Most motorists dread being flagged down by an MMDA Traffic Officer for one offense or another.
This is usually the ordinary citizen/motorist's introduction to bribery or extortion involving government functionaries and is probably a more prevalent source of corruption.
Such opportunities for bribery/extortion is usually aided by vague interpretations of traffic rules, non-standard traffic signs, faulty placement of traffic signs, manipulated traffic signals, and vague interpretations of traffic rules -- such as "swerving".
The hapless motorist/citizen who encounters such a ruse for the first time often eagerly hands over a few hundred bucks just to avoid the hassle of having to settle the supposed traffic violation.
On any regular day, the more common source of bribes are Public Utility Vehicles -- buses, jeeps, FX's, and terminal to terminal vehicles. These regulars often pay for MMDA Officers to use a street corner or stretch of road as a virtual terminal -- contributing to traffic congestion even on wide stretches of road.
Now, the thing is, this kind of racket only pays so much and the money supposedly kick-up stairs to a presumed "syndicate" may often be just a small fraction of the entire take.
What people would imagine to be bigger and more direct source of racket money would probably involve the MMDA's crack down on Billboard Advertisers.
The elements of a racket are there: Vague interpretations of laws, questionable jurisdiction and an inconsistent application of "supposed regulations" across the industry.
The thing is, not all outdoor advertisers get the loving eyes of the MMDA and in fact, some outdoor advertisers get harassed even after it is proven that they've complied with all the rules that regulate their industry.
Ever Corporation has been reduced to pleading with the MMDA to show respect for a court ruling telling them not to touch their billboards.
Whenver the MMDA takes down a billboard, it costs the outdoor advertiser a whole heap of money -- in terms of income lost as well as penalties that it will have to pay for breaching their contract with the client.
MMDA officials were quoted in several newspapers questioning the decision of Pasay City Judge Divina Gracia Lopez barring them removing the billboards of Ever Corporation.
Officials of the agency are reportedly threatening Judge Lopez with an administrative complaint for gross ignorance of the law.
An added insult to the judge is MMDA's alleged avowal to carry on with its planned campaign against billboards despite the court’s order.
Ever Corporation General Manager Freddie Arlantico is now pleading with the MMDA to just follow the law and respect the court order barring it from disrupting the company's legitimate business activity.
Arlantico claims his company has been in compliance of the Additional Rules and Regulations (ARR) covering Signs and Signboards, introduced by the DPWH in 2007 in the wake of Typhoon Milenyo.
Upon experiencing unauthorized dismantling by the MMDA, Ever Corporation petitioned Judge Lopez for legal protection for its more than 100 billboard structures. In issuing the injunction order, Judge Lopez found Ever to have been legally conducting its advertising business, noting that the company possessed the requisite permits stipulated in the ARR.
Arlantico observes though, that notwithstanding the injunction, the outdoor advertising industry remains at the mercy of the MMDA.
Part of a statement from Ever Corporation states what seems to be harassment:
“Our industry has repeatedly been accused by the MMDA of not following the law,” according to Atty. Troy Banez, Executive Director of industry association Outdoor Media Advocacy Group (OMAG). “Yet, when we show the MMDA how we have complied with the law – no less than the DPWH’s ARR – they still put down our billboard structures on dubious grounds. Worse, the MMDA now even wants to go after a judge who recognizes the law and the fact that we are following it.”
OMAG reports that some billboard operators have been practically bullied by the MMDA into compromising provisions of the law. To which OMAG states that “Neither the MMDA nor billboard operators have the right and authority to amend or compromise the law. That is precisely the problem. MMDA believes that it can independently promulgate its own rules and regulations. The Supreme Court has, time and again, declared that the MMDA does not have legislative, let alone, police power.”
According to OMAG, all they want is to promote the survival of the outdoor advertising industry, in compliance with established laws, which no mere agency can try to subvert.