Have previously discussed the issue with jeepneys and the negative impact they have on traffic in the city. They stop intermittently, swerve between lanes, cut off other motorists, are often distracted either searching for potential passengers or counting money – they have, what appears to be, free rein of the roads. Many have looked at the city government and why, administration after administration, nothing is ever done; seems it only gets worse when it comes to managing jeepneys (if the issue is even looked at by anybody who has sat in elected local office over the past how many decades).
There are a myriad of things to keep that particular sector in check, such as requiring the local Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to award operating permits sparingly to reduce the number of vehicles on the road; more patrols by the Bacolod Traffic Authority Office (BTAO) to ensure safer driving is being employed and the average city motorists is not troubled by the erratic driving often displayed by jeepney operators; or having lanes devoted for jeepneys in order to keep them from unpredictably veering between lanes, separating them from the average city motorist.
However, following an incident Wednesday morning last week, all suspicions about the laissez-faire, or free of government intervention, stance when it comes to jeepneys all came to fruition.
Driving into Bacolod City from Talisay City and approaching the makeshift two-to-three lane u-turn almost exclusively used by jeepneys and taxis, which both congests traffic leaving Bacolod City since all lanes are occupied by jeepneys trying to execute a u-turn and traffic coming into Bacolod City because, after one jeepney gets through, it becomes a tidal wave of jeepneys, bringing incoming traffic to a halt. After passing that obstacle, there is the entrance and exit to the transit hub where jeepneys will either suddenly stop in the middle of traffic, idle along the road, or cut into traffic – all dangerous maneuvers.
After those two traffic nightmares, both within a few meters of each other, there is the narrow road that runs along the side of the flyover where Lacson Street intersects with Circumferential Road. A jeepney was running along the right lane, in common sense terms, the lane utilized for either driving forward or executing a right turn when at an intersection. In this case, while following another jeepney in the left lane, as the jeepney immediately ahead began to make a u-turn, the jeepney in the right lane suddenly jerked left and followed the other jeepney, resulting in getting cut-off and barely averting a car accident – to top it off, the driver who made the sudden left seemed to get angry.
In the end, all of this happened directly in front a police officer. The traffic attendant sat on a chair under the bride, facing the road, and did not even flinch as one jeepney was crisscrossing traffic and nearly causing an incident. Had the window open and asked the officer what is his purpose as he did not even lift one finger in response – all he did was smile.
Not sure if it was a smile to be polite or a smile to say, “Not my problem.”
The police officer presented the reason why jeepney drivers and tricycle drivers have no regard for anybody besides themselves. They take to the roads with blinders on, solely focused on picking up passengers and dropping them off – anytime, anywhere, and by any means necessary. They will risk collisions with other vehicles, drive on the wrong side of the road, and cut off multiple other motor vehicles with no consequence. As the police officer displayed, law enforcement will not do anything when it comes to jeepney drivers – and the drivers know this.
It is unclear if it is a matter of policy to leave jeepney drivers alone, perhaps banking on the often proclaimed mantra of “but it’s their livelihood.” Sure, one can say they work hard, but does it have to come with such uncivilized behavior? For the mere sake of having pity for somebody, does that give them license to nearly cause collisions with every turn of the steering wheel? People who are truly worthy of sympathy would not choose to be so discourteous.
It may also be a long standing government tradition to leave them alone. They are a fairly large and organized group and could make an impact when these elected officials go out and pander for votes. The fear of losing office bring trepidation to every elected official, but there are the select few who earn the adjective of “leader” by standing up for principles.
However, looking at the electoral history of the country, the way parties mix and mingle every election year, the way party affiliation stands for nothing besides “I’m with them;” the idea of principled leadership seems like a completely foreign concept; consequently, in a way, one cannot blame elected officials for choosing to panhandle to constituents instead of offering direction – that is just the way things are.
Living here over the past few years, there has been some enlightenment as to why many who emigrate from the Philippines look down on the local political system; it appears it will always be a system of favors instead of one that embraces the meaning of leadership.
Regardless of who is elected, given how deep the system runs, from president to barangay captain, there are too many gaps in the bureaucracy and it seems things will never change – and they may be right./WDJ