“Money and corruption are ruining the land, crooked politicians betray the working man, pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep, and we’re tired of hearing promises that we know they’ll never keep.” Ray Davies
By Alex P. Vidal
Until now, corrupt officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) were never investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman for the installation of suspected substandard traffic lights in Iloilo City during the term of the late former mayor Rodolfo T. Ganzon.
When traffic was starting to become a hassle to pedestrians and was giving inconvenience to the public some 24 years ago, authorities put up traffic lights in the metropolis’ main intersections reportedly for a whooping budget of P10 million.
They looked impressive in the first five months. On the sixth month and thereafter, most of the units were no longer operational. They became junks. Efforts to repair or replace them proved futile, and the useless hanging hard wares became eye sores and sources of public outrage and displeasure.
To show their disgust and disappointment, naughty characters vandalized some of the units during night time.
When we asked Ganzon about the issue in the Kapehan sa Budyong on IBC-12, a morning TV program hosted by Leo Dumagat at the Igmaan Hall in Hotel del Rio, the mayor blamed the DPWH when procurement of heavy equipment, among other infra projects and supplies, was not yet devolved to the local government.
When Mayor Mansueto “Mansing” Malabor took over city hall in the 90s, he was bedeviled by the same issue; but like his predecessor, Malabor, a lawyer, also pointed an accusing finger to the DPWH and invoked the local government code saying as a local chief executive, he has nothing to do whatsoever with the project.
During a trip in Cebu city sometime in 1991, we met then DPWH-6 director Ernesto Silvela in Lapu-Lapu City, where he resided, and asked him about the controversial traffic lights.
He denied that the units were substandard as alleged by many pedestrians, but vowed to investigate the matter. He, too, had noticed that many traffic lights were not anymore functioning. Were they substandard? Silvela refused to comment.
“As long as I am the regional director (of the DPWH in Western Visayas), I will never allow any anomaly to take place under my administration,” Silvela said in Cebuano.
Nothing was heard of about the issue ever since Silvela was assigned in Mindanao. Several DPWH contractors and employees reportedly petitioned for his ouster for being “too strict and too perfectionist.” Silvela fought shady characters in his office with tongs and hammer. But just the same, he was transferred (not ousted).
When Rep. Jerry Trenas became mayor after Malabor, the issue on traffic lights remained mothballed. Traffic control was done manually by
civilian traffic aides, whose job orders were created during the time of Ganzon. The city hall job hires managed and controlled traffic system in the busiest intersections. No more traffic lights.
It appears the issue was already forgotten and no investigation was ever conducted on the alleged substandard traffic lights.
In January this year, city hall announced the installation of 16 additional traffic light junctions in different areas of the city “in a move to help solve the burgeoning pedestrian and traffic problems in the metropolis.”
With the help of a private corporation, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog started the traffic lights project in October 2013 with four installations along corner Ledesma-Mabini street, Infante and Gen. Luna and at the City Proper area.
Mabilog vowed to install four more traffic lights along Jalandoni-Delgado, in front of the University of San Agustin, corner Delgado-Valeria streets and at Huervana, La Paz district, which was completed early in 2014.
City hall said the budget for the project came from the P15 million funds diverted from the “not-so-feasible” fountain project at Plaza Libertad.
More traffic lights would be installed along the widened Diversion Road going to the international airport in Cabatuan, Iloilo to be supervised by the DPWH, it was reported.