Why did the MMDA suspend its accredited towing company?
MANILA, Philippines – Why did Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) suspend an accredited towing company? The short answer: For possible extortion and illegal towing.
It all started with a Facebook post that went viral.
In a post, Kristen Ann Uy de Baron narrated how employees of the Arcson Towing Company took her car keys, towed her car, and allegedly extorted money. According to her, they would have driven off with her car if she had not caught up with them.
The tow company employees, who wore MMDA-branded shirts, accused her driver of parking illegally near the Savemore Broadway in Quezon City on May 23. But this may have been in violation of a rule that towing companies are not allowed to tow attended vehicles.
They told her and her driver to get in the car and they proceeded to the impounding area in Ortigas. Inside the car, the tow company employees told Uy de Baron she needed to pay P4,000 to settle the illegal parking charge.
"I was told by MMDA guy 2 that we were going to be impounded at Ultra unless we can come to a settlement. At some point, exasperated, I asked for their names so I can make due note of their strange behavior. They refused to give their names, never presented proper MMDA IDs and just threatened me with immediate impoundment," Uy de Baron added.
Uy de Baron called her husband who rushed to the scene and confronted the tow company employees. After a heated discussion, they released the car. “Di bale na lang, sir, ayan ha di na namin kayo ito-tow,” the employees said. (Never mind, sir. We won’t tow your car anymore.)
According to the MMDA, the towing company should not have towed the car if there was a driver present. Instead, a MMDA enforcer should have issued an illegal parking ticket.
Because the towing company may have violated the rules, the MMDA announced on Tuesday, May 24 the suspension of all Arcson Tow Trucks and an investigation into the matter.
"MMDA Chairman Emerson S. Carlos has already ordered the indefinite suspension of ALL Arcson tow trucks, including tow truck with plate number AVA 4494, the one used in the alleged scam," MMDA said in a statement.
Uy de Baron told Rappler that MMDA was quick to respond to her Facebook complaint.
MMDA Traffic Discipline Office head, Cris Saruca, accompanied her to the impound lot to speak with the Arcson employees who attempted to extort them.
One of the employees has not reported for work since the incident while another acknowledged that they did not follow MMDA protocol.
People lauded the MMDA for their quick response.
Uy de Baron hopes her experience will empower others who are victims of illegal towing scams.
"I do pray that by posting this and making it known that more people will be aware of this kind of scam. I fully intend to file a formal complaint through our lawyer friend to the MMDA and show our photos and give a full statement," said Uy de Baron.
Know the law
Stories of illegal towing operations are not new to Metro Manila residents. The problem of fly-by-night operators who disregard the law has gotten so big it prompted a Senate hearing led by Senator Grace Poe.
So what do motorists need to know to avoid a similar situation?
The MMDA says the first rule of thumb is to obey the law and avoid parking on the street, particularly where there are No Parking signs clearly posted.
Knowing the law will also help you avoid sticky situations.
According to the MMDA's rules, if the vehicle is attended and parked illegally, the MMDA will only issue a traffic ticket.
If a vehicle is unattended and parked illegally, tow truck operators must alert MMDA's Metrobase if it will conduct a clamping or towing operation.
The MMDA also has standard fees that apply to any towing operation. But, they caution, each city has its own rules on illegal parking and towing.
If you encounter a problem or have questions, you can call the MMDA Hotline 136. – with reports from Basil Mencias/Rappler.com