GIVEN a choice, motorists would rather take a longer route than be stuck in traffic at the 54-kilometer Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) – but not for politicians, known for their habitual disregard of traffic rules.
For the last two decades, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has implemented quite a number of approaches.
MMDA tried limiting buses to the so-called yellow lane, keeping off trucks and provincial buses from the thoroughfare, the use of plastic barriers, motorcycle lanes and the number coding scheme in a bid to somehow decongest EDSA.
Even after reducing the volume of big vehicles plying the road, traffic congestion has remained a major concern along EDSA, until the inception of the bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which was later referred to as EDSA Carousel just for Metro Manila.
DSA Bus Carousel
EDSA, which traverses across the National Capital Region (NCR) is notoriously famous for its snail-paced traffic flow.
It is for this reason that the previous DOTR leadership under Sec Art Tugade embarked on an experiment, which somehow tamed EDSA congestion. Hence, the EDSA Carousel was established.
Under the government’s masterplan, the EDSA Carousel effectively keeps city buses to a bollard-segregated lane at the innermost lanes (northbound and southbound) of the highway.
Aside from buses, MMDA Regulation No. 20-002 also allowed emergency vehicles, and clearly-marked government vehicles responding to emergencies to use the EDSA Bus Carousel Lane.
But after some time, many other vehicles, including politicians’ convoy, have been caught on cam swerving and making their way to the exclusive bus lane in a bid to get past other motorists hoping to reach their destination right on time.
Not For All Politicians
As traffic congestion gets worse in view of the holiday season, MMDA started a purge, alongside with the imposition of hefty fines on motorists using the EDSA Bus Carousel.
In two separate traffic operations along EDSA, MMDA traffic enforcers got to pick the wrong vehicles – one was reported to be those with Ako-Bicol partylist congressman Rizaldy Co and the latest and so far the most controversial, a fleet of vehicles allegedly forming part of Senator Bong Revilla’s convoy.
According to MMDA Task Force Special Operations Head Bong Nebrija, Revilla was inside one of the vehicles seen by the traffic enforcers. The convoy was eventually allowed to go, though it’s unclear if the senator was told to pay a fine or was given a violation ticket.
Bong’s Legislative Power
An obviously pissed off Sen. Revilla denied the allegations even as he described the act of dragging his name as “malicious.”
“My daily commute is from the south to the Senate, and there is no possibility I will be on Edsa in Mandaluyong. When attending 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 duty by issuing a ticket.
The senator went as far as using his power to recall the Senate-approved 2024 operating budget of the MMDA because of the incident which to him placed him in a very bad light, just when he thought he had cleared his name after being dragged in a plunder case for which he was jailed.
MMDA Suspends Nebrija
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.
Revilla readily accepted the MMDA official’s apology, which to MMDA chair Don Artes was not enough to keep Nebrija off the hook as the latter was slapped with a 15 to 30-day suspension which took effect that same day.
The MMDA chief said the agency will review closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of the November 15 incident which according Nebrija involved a vehicle with a “7” protocol plate, assigned to senators.
Artes clarified that Nebrija’s suspension has nothing to do with Revilla, even as he claimed that it was Nebrija’s instruction to the enforcer that compelled him to slap the sanction. The MMDA-TFSOU chief reportedly instructed the traffic enforcers not to issue a citation ticket and allow Revilla’s convoy to pass through the busway.
PH Protocol Plates
In a news forum, Nebrija insisted that he gave the instruction “out of courtesy for the convoy, which was in a rush. It was a judgment call on my part.” He noted that senators could be engaged in a lot of meetings.
He however admitted having some reservations and that the driver or anyone in the convoy could have “named-dropped” Revilla to be able to escape apprehension and fines ranging from P5,000 to P30,000 – aside from the possibility of having the driver’s license canceled.
The apprehending MMDA team took photos of the vehicles included in Revilla’s alleged convoy but the enforcer concerned has yet to create a report of the incident.
Artes said the investigation will cover who leaked the information on the incident and the identity of the driver who dropped Revilla’s name.
Only for the Chiefs
According to the MMDA chief, only three types of vehicles are allowed to use the EDSA Bus Carousel: buses, emergency vehicles and marked government vehicles.
“They extended it upon our recommendation to include the convoy of the President, Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice,” he averred.
Interestingly, the exemption does not categorically include vehicles using protocol plates 6 (Cabinet Secretary), 7 (Senators) and 8 (Members of the House of Representatives).
Artes said there is a need to study the impact and implications of allowing vehicles with these protocol plates to use the busway, “specially for over 300 congressmen. The purpose of the EDSA Bus Carousel is to move people, not just one vehicle with one passenger.”
According to a study, over 400,000 vehicles are using EDSA daily.
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