an emergency. Good heavens! Unlike in the old days, today’s physicians no longer make house calls!

Moreover, a physician can easily claim he is rushing to an emergency even if he isn’t and MMDA traffic enforcers have no way of verifying the claim. This encourages a blatant circumvention of traffic regulations and allows unwarranted special treatment of a class of citizens. That’s class legislation which violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

A lawyer on his way to court to argue his client’s case is, in a way, rushing to an emergency because one’s liberty is just as important as one’s health. Being so, why aren’t lawyers’ vehicles also exempted from the number coding ban?

Third, bans and restrictions should not be resorted to by the MMDA until and unless it has tried solutions less restrictive of the rights of motorists.

For example, the slow pace of traffic along the northbound lane of EDSA is caused by bottlenecks at the entrance of the flyover near Camp Aguinaldo. Those bottlenecks can be eliminated by requiring the vehicles concerned to go under the flyovers by way of the outer lanes of EDSA and not by way of the inner lanes of the highway.

In addition, the slow pace of traffic at EDSA is caused by the indiscriminate use of lanes by slow moving vehicles. These vehicles should be required to use only the outermost lane which, under international traffic regulations, is the proper place for slow moving vehicles using the highways.

Sadly, the MMDA has done nothing about both traffic problems because as far as Lim and Garcia are concerned, the solution is to restrict. They know it’s easier to restrict than to regulate.

The payment of a tax creates a right on the part of the taxpayer, especially if it is a specific tax. For example, an airport tax vests in the taxpayer a right to use the airport. If the person concerned is not allowed to leave the country, he cannot be required to pay an airport tax.

Since private motorists pay a costly “road users’ tax” each time they register their vehicles with the Land Transportation Office, then the right of motorists to use the roadways cannot be restricted by whimsical rules like Lim’s and Garcia’s illegal and unreasonable HOV scheme.

Fourth, Lim’s and Garcia’s HOV scheme is inequitable because it fails to consider that many vehicles carry only one passenger — the driver — through no fault of the vehicle owner. It is not the fault of the vehicle owner if he has nobody to accompany him on his trip or if he cannot afford to hire a chauffeur.

Essentially, Lim’s and Garcia’s HOV scheme is anti-middle class because the wealthy can easily circumvent the prohibition by hiring a chauffeur. In fine, Lim’s measure favors the rich because the wealthy are left with more road space the moment the HOV scheme keeps more cars off the roads.

Fifth, Lim’s and Garcia’s HOV scheme leaves affected motorists with no reasonable alternative. If certain taxpayers are to be prohibited by the State from riding private vehicles, then the public utility vehicles available on the roads must be safe and devoid of health hazards. To state the obvious, every person has the inherent right to avoid safety and health hazards.

Sadly, the alternatives are far from ideal.

The passenger doors of many MRT trains open indiscriminately while the train is moving.

Jeepney drivers are notorious for over-speeding and violating traffic safety regulations.

Many taxicab drivers have raped or robbed their passengers. Drivers of many electronically hired vehicles do not want to travel during heavy rains or to go through semi-flooded streets. All told, there are not enough safe public utility vehicles around to serve motorists affected by Lim’s and Garcia’s HOV scheme.

If Lim and Garcia insist on implementing their HOV scheme, the motorists affected should ask President Rodrigo Duterte to fire Lim and Garcia immediately.

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