Sunday, January 07, 2018

BWorld 177, On MMDA car towing and impounding

* This is my column in BusinessWorld last December 29, 2017.

“Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest bring about by the natural course of things.”

— Adam Smith, lecture in 1755; author of The Wealth of Nations (1776)

This is the continuation of my article, “The MMDA towed my car even with my kids inside” published here on Dec. 21.

Through a mutual friend, I was able to talk to Mr. Mike Salalima, Deputy Chief of Staff of MMDA Chairman Danny Lim, last Dec. 20, a day after my car was towed by MMDA-accredited Fighter Towing Co. (not Tiger as I’ve previously written and for that I apologize.)

Mike said that my case was not a case of an “unattended vehicle” and hence, the penalty should have been a simple violation ticket of anti-illegal parking. Thus, the towing from Makati City to Tumana, Marikina City (which took three hours) and impounding of my car was wrong. So he arranged for the release of my car that day and canceled my towing fee, which I estimated would cost about P6,000 (P1,500 first 4 kilometers for light vehicles plus P200/km thereafter).

Mike asked me if I wanted Fighter Co. to tow my car back to Makati City but I refused since they caused my troubles in the first place and that they might damage my car on the way back.

After the meeting with Mike, I then took a long commute from the MMDA main office in Edsa Guadalupe to Marikina City. I saw the impounding area the day before and when I saw it again that day to get my car, I was aghast at hundreds of impounded vehicles — cars, vans, taxi, jeepneys, delivery trucks, tricycles, motorcycles. Those vehicles should be transporting people and goods, not gathering rust. Private properties, many of which were the result of years of savings and sacrifices such as working abroad for several years, were impounded for months and even years on end, wasting away.

Why would the state through an agency like the MMDA have the power to confiscate private property? And in large numbers at that? Is it not the protection and respect of private property an important function and purpose why governments were created in the first place?

As the quote from Adam Smith suggested, the state can rise from barbarism to opulence and wealth via peace not violence, few taxes, and permits, not more, confiscatory justice administration, however tolerable.

For sure, not all of those hundreds of confiscated vehicles were impounded during the time of Chairman Danny Lim. They have accumulated since many years ago as evidenced by the amount of rust, degree of physical deterioration and height of grasses and vines that have engulfed many vehicles. A number of those vehicles though looked like some of their parts have been removed or stolen.

The purpose of towing and impounding is to help reduce traffic congestion in Metro Manila by removing temporary or permanent obstructions in selected roads. But the act of towing a briefly parked vehicle with the driver just nearby and bring it to a place many kilometers away is already creating traffic in more areas of the metropolis.

I was inside my car while it was being towed and I saw the towing truck made several traffic violations, such as (a) counter-flowing traffic in a section of Makati Avenue towards Buendia and (b) beating the red light from the Green Meadows area turning left towards C5. It was a regular case of government-accredited vehicles to correct traffic violations being traffic violators themselves. Those trucks were rushing to tow and impound as many cars as possible in a day because of the big money involved collecting the towing fee.

Drastic changes need to be instituted by the current MMDA leadership on the system of towing and impounding of vehicles. Two of possible moves would be: (1) Stop the towing and impounding scheme unless vehicles were used in committing crimes like murder and robbery. Violations of anti-illegal parking should be slapped with fines, higher fines if they want, and/or clamping of unattended vehicles. Or (2) allow the process of towing to be subject to challenge by vehicle owners and when the MMDA personnel and private towing companies are found to be wrong in their judgment, they must pay the vehicle owner/s two to three times the estimated towing fee plus any damages to the vehicles.

Governments should go back to their classical raison d’etre or reason for existence — protect the people’s right to life, right to private property, and right to liberty. It is not government function to create many restrictions and prohibitions in society like so many “No Parking” areas, so many requirements and costly permits before people can do business like operating a van to transport people and goods. Having many restrictions and prohibitions means many violations, fines and penalties; many opportunities for harassment and extortion of often helpless and less-informed citizens.

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