The Shadowy Figures behind the controversy
People are in a quandary—is President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Junior serious about promoting technology in managing the traffic? Is this administration dead set on instilling discipline among drivers and erring motorists? If yes, why has BBM allowed his newly appointed Assistant Secretary for the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to run roughshod the no contact apprehension program (NCAP) implemented in Metro Manila in 2016?
BBM’s newly appointed Assistant Secretary for the Land Transportation Office (LTO) has just suspended the digital link of local government units (LGUs) with their LTO database. Reason? This assistant secretary, a certain Atty. Teofilo Guadiz III raised an issue on implementing the no contact apprehension program, a traffic violation tracking system using highly sophisticated cameras installed in several cities in Metro Manila.
Guadiz, who claims to be a “strong supporter” of the Marcoses, wants nothing more than jeopardize what many Metro mayors claim as an effective traffic violation detection program. NCAP has been implemented in the Metro since 2016, and according to Paranaque Mayor Olivares, the program has led to the lowering of traffic violations and the incidence of deaths from vehicular accidents.
Paranaque mayor Eric Olivarez was the first to attest to the effectiveness of NCAP in managing the traffic in his small city that straddles Makati and Pasay. Since he implemented the program, the number of traffic violators has decreased tremendously. The program has been running for six years, and no one questioned Olivares’ decision on NCAP, especially residents of Paranaque’s various villages and subdivisions.
Next city mayor who gave NCAP a chance was Mayor Rex Gatchalian, followed by the mayor of Cauayan in Isabela, then the local officials of Bataan, and then Manila mayor Isko Moreno and the last to implement was Quezon city mayor Joy Belmonte. All these mayors profess a strong belief in the program because, for the first time, erring motorists get what they deserve.
Imagine, cases involving kotong virtually went to zero when NCAP was implemented. Traffic-related accidents in Bataan, for example, went down to about 9% because drivers, especially truck drivers, now observe speed limits. Traffic flow improved because motorists now follow road lane markings. Those cameras were so effective that they spotted a violator several meters away.
And it is untrue, even malicious, to insinuate that the NCAP program did not go thru the usual process with local government units. This program went thru the strenuous and protracted process of consultation, debate, and opposition during council meetings with LGUs. Those who want nothing more than improve and enhance traffic management in our country sacrificed a lot to implement a fool-proof program in traffic violation detection.
Those who have a malicious intention of supplanting the current LGU partner for this program, some observers say, want the program for themselves. They are using the political pulpit to smear the program by tagging it as a money-making scheme by LGUs.
Huh? Crap. Bull. Stupid.
If NCAP is genuinely a “money-making scheme,” the program must have revenue or income projection. Do you honestly believe that LGUs or any person has that keen predictive skill to effectively determine that there will be “x” amount of violators per month in one city? Do you seriously believe there is one person who can project an income of so-and-so out of would-be violators from thousands, even a million motorists using these roads with NCAP systems? It is like saying that the courts are also money-making machines—is it not that judges impose fines and penalties against people who violate our Criminal Code? So, judges are also desirous of increasing crimes just so the courts could collect hefty fines and penalties?
And just because of the stiff fines imposed, several political personalities thought of using this program as a political weapon against their enemies. There is this conventional political thinking that every program with a penalty clause is unpopular; hence, it may be weaponized by any political personality going against an incumbent official.
Several political personalities who opposed these mayors during the last elections who used NCAP as their electoral platforms got defeated or voted out of office. The reason is simple—the public supports NCAP. In a survey, 87% of respondents supported the NCAP because they see it as a solution to “kotong,” “harassment from traffic enforcers,” and the “best way to detect traffic violators.” The Filipino people are not stupid. They know a good program when they see one.
Now, who are those who raised hell based on specific “issues involving the program”? If you noticed, these people or political personalities got thrown out of the political bus just because people found them unfit for elective posts for various reasons.
First off, a certain Atty. Ariel Inton, reportedly head of a Lawyers group for Commuter Safety. Inton raised hell when he decided to abandon his excellent links with the Belmontes and ran under a party opposite that of Quezon City mayor Joy Belmonte.
Inton used to be a member of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board LTFRB and wrote a memorandum forbidding the sale of public vehicle franchises. Inton is campaigning for the sale of these franchises by public utility vehicles out of his blind spite against NCAP. Why? QC sources say Inton represents several public utility operators who oppose the NCAP because they complain about how accurate those cameras are and how stiff the fines are. Wala na kasing nakakalusot sa kanila sa traffic violations because these cameras are so efficient; they can detect a traffic violation in a second and process the breach in a jiffy.
No one can navigate his way out of a violation. That’s the beauty of NCAP—WALANG SINISINO, WALANG PINAPABORAN. If you commit an offense, you will surely be fined. But if you follow traffic rules, wala Kang fine.
Inton also used to be Mayor Joy Belmonte’s chief of traffic enforcement, who alienated private motorists in the city after smashing their vehicles parked along several public roads. While specific sectors applauded his antics, the illegality of his actions did not sit well with the mayor. So, Mayor Joy booted him out of the traffic division.
Inton partnered with controversial Congressman Michael Defensor, who ran and lost his election to Mayor Joy Belmonte. It was his second loss for the post. Defensor also commented against Mayor Joy Belmonte’s decision to implement NCAP, thinking every program with an attached penalty clause is ripe for a political attack. As a veteran politico, Defensor saw that the program would go south because of some people’s aversion to being penalized for every infraction. Defensor must have probably forgotten that the program aims for the development of society, for citizens to be responsible for their own mistakes or errors in following the law and that there should be commensurate punishment for those who wantonly violated laws, even simple traffic rules.
What is surprising, and I agree with a columnist from the Philippine Star who wrote about this, is the complete turnaround of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) on NCAP. This newly appointed guy, the Assistant Secretary for LTO, Atty. Teofilo Guadiz III is an old timer at the LTO who has already spent close to ten years of his life in the agency after an unsuccessful stint as a manager in a bank. Guadiz III used to be the regional director of LTO region 1.
Guadiz III, intelligence assets say, is very close to the man who handled the I.T. requirements of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the LTO. He was part of the administration of LTO chief Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante. Question: When the LTO implemented the NCAP in partnership with these local government units, why did Guadiz III hold his peace? Guadiz III never came forward in opposition to the NCAP before he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the LTO. And now Guadiz III wants to be known as the man who stopped an excellent program just because of what? Just because of these trumped-up complaints from the very same persons who reportedly represent the interests of public drivers when in truth and fact, what these people mean are operators who do not want to pay their dues to the government and instead want the old system back. And what is this old system?
Several LTO insiders say the old system is that public utility operators had shady arrangements with traffic chiefs to spare their drivers from paying fines for traffic violations. This system has been there since the time of Marcos. That explains why many people salivate for these transport posts because many benefit from these monthly take-ups from operators. Are we now returning to the old decrepit system that oppressed the people?
That explains why we have undisciplined public transport drivers on the road because operators tolerate them. We have drivers who even cause accidents because of their recklessness in driving. Naaayos Kasi kaya patuloy silang nagmamaneho sa kalsada. These drivers are reckless because they know they can navigate their way out of a mess.
With NCAP, erring drivers who commit violations after violations are now conscious of traffic rules. Records from several LGUs reveal that repeat offenders of traffic violations constitute just a mere 6% when two years ago, repeat offenders almost reached 65% without the NCAP system.
Again, we don’t understand why Guadiz III, whom everyone expects to support BBM’s call for modernizing traffic management, is looking to sabotage the very program of his predecessors. Guadiz complains about the stiffer penalties imposed by LGUs when, based on our research, these fines were based on the LTO’s traffic violation fine rate card. Guadiz III just contradicted his own agency’s recommendations and studies about penalties.
By the way, Presidential adviser Juan Ponce Enrile was reportedly quoted by some journalists when asked how Defensor is behaving at the MMDA. Several MMDA insiders noted how Defensor already considers the MMDA his “personal turf.” He thinks that with a close relation-in-law at the helm, and his perceived closeness with President Marcos Junior, he may have his way of the MMDA. He lost his mayoral bid in Quezon City and needs a platform to stay relevant. Defensor, some say, intends to make the MMDA his weapon against Mayor Joy Belmonte, who defeated him in the last elections.
As for the “other politicos” who now broadcast their senseless opposition about the NCAP, and we are referring to Senator, err, Congressman Robert Ace Barbers, I don’t know why he is talking sh..t. He thinks it is prudent for him to ride on the perceived bruhaha, maybe thinking that this is an unpopular program. Well, Cong. Barbers and his advisers better look at the cards again, and they might be missing something like how they missed the senatorial train when Barbers aspired for a national post. They may yet be committing the very same mistakes that once gave Barbers a taste of a bitter defeat at the polls.
Sincerely, we loved these guys before, and they were once considered politicians who had the welfare of the people in their hearts and minds always. Most people don’t understand why these political personalities want nothing more than to destroy a good program out of spite for those who did not vote for them during the last elections. And those who were voted in office and are aspiring for a higher post when they get their third terms and want to use this program as a springboard to poll victory, be forewarned—you are being misled. The people are sick and tired of your usual political grandstanding to get brownie points from the people. The people see behind these antics, and they are not fools.
The no contact apprehension program seeks to instill discipline among Filipinos by using technology to aid traffic chiefs in implementing traffic rules. For decades, Filipino motorists had been accustomed to just paying the traffic enforcer when flagged for not following traffic rules. With an effective system in place, people such as Guadiz III want it scrapped because the program does not play up to the interests of operators, perhaps? What about the ordinary citizen who will now fear for their lives whenever they use our public roads, in fear of undisciplined drivers who will now act as if they are the appointed road kings because, hey, there are no more cameras out there to record their irreverent behavior.
Haist, we are losing hope in this country. Alas, we now have a very good and effective program against traffic violators, and these men are doing their best to destroy it, and for what? Do they have our interests at heart? We honestly do’nt think so.