Senator Mark Villar recently filed Senate Bill 1959 which, if enacted into law, will require the installation of digital countdown timers in vehicular and pedestrian traffic lights throughout the Philippines.
The countdown timers will give motorists approaching a busy roadway intersection a realistic estimate of how much time is available for him to cross the intersection, or how much time he has to wait until the traffic light turns green.
The same principle applies to pedestrians crossing at those intersections.
Villar’s bill seeks to promote road safety and a more efficient flow of vehicular traffic, particularly in Metro Manila where the traffic problem is a daily ordeal for motorists.
The digital countdown timers proposal of Villar is not a new idea.
Prior to the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, major intersections in Metro Manila were equipped with such timers.
The measure was welcomed by countless motorists and pedestrians, and brought some safety and order to the streets of the National Capital Region.
Those countdown timers virtually eliminated the old racket of corrupt MMDA traffic rules enforcers who, prior to installation of the timers, extorted money from unfortunate motorists who miscalculate how much time they have to cross an intersection.
In August 2022, Francisco Pesino Jr., a vehicular traffic operations official of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, announced the MMDA will replace the existing countdown timers with expensive sensors which operate under an Adaptive Responsive Traffic Signal System (ARTSS).
According to Pesino, those sensors will determine when the traffic lights will change, depending on the volume of vehicular traffic at any given intersection.
The existing countdown timers, Pesino said, will no longer be used because they are not compatible with the proposed ARTSS.
Carlos Dimayuga III, who assumed the post of Acting MMDA Chairman days after Pesino’s announcement, seems to have approved the ARTSS.
Dimayuga, however, has not bothered to explain why the countdown timers must be eliminated, even if they promote road safety.
He is also silent why the MMDA purchased a new road system (the ARTSS) which is incompatible with the existing countdown timers, and what the MMDA plans to do with the discarded timers.
Since those countdown timers and the ARTSS cost billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money, many people, myself included, want to know if MMDA officials made money on the purchases involved.
Dimayuga should also reveal if the MMDA conducted a public bidding for the acquisition of the ARTSS.
In other words, the highly efficient countdown timers, purchased by the MMDA at the cost of billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money, will be thrown away, and Metro Manila will go back to the impractical, unsafe times when motorists have to guess how much time he has to negotiate a roadway intersection, and were at the mercy of corrupt MMDA traffic rules enforcers.
I believe Villar filed Senate Bill 1959 to likewise rebuke Dimayuga and his ARTSS. It is a slap on the faces of MMDA officials for their gross incompetence and unmitigated wastage of taxpayers’ money.
If Dimayuga and company have any sense of decency left in them, they should resign their posts in the MMDA.
Their inexcusable incompetence and their mismanagement of the MMDA have been finally exposed to the public by the senator.
Also, Villar should summon Dimayuga and his minions in the MMDA and require them to explain why the MMDA management allowed the wastage of billions of pesos of public funds.
The Department of Justice should also file graft charges against the MMDA officials involved in this racket for their violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Speaking of rackets, Dimayuga should also explain to Congress why the MMDA has outsourced the enforcement of traffic rules and the collection of motorists’ fines to a private company, a certain QPax Traffic Systems, Inc.
It has been reported in the news that under the existing arrangement between the MMDA and QPax, the latter gets to keep 70% of the total fines it collects from motorists.
The enforcement of traffic rules is a matter of law enforcement.
Law enforcement, in turn, is a power that belongs exclusively to the government.
Being an exclusive power of the government, law enforcement cannot be contracted away to a private entity. To do so will invite criminal prosecution also under Section 3(e) of the anti-graft law.
That’s like contracting a private security agency to enforce warrants of arrest and search warrants. It’s patently unlawful.
Congress should require Dimayuga to explain why the MMDA contracted away the power of law enforcement to a private entity like QPax, with the latter keeping the bulk of all fines collected from violators of traffic rules.
The gross mismanagement and corruption in the MMDA should be stopped once and for all.