Sunday, December 31, 2017

BWorld 174, MMDA towed my car even with my kids inside

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last December 21.
And an erratum here. I referred here to Tiger Towing co., it should be Fighter Towing Co. I corrected this in my part 2 column, thank you.

“The animals you eat are not those who devour others; you do not eat the carnivorous beasts, you take them as your pattern. You only hunger for the sweet and gentle creatures which harm no one, which follow you, serve you, and are devoured by you as the reward of their service.”
— Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(French philosopher, 1700s)

These are the thoughts that to my mind, describe many government officers, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in particular, on Dec. 19.

That afternoon, I briefly parked my car along J. P. Rizal St. in Makati City to buy pork and rice in a nearby wet market. I turned the hazard lights on, kept the engine running, and left the air-con full blast because my two daughters — 7 and 11 years old — were inside.

When I came back more than five minutes later, MMDA officers and a truck were already in the process of towing my car.

Yes, there was a “No illegal parking” sign where I left my car and yes, I recognized my mistake. This is why I talked to the officers and asked that they issue me a ticket violation instead of towing my car. But they refused.

I appealed again because my girls are already terrified while inside the car but it was futile.

Helpless, I gave in but said I needed to bring my daughters home first to spare them from the stress of being towed to far away place. They agreed but said that a crew member of the Tiger towing company must be at the wheel of the car, not me. Then the towing started, prompting my 11-year-old daughter to cry.

This, to me, felt irregular.

First, a stranger was inside my car, holding the wheel. Second, the noise and the sudden jolt resulting from the car being pulled by the truck scared my two daughters further.

When we reached an intersection, I explained to the MMDA officer who escorted us on a motorcycle that my daughters were already terrified. Again, I asked him to issue me a ticket and just like the others, he refused.

His uniform showed the name “Dayaon LD.”

We arrived at their impounding area in Tumana, Marikina City around 5:30 p.m. Then the tow truck quickly left, perhaps to prowl for more potential victims. The area is secluded, far from the Tumana proper, muddy, and isn’t easily accessible to public transportation, not even tricycles. I saw hundreds of cars and vans and realized that I have come upon the mess the government has caused its citizens.

With this in mind, I have decided to raise several questions after having experienced the cavalier attitude of the MMDA.

1. Why did the MMDA officers insist on towing my car when I already showed up, admitted my mistake, and agreed to get a ticket for the violation? After all, my car was not “unattended vehicle” because the engine was running, the air-con and that hazard lights were on with two young girls inside?

2. Why did the MMDA officers allow or instruct Tiger Towing Co.’s crew to board and drive my car with me and my two girls inside? I stayed in the car after my girls went home, took a photo while the car was being towed with Tiger’s crew member behind the wheel.

3. Why did they bring the car to Marikina City when another MMDA impounding area is located in Ortigas, which is closer to Makati City?

4. Will the MMDA and/or its accredited towing company accept responsibility for damages to the car during towing?

5. Why is the information on the impounding notice for my vehicle incomplete? The notice should indicate the name, signature, and designated ID number of the officer who issued the impounding notice.

But it only indicated the name of the team leader — a certain Gonzales — while the names of the driver and the two crew members were not identifiable. Only a signature was on the notice, without any names nor ID numbers. The MMDA escort should have a printed name as well but there was nothing.

After reading the Impounding Notice and MMDA’s FAQs, I learned that:

An illegal parking violation penalty is only P500; towing is P1,500 for the first four kilometers while it is P200 for every succeeding kilometer. Makati City to Tumana in Marikina City is quite a distance, allowing the towing company to earn thousands of pesos per vehicle.

MMDA’s FAQs on towing also says:

“11. Are the towing crew allowed to board an attended vehicle?

This is NOT allowed. If this happens when the driver is present, this must be taken note of and reported as a violation to the MMDA (136).” (

“13. Who will be responsible for any damage/s obtained by the vehicle during the towing?

Take note that before the actual towing, the tow truck crew shall issue a Technical Inspection Report indicating the name of the owner, vehicle’s plate number, type and color, including the accessories thereof, and a description of the vehicle’s condition. The towing company/agency shall be held responsible for losses/damages incurred while towing the vehicle.”

Neither Tiger’s crew nor MMDA officers did this. They only gave me a one-page “Impounding Notice” with vehicle type and plate number and they did not even ask for my name.

The MMDA is a big bureaucracy in the metropolis.

The money they get from us via annual appropriation keeps on increasing: P1.726 billion in 2016, P2.180 billion in 2017, and P3.558 billion in 2018, according to the Budget department’s Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing 2018.

The MMDA also earns more from so many penalties for mundane violations like dirty plates, using slippers and/or sleeveless shirts while driving. I saw its list of “Traffic violations and penalties” and it was four and a half pages long, describing 300 different prohibitions and hence, potential sources of fines, penalties and harassment.

The MMDA towed my car at 2:39 p.m. and arrived Tumana about 5:30 p.m. I got home in Makati City around 8 p.m., wasting about six hours. Now, I have to go to the MMDA office in Pasig to settle the fees, then back to Tumana, then drive back home to Makati City, which will take many hours again.

(Later on, I was able to meet some MMDA personnel who helped correct the behavior of their errant staff. I was able to meet Mr. Mike Salalima, Deputy Chief of Staff of MMDA chairman Danny Lim. He said that what happened was wrong. I should have just been issued with a ticket violation, instead of towing my vehicle. He will call Tiger Towing Company and I will be there to listen in. And I will be spared of possibly P6,000+ towing fee because of the long distance from Makati City to Tumana.)

We private citizens and taxpayers already pay lots of taxes and fees partly to pay the salaries and bonuses, travels and vehicles, perks and pensions of government people. Next year we will pay even higher taxes with the TRAIN law. Why add more fines and fees in thousands of pesos, why harass us with many unproductive hours, as if we committed a huge, horrible crime?

If some traffic violations are made, the driver should be penalized, not the car. The process should also be shortened, not lengthened.

Government should be more sensitive to taxpayers and not punish them with harassment. Are these too much to ask?

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