Opinion: Traffic Enforcers Must Know The Law They Enforce

Last week a story came out on 24-Oras about a group of ambulances being apprehended by MMDA Traffic Enforcers for allegedly parking illegally near a hospital along Banawe Street in Quezon City. The ambulance drivers, most of them veterans in their jobs, argued that ambulances are allowed this small recuse because of the nature of their jobs.

Indeed, Republic Act 4136 designates ambulances, together with firetrucks and police cars, as emergency vehicles that are allowed “right of way” on our streets. This means that when performing their functions, these vehicles are free from some road rules, including¬† parking restrictions.

On a daily basis, when a traffic enforcer stops a motorist, you will hear them ask this silly question – “Alam niyo po ba ginawa ninyo?” (Do you know what you did?). Instead of immediately announcing the violation and asking for the drivers license and car registration of the motorist, the enforcer asks this perplexing question. Perplexing, especially to the driver, because why would an traffic enforcer ask you your violation?

“If it is not expressly prohibited then it must be allowed.”

Many times, drivers have been slapped with a violation called “swerving”, but try as I might, I could not find this violation in any traffic regulation of any nation, even ours. There is one in the California that says “swerving in a dangerous manner while changing lanes”, and that is a fully qualified statement of what the driver was doing when he was apprehended.

Traffic enforcers are not allowed to group together while in uniform and on duty. The most is to be with their partners at their designated place of assignment and no more. That is even in the MMDA Handbook. But we always see a group of 5-8 enforcers grouped together at certain areas of EDSA and other parts of Metro Manila.

What am I driving at with these examples?

That most of our traffic enforcers have no idea about the law they are enforcing nor the intricate nuances of these laws. There is a principle in the law that says “what is not expressly prohibited is therefore allowed.” The meaning is simple, the government has a duty to inform the public what it cannot do, all else can be done.

For example, while turning left on a highway, one is assumed to be allowed to make a U-Turn also, unless a big and highly visible “No U-Turn” sign is present. The rule also dictates how the sign is positioned and what font, color and design must be used (so there is uniformity.) But in our country, a carbon paper sized no u-turn cardboard notice tacked on a tree is used by enforcers to apprehend motorists.

Traffic management is the job of an educated person. The level of analysis and decision making is the same as one who manages a team of 15 persons. (photo courtesy of MMDA)

Our traffic enforcers are doing a noble and important job, that of ensuring the smooth flow of traffic along our thoroughfares allowing the free movement of people and commerce. They are not just displays for the use of politicians to make them look good whenever the need arises.

Their jobs are difficult and thankless because no driving citizen wants to be stopped and told he did wrong. They work under the sun or rain, day-in and day-out under the most stressful situations. They should not be thrown out on the field without the necessary tools to perform their jobs.

Would be soldiers train for an average period of six months before being accepted into the corps. And then they need to continuously be educated and physically trained before being sent to the front. Engineers, lawyers, CPA’s, policemen, even us journalists do this to hone our craft. Aren’t those in charge of keeping our streets safe and clear deserving of as much.

Besides, when they enforce the law, should they not also be very familiar with the law they enforce?

Traffic enforcement and management is the job of educated people. The level of analysis and decision making equals that of a manager of 15 people.

I remember when the lowest assignment of a police officer was to man traffic (yes Alona, traffic used to be a policeman’s job), he would be instructed to study the law on traffic enforcement. This is part of his training so he could rise in his profession. I still know of a few PNP officers in MPD who did this in their career.

I have always said, traffic management is the job of an educated person. The job is not for laggards who are political accommodations from local mayors or lazy people seeking easy employment (forgive me for this but I am stating a fact).

We should think about this more seriously.

A dancing traffic cop making his job a little bit lighter for himself and his constituency. (photo courtesy of MPD)

The author is a certified motorhead and has been a journalist for the past 30 years. He will be a journalist all his life. He thinks he is famous and his mother agrees. His father has another opinion on that matter.
Email him at irapanganiban@wheelsph.com