Last week, Makati city government's anti-smoke belching unit (ASBU) flagged me down while I was driving my daughter from her school, at Metropolitan ave. near the Ospital ng Makati (OsMak) emergency unit. I stopped and asked them why. They asked, "taga Media kayo?" because they saw the sticker of "People's Brigada News" in my front glass. I said "Yes" and then they signaled me to just move ahead.
This morning, the same unit flagged me down, same place. It's my route everyday as I pick up my daughter from her school, except Tuesday which is my "number coding" day, or day where all vehicles with plate numbers ending 3 and 4, are banned from the streets from 7am to 7pm. Again, I asked "why?". They said "smoke belching test", then I said "my daughter is sick, she needs to go home and rest." Then they allowed me again to proceed.
It is irritating to be flagged down knowing that they selectively chose your car because it is old. Here's a picture of Makati ASBU which flagged down an old vehicle with car plate starting with letter C, meaning it is registered in a province in Region 3 (Central Luzon). The ASBU were positioned in Buendia, now Sen. Gil Puyat ave, Makati.
The mere act of flagging down only older vehicles, delivery trucks and vans, public vehicles, but exempting government vehicles even if they are also old and obvious smoke belchers, or other private vehicles with some "code" that these are owned by some government personnel, makes the campaign a potential tool for extortion.
A delivery truck was also flagged down on that day. A friend who is a driver for a restaurant company told me that they have an allowance of P100 to give to thsoe anti-smoke belching personnel so they will allow him and his food delivery to proceed without further delay.
While checking other stories about these ASBUs in Metro Manila, I saw this story by one motorist from a 4x4 Philippines online. The writer, "quality1st", wrote last March 11, 2010, http://4x4ph.com/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t76312.html:
My diesel Service utility truck a 4 wheeler was flagged down. My driver called me thru cellphone that they were flagged down. I usually tell my driver to ask the ASBU technician to look at the exhaust pipe while my driver revs on the engine low to high rev, and (technician) see for himself if he still wants to test it since visually there is really very very minimal smoke or non at all and go thru the hassle or just go look for another motorist. It usually works in the Makati ASBU under the Magallanes interchange.
What bugs me is that the Pasig ASBU still wanted to test the vehicle, I told the technician thru cell, that the vehicle was just registered less than a month, and had smoke test exam, with flying colors just above 2 opacity, passing is 5 or 6 I think. The technician was presented with the official receipt, registration, and smoke exam, the technician told me "aanhin ko yan" i exam dapat ito. I told him hindi ba valid ang exam for 2 or 3 months kaka register lang nito. No exam pa din sabi niya. I said ok since I just changed oil,filters, exhaust cleaning, and a recent exam during registration is a little above 2 opacity, I agreed.
Bagsak daw ater the exam, 8.5, I said how can that be? Plates confiscated is the next thing that irritated me.
When the truck arrived at my garage, I asked my driver to rev the engine, there was really no amount of smoke that can fail a smoke test that is visually, anyway I asked my driver to clean the exhaust because that is all we can do since everything has been done less than 20 days ago.
The next day, to claim the plate an exam has to be performed again, test probe inserted, the reading was 9.5.
I was shocked at the news of my driver with the results tumaas pa ngayon!
the tech said ibalik mo na lang bukas yan.
During this exam my driver noticed that a lot of other drivers are on the side commenting wala kang pag asa dito, dapat may naka ipit na isang daan sa gas pedal para pumasa yan.
the next day my driver followed the advice, and the reading is 2 opacity, it passed. then paid the P1350 penalty plus exam, and we got the plate no. back.
The last exam was the real opacity of my vehicle. I had doubts about the Pasig City ASBU motives and apparatus, I was thinking of having a smoke test at the Makati City ASBU, but Pasig City won't accept the clearance from another test center .
From the 9 opacity to 2 opacity exam I didn't do anything even clean the exhaust because wala na akong magagawa the exhaust was really very clean just like before the flagdown.
My driver said they flagdown a lot of motorists, I wonder how corrupt is the Pasig ASBU? The machines they use to test seems adjustable to their calibration. They should be investigated and test machines checked!
I will try to compile more materials on this so-called "anti-smoke belching campaign" and the extortion practices as I personally experience this kind of harassment. I also clean my diesel pick-up's exhaust regularly, in case some hard-headed ASBU "public servants" will really test my vehicle someday.
So, consider this as "Part 1" of another discussion series in this blog.