MANILA, Philippines – “Maliwanag ang ating usapan (Everything is clear between us, right)?”
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ricardo Marquez minced no words on Monday, September 7, while speaking to personnel from the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) now tasked to man 6 “choke points” along EDSA as part of the government’s efforts to ease traffic.
“Starting today, let EDSA be a show window of road discipline. Enforce the law without fear or favor… And make sure nobody asks any favor – money, any considerations from citizens violating traffic rules and regulations. The moment na magawa niyo yun, sabi ko nga, tapos na ang istorya natin (someone accepts bribes, this conversation is over),” Marquez told close to 100 HPG personnel assembled at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
His marching orders were simple enough: enforce the law, teach both drivers and commuters to follow rules, and stay away from corruption.
Marquez, who was appointed chief of the PNP in July this years, knows the potential gains – and pitfalls – of the HPG’s return to EDSA, thanks primarily to social media.
“In a matter of seconds, our good deeds on the road will be multiplied a thousand times. In the same way, our shortcomings and abuses will also be amplified,” said Marquez.
Up until the mid 90s, the police were mandated to enforce traffic rules and regulations along EDSA and Metro Manila’s highways.
So powerful was the HPG’s predecessor – known as the Constabulary Highway Patrol Group under the Philippine Constabulary – that its personnel were once known as the “Kings of EDSA.”
This changed when the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) was created and Local Government Units (LGUs) were tasked to create their own traffic management groups.
“The time has come for another huge challenge for the PNP. It’s a challenge that I was hesitant about because of our existing responsibilities, including crime prevention. Now we’re adding more to our plate even if the law says that this isn’t our responsibility anymore. But if you look at the traffic situation, maybe it’s about time we help out,” added Marquez.
Some 150 HPG personnel will begin to man the 6 EDSA “choke points,” mostly transportation hubs where public utility vehicles, buses, and jeepneys converge. Government officials hope the HPG’s authority will make it easier to accost, arrest, and discourage errant motorists and commuters.
“You’ve read the newspapers, how those pronouncements raised the expectations of people. They think that once the HPG is there, EDSA traffic will be fixed – it’s as if we’re magicians. But I was told during our meeting in Malacañang that they want to bring back what happened before: when HPG personnel were seen along EDSA, everybody behaves,” added Marquez.
The HPG’s deployment along EDSA is among a series of changes the government has in store to ease traffic in Metro Manila which is projected to cost the country P6 billion daily by 2030 if it is unstopped.
Marquez told reporters no timeline was given for the HPG EDSA deployment, while emphasizing to his men that while they’re there, they should always put their best foot forward because their actions would reflect on the PNP as an institution as well.
“Show our countrymen, show the world what kind of personnel you are. I trust in your confidence, I trust in your integrity, I trust in your professionalism. Do you job and we will be there for you, I will be there for you,” said Marquez. – Rappler.com