The kidnapping, assault and robbery cases recently perpetrated by rogue taxi drivers should give everyone the jitters and should immediately be acted upon by Chief Superintendent Marcelo Garbo Jr., the new head of the National Capital Regional Police Office.
One crime does not make a crisis or trend, but when there is a spate of crimes of the same nature, especially if it concerns public utility drivers themselves—taxi drivers who are on the frontline of any country’s tourism campaign—then the police must give it priority.
Public safety is really a big problem nowadays, despite claims by the police that crime statistics are down.
Just recently, a lady hotel worker on her way home flagged down a taxi in Makati. She was abducted, robbed and even molested by the taxi driver and his accomplice who was hiding in the taxi’s trunk.
She gave them her ATM cards, but the two weren’t satisfied. They took her all the way to Quezon province and had more sinister plans. Luckily, she was able to escape.
The taxi driver, Eduardo Sarabosing Jr., 34, of Unisan, Quezon; and his cohort Samuel Aumentado Jr., 39, of Baragay Talon Dos, Las Piñas City, were later arrested, yes, but only because their victim, a 21-year-old hotel waitress, was able to escape. In April, another woman lost around P20,000 in cash and valuables to robbers who suddenly boarded the taxi she was riding in Quezon City.
The victim said the taxi driver appeared to be an accomplice since he drove her around the cities of Makati and Manila while the robbery was in progress.
There are more taxi terror tales.
Same modus operandi—known as “ipit-taxi” to the police, wherein robbers would suddenly board a cab in connivance with the driver to get to their target.
Same victims: female taxi passengers.
The government should hold taxi owners or operators accountable. These operators should be more responsible and stringent in choosing their taxi drivers.
Sure, most taxi drivers just want to earn a living and are honest, but how could an unsuspecting passenger know which one is honest and which one is a rogue?
The police should be involved in screening taxi drivers.
The fact that some of the drivers are renting their taxis to others does not help matters in tracking rogue taxi drivers.
Perhaps, installing cameras in the taxis might help.
The Land Transportation Office and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board should deploy more personnel to conduct surveillance against rogue taxi drivers.
Business establishments should also help by having a taxi boarding area where assigned employees could track down the taxi body number and plate number their customers board so that rogue taxi drivers can easily be traced.
There must also be an independent screening of taxi drivers, and for that matter all PUV drivers, for use of illegal drugs, conducted regularly by their owners and operators, apart from the mandatory drug testing of the government.
I would like to stress the regularity and the randomness of these drug tests. Because druggie drivers who know of an occasional and upcoming drug test merely stop using drugs for a while so they can pass the laboratory exams and they resume after they are already driving.
This is also how they pass the mandatory government drug tests for issuing licenses.
There should also be a specific database on taxi drivers, which will come in handy not only for tracking drivers/robbers but also monitoring errant taxi drivers.
There should be a penalty points system where errant taxi drivers would have their points deducted for common offences like not using the meter or refusing to take passengers to certain locations.
If they go over a prescribed demerits quota, then they should eventually be fired.
This not only punishes rogue and errant taxi drivers but also rewards the good and honest cabbies whom I believe comprise the majority.
I know this is a huge task and implementing the system would be costly, as more enforcement officers would be needed to conduct spot checks on the drivers, and more personnel to screen and monitor the thousands of taxi permits issued in Metro Manila alone.
But this is the only way to make sure that taxi drivers are free from drug, criminal and traffic offenses.
We have to engage the police and other government agencies more, as early as the screening process of the drivers, and the taxi associations and taxi companies should keep a close watch on their drivers.
Feedback from passengers must also be taken seriously and acted upon.
We have to listen to commuters because they know their taxi drivers better than anyone else.
For those who get kidnapped, robbed, assaulted and molested by these rogue taxi drivers, they get too know them too close for comfort.