• Parade of pinheads

    Ben D. Kritz

    Ben D. Kritz

    The idea is so bogglingly stupid, it is difficult to comprehend that it was presented guilelessly and not as some bizarre, tasteless practical joke: As a solution to Metro Manila’s worsening traffic congestion, Congressman Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela has filed a bill restricting the sale of motor vehicles only to those who present proof of having a parking space.

    The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which under Chairman Francis “Sorry for the Inconvenience” Tolentino has never seen a dumb idea it doesn’t like, immediately threw its public support behind the measure, saying that it “could help decongest the already crowded streets of Metro Manila.”

    Under the “Proof of Parking Space Act” (House Bill 5098), buyers of brand new cars, whether individuals or businesses, would be required to provide a notarized affidavit confirming that a parking space for the vehicle was available in order to purchase it, and present the affidavit again when registering the car with the Land Transportation Office (LTO). Car owners caught making a false claim to having a parking space would be fined P50,000 and banned from registering any vehicle for three years, while LTO employees caught issuing registrations for ‘space-less’ cars would be suspended without pay for three months. The bill specifies that the MMDA, LTO, and local government units will be responsible for inspecting the parking spaces to make sure they actually exist.

    Gatchalian explained the inspiration for his bill came from Singapore, where he observed that vehicles are not allowed to be parked on public roads.

    “Singapore serves as a model to the Philippines in terms of regulating vehicle traffic and protecting pedestrians,” Gatchalian said, according to a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

    If Rep. Gatchalian was disciplined enough to muster the few milliwatts of mental effort to do two minutes of internet research, he would have quickly learned that Singapore does not, in fact, prohibit parking on public streets, but restricts it in areas where it is necessary to maintain traffic movement. He would have also learned that parking scofflaws are a considerable problem in Singapore, to the extent that the city launched a campaign last year that involved installing CCTV cameras in about 30 trouble spots to catch violators and deter others.

    If Singapore is a model of anything, it should be about how to apply strict laws in a practical way and taking steps to improve enforcement if the results are unsatisfactory. What it most certainly is not a model of is a system where new, ill-considered laws that not only unfairly punish an entire business sector but create several new avenues for government and public corruption are considered viable solutions to persistently poor process control.

    Even so, we might actually cut Gatchalian a little slack. He is, after all, a member of a Legislature we’ve all been conditioned to expect very little from, which probably partly explains why the people of Valenzuela inexplicably keep electing him to various public offices. The MMDA, on the other hand, is a manifestation of an even bigger problem. In the four-plus years of the Aquino Administration, too much of the bureaucracy has been marked by a willful failure to perform—a display of not simply incompetence, but anti-competence.

    While there, perhaps, have been a few bright spots, far too many examples abound:

    1) The deterioration of the light rail system and the continuing unpleasantness of the country’s primary airport, courtesy of the Department of Transportation and Communications;

    2) The embarrassing chaos with driver and vehicle licensing in the Land Transportation Office, and similarly, the significant contribution to port congestion provided by the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board;

    3) The perceived breakdown of basic public safety under the watch of Aquino favorites Mar Roxas at the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Alan Purisima at the Philippine National Police—the latter under a cloud of corruption allegations, for good measure; and of course,

    4) The tragic aftermath of the event that revealed to the world how government actually works under B.S. Aquino, last year’s devastating Typhoon Yolanda—the fumbling response to which was led by Dinky Soliman’s Department of Social Welfare and Development.

    While the MMDA did at least give lip service to the idea that Metro Manila should have some sort of workable public transit system, the irony with which that statement was received was almost certainly lost on the official who made it, assistant general manager for operations Emerson Carlos.

    Carlos was speaking to the press instead of Chairman Tolentino because the latter was helping the President to interfere with the smooth flow of holiday travelers by leading a large contingent of security and media people to metro bus terminals to hand out rubber bracelets. But in one sense, the MMDA’s apparent detachment from rational thought shouldn’t come as too great a surprise; the eagerness with which the agency embraced Gatchalian’s callow “parking space” bill was tantamount to an admission that it is incapable of doing its job, in much the same sense as was Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla’s earlier desperate lobbying for “emergency powers” for Aquino to deal with a non-existent electricity supply crisis.

    We can safely blame people rather than policy, because all these problems are failures to carry out the most basic bureaucratic responsibilities and meet the most mundane expectations. “Expressing confidence” in his parade of pinheads and engaging them in pointless, heterodox gimmicks like making “performance pledges” will not keep the lights on and the trains running on time; but President Aquino has turned a deaf ear to those sorts of exhortations for four years, so there is little reason to hope he will start to hear them now.

    At least we have reached a point where most unhelpful new ideas that might be raised by his clueless sycophants—things like Rep. Gatchalian’s “parking space” canard— simply do not have time to be implemented. That is a dubious sort of thing to be happy about, but in the interest of maintaining a positive outlook, we should probably accept it.



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    1. I don’t think he said Singapore prohibits. You quoted him as saying “Singapore serves as a model to the Philippines in terms of regulating vehicle traffic…” So the term there is “regulating,” not “prohibiting.”

    2. A case of a blind leading a blind. There are a number of people mostly politicians who falls under this category.

    3. As far as I know, in Singapore one has to bid for the right to own a car, not to mention the higher taxes and fees one has to pay as the price of ownership. Why don’t we adopt this extreme but necessary measure, in addition to Gatchalian’s brilliant idea? To solve the traffic problem, there must be sacrifice on everybody’s part, including and especially the car industry.