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By dropping the name of a high-ranking official, a convoy of vehicles was able to get away with a traffic violation.
On Wednesday morning, November 15, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) traffic enforcers allegedly apprehended the convoy of a senator traversing the exclusive EDSA northbound busway, in front of SM Megamall, as reported by Super Radyo DZBB.
Citing information from MMDA Task Force Special Operations Head Bong Nebrija, the report said it was Senator Bong Revilla who was inside one of the vehicles seen by the traffic enforcers.
The driver should have been fined P5,000 if it was his first violation – a stiffer penalty compared to the previous P1,000 before. But MMDA personnel decided to let the vehicle go after the driver claimed it was Revilla’s car.
Nebrija, explaining his decision in a press conference, said, “I made the call based on the enforcer’s recommendation.”
Revilla promptly refuted the allegations, asserting he was in Cavite during the incident.
“My daily commute is from the south to the Senate and there is no possibility I will be on EDSA in Mandaluyong. When attending to official functions in the north, I take the skyway from and back to the south,” Revilla said in a statement.
He said that if indeed they caught someone using his name, the MMDA personnel should have performed their duties by issuing a ticket.
Immediately after Revilla’s denial, Nebrija recanted his earlier statement and apologized to the senator.
“I’m really sorry. I already apologized earlier. We are all human, we make mistakes. Now, if my enforcer made a mistake as a commander of the task force, the buck stops with me,” Nebrija said.
In response to the controversy, the MMDA placed Nebrija under preventive suspension while an investigation is underway. The traffic enforcers involved in the incident were spared.
On Thursday, November 16, the two drivers in the convoy voluntarily brought themselves to the MMDA office in Pasig City. MMDA acting chairman Don Artes said that the owner of the vehicles in question reached out to the agency through his friend.
“If there is one good that came out of this, we exposed the wrong practice that a single person in the MMDA believes he has the power to select to whom the law applies,” Revilla said in a statement released on Thursday.
CCTV footage revealed that the flagged vehicle had a protocol plate, reserved for high-ranking officials. The Land Transportation Office said that these plates are “supposed to help with the security and traffic access of high-ranking government officials.”
Based on MMDA Regulation No. 20-002, the only vehicles authorized to use the EDSA Bus Carousel lane are public utility buses, emergency vehicles, and clearly-marked government vehicles responding to emergencies.
In a November 14 letter to the MMDA, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) clarified that the president, vice president, Senate president, House speaker, and Supreme Court chief justice, including their convoy, are allowed to use the EDSA bus lane “to provide assistance in the performance of their duties.”
Artes said in a press conference on Wednesday they are discussing whether vehicles with protocol plates for Cabinet secretaries (No. 6), senators (No. 7), and members of the House of Representatives (No. 8) will also be allowed to use the exclusive bus lane, as more vehicles could impede the mobility of buses.
Numerous questions remain unanswered: the identity of the vehicle driver who made the false claim, the vehicle’s occupants, and whether they were truly responding to an emergency.
The MMDA, however, is unlikely to divulge this information, saying that penalties and fines should be sufficient.
One thing is for certain, however. The vehicle, going by its protocol plate, was identified as belonging to a high-ranking official, and MMDA enforcers chose to let it go. – Rappler.com