Duterte mum on traffic crisis, enforcers’ woes during MMDA meet
MANILA — In his first visit to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), President Duterte made no mention of his priority programs to address the traffic crisis gripping Metro Manila nor did he touch on the difficulties experienced by traffic enforcers, who have been risking life and limb each day to man the metro’s busy thoroughfares.
MMDA officer in charge and general manager Tim Orbos told reporters hours before the President’s address that Duterte directed him, during Monday’s Cabinet meeting, to push through and immediately roll out four measures to address the traffic problem. But Mr. Duterte himself made no mention of these four measures as he spoke to the metro mayors and the agency’s officials and employees during the inauguration of the Metro Manila Crisis and Monitoring Management Center (MMCMMC) on Tuesday night.
The four traffic measures are: the immediate clearing of the Roxas Boulevard service road, the implementation of a flexible work schedule for government employees, the opening of major roads such as Edsa to trucks to boost the nighttime economy, and the filing of administrative complaints in the Office of the Ombudsman against barangay officials who fail to maintain roads that have been cleared by the MMDA of illegally parked cars and other obstructions.
Since taking office in July, the President had asked Congress to grant him emergency powers to resolve the traffic crisis, but such measure, however, remains languishing in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
For most of his rambling speech that lasted for 41 minutes, Mr. Duterte delved on his usual topics, such as his rise to the presidency, the war on illegal drugs, and women and having an affair. He also talked about putting an end to corruption, but this mostly centered on his just sacked Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, and former Irrigation chief Peter Laviña, and Immigration deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.
Apart from recognizing the MMDA’s role in “providing 24-hour assistance to the people of Metro Manila during emergency and crisis situations” with the opening of the MMCMMC, the President made no other reference to the employees of the agency, who waited for him for at least three hours.
This was despite Orbos’ earlier presentation to the President of what he called the “industrious employees” of the agency, referring to street sweepers, members of the sidewalk clearing group as well as traffic enforcers, among others.
Later that night, Orbos said that the President’s visit to their headquarters in Makati City already sufficed as a morale booster to the employees, even if their specific work concerns were not acknowledged.
“Do we have to mention things for you to have that boost?” Orbos told reporters in a chance interview. “He knows what he can do for us. He’s a symbol, he’s the President. For him to come here is more than enough. It’s a testament of him realizing the kind of work that my fellow employees in the MMDA have.”
In contrast, Duterte was right to the point and specific in addressing the welfare issues of soldiers and policemen when he attended the Philippine Army’s anniversary in Fort Bonifacio also on Tuesday. Mr. Duterte committed to provide better housing to soldiers and policemen, whom he asked to let go of their houses in Bulacan that have been occupied by members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), an urban poor group. In previous addresses, the President also promised increases in the salaries of policemen and soldiers.
Traffic enforcers, on the other hand, have yet to secure hazard pay from government, this despite repeated attempts in recent years by the MMDA to gain such a benefit for Orbos has likened the work of traffic constables to that of soldiers: “What they go through every day is short of a war.”
Currently, an entry level traffic enforcer only gets close to P11,000 monthly. Low salary and lack of benefits often force some enforcers to take in bribes.
Orbos noted though that he and other MMDA officials have been working on a list of benefits for MMDA employees, but he did not disclose details. SFM
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