DIRECTING TRAFFIC (AFP) — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, guarded by presidential security men, directs traffic on Roxas Blvd., Manila yesterday while taking a stroll. The President’s public approval rating has been boosted by the government’s success in containing the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, according to a survey released last June 26

Malacanang, July 1, 2003
By RHOEL V. FERNANDEZ (MALAYA) A conflict is brewing between Malacañang and Metro Manila mayors regarding traffic control in the metropolis.

Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye, in a meeting with the MMDA, DOTC, DILG and transport groups in Malacañang last Friday, said the government should follow the legal opinion of Justice Secretary Simeon Datumanong who upheld the authority of the MMDA over traffic control.

"I learned during the meeting that the opinion from the Department of Justice is binding which should be followed by the government, that whatever stand the justice department takes should also be the government's," MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando said.

The DOJ legal opinion came on the same day that the Metro Manila Mayors Council, the policy-making body of the MMDA, stripped Fernando of his control over traffic.

The MMC, composed of Metro Manila's 17 city and municipal mayors, transferred traffic enforcement to the local government units (LGUs).

The DOJ legal opinion stated that the law creating the MMDA (RA 7942), which is a special law, takes precedence over the Local Government Code from which the mayors derive their authority to regulate traffic in their jurisdiction.

The mayors had also directed Fernando to "harmonize" all the different traffic laws of the LGUs into a Unified Traffic Code in three weeks' time, a new scheme which he said should clearly reflect the DOJ opinion.

"I believe the DOJ considered this and whatever their (mayors') opinion should be the stand of the government," Fernando said.

As to who should handle traffic duties in Metro Manila, Fernando said: "I cannot speak on that right now, we still have to discuss that... I don't know and have yet to formulate a total picture of what is happening. We're currently studying the issue the based on what the council told us... this is not going to be easy."

Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, articulating the sentiment of the Metro Manila mayors on the matter, has said that they felt that Fernando had overstepped his powers.

The conflict erupted after Fernando had insisted that the MMDA, which issues Traffic Citation Receipts (TCRs) to erring motorists, would not recognize Traffic Violation Receipts being issued by various LGUs.

Fernando was less combatant on the issue after the Malacañang meeting. He said that the MMDA serves as the secretariat of the MMC.

"Whatever we know, we inform the council. We pass on what they need to know, we cannot pre-empt the council as the decision is theirs to make," he added.

Pending amendments to the MMDA Charter, Fernando, however, said he is more inclined to follow the President by virtue of his being a presidential appointee.

DILG Secretary Jose Lina has been instructed by President Arroyo to talk to the mayors regarding the traffic issue.

"The problem with enforcement is you sometimes have to consider its political effects and some parts have continued to be certain periods of time what is political in one area (clashes) with the situation so its one of the things that should be considered... the question is who is in charge and the issue is total responsibility," Fernando explained.

Fernando is scheduled to meet with the mayors after four weeks to finalize the traffic plan the MMDA would come up with.

"We will see what the mayors' decision is after we submit what they wanted us to do but before that, the status quo remains in effect," Fernando said.

While the issue in unresolved, Fernando said there are parts of traffic enforcement that should be relegated to the LGUs such as designating parking spaces/one-way streets and closing down roads.



[Photo courtesy of PhilStar]
SIGN LANGUAGE: Newspaper pages painted
with ‘GMA 2004’ have appeared in Nagtahan, Manila.
Who pasted them? - Revoli Cortez



Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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