MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Actress and Binibining Pilipinas Universe 1982 Maria Isabel Lopez tried to escape the horrendous traffic along EDSA by using the lane meant exclusively for delegates of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, November 11, Lopez even sounded proud as she shared that she removed the divider cones separating the ASEAN lane from the lanes open to the public.
Lopez added that the motorists behind her followed suit as she sped along the ASEAN lane.
“I removed the divider cones! Then all other motorists behind me followed! MMDA thinks I’m an official ASEAN delegate! If you can’t beat them, join them!” she wrote.
Her post had the hashtags #nosticker, #leadership, #belikemaria, #pasaway, and #selfpreservation.
As of 2:55 pm on Sunday, November 12, her post had more than 5,700 reactions and over 5,200 shares.
Suspension or cancellation of license
It was definitely not a smart move, however, as Lopez is now in trouble.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) saw Lopez’s action as a “serious breach of security.”
“It’s a serious breach of security. MMDA and LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) will recommend to the LTO (Land Transportation Office) the suspension or cancellation of the driver’s license of Maria Isabel Lopez,” said MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago in a message to reporters.
Pialago added that even an apology would not get Lopez off the hook.
The Inquirer has reported that Lopez would apologize. The actress was quoted as saying: “The end doesn’t justify the means, but I had to answer the call of nature because was stuck in traffic for 3 hours. Sorry but I’m just human.”
For the MMDA, however, “bragging [about] an illegal act on social media is a no-no for a person of her stature.”
The MMDA clarified that only emergency vehicles can use the ASEAN lane apart from the delegates. Emergency vehicles are only allowed to use the ASEAN lane if there are no delegates’ convoys.
MMDA ADVISORY: As per the ASEAN National Organising Committee (NOC), emergency vehicles may use ASEAN lanes. Please coordinate with our ground personnel for assistance to your destination or to the nearest medical facility. #mmda #teamMMDA— Official MMDA (@MMDA) November 12, 2017
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde, the task group commander for route security, said in a separate statement that he supports the MMDA and LTFRB’s recommendation.
“We strongly support the recommendation for the suspension or revocation of Ms Maria Isabel Lopez’s driver’s license for violation of traffic rules and also for breach of security. A person of her stature should be an example to the Filipino community but she did just the contrary,” Albayalde said.
“May this incident serve as a stern warning and reminder to the public that all agencies are communicating and are all working hard to provide security and order for the ASEAN Summit. Any violations of the protocols and rules set forth by the ASEAN Task Forces shall not be tolerated,” he added.
The ASEAN security committee also released a separate statement on Sunday, saying that Lopez’s defiance of the traffic plan is “unacceptable” and will be “dealt with accordingly.”
The committee quoted Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Officer-in-Charge Catalino Cuy as saying that the actress’ behavior “should neither be condoned nor tolerated as it can halt and derail traffic management and can put at risk both the summit delegates and the traffic violators themselves.”
Cuy added: “As a public figure, Ms Lopez must be mindful of the impacts of her actions. We tirelessly remind the people that traffic rules are created to save lives and put order in the management of traffic flow, especially now that we are hosting the ASEAN Summit. We will not allow someone like her to simply put our plans to naught.”
ASEAN Technical Working Group on Traffic Management Chairperson Emmanuel Miro said the incident will be investigated and charges may be filed against Lopez.
“The law must be applied to everyone, whether you are an ordinary Filipino or a public figure like Ms Lopez,” Miro said.
Many commuters and motorists had expressed frustration over traffic congestion ahead of the 31st ASEAN Summit. (READ: EDSA ‘parking lot’: Commuters endure traffic ahead of ASEAN Summit)
The DILG earlier announced the partial and total lockdown of certain areas around the metro during the summit. The public is advised to avoid the areas as much as possible.
During the 2016 campaign season, President Rodrigo Duterte had slammed the Aquino administration for holding the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila, which caused road closures and heavy traffic.
Manila is hosting the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits. – Rappler.com