“A society without jaywalkers might indicate a society without artists.” Paul Theroux
By Alex P. Vidal
Sometime in the early 90’s, Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Capiz manager Jaime “James” Cabag and I were “arrested” by a traffic enforcer while crossing the busy Colon St., touted as the oldest street in the Philippines, in Cebu City.
We already reached the other side of the street when we heard a loud whistle blown by a traffic enforcer, who reprimanded us: “Jaywalking kamo dong (guys you committed a jaywalking).” He was right. The light for pedestrians was still red when we crossed.
James was pissed off not because we would be delayed in our seminar that morning. He was irked by the tone of the traffic enforcer’s voice. A native of San Miguel, Iloilo, James angrily retorted in Tagalog, “Enembarrass mo naman kami sa lakas ng boses mo (you embarrassed us with your loud voice)” while giving the traffic enforcer a dagger look.
He ignored James and escorted us to a corner where several other violators were waiting. Two things came into my mind. Either we would be penalized and asked to pay a corresponding fine right away, or be brought to the police station to be booked and detained. Jaywalking is a serious traffic infraction. In split seconds, more violators were taken to where we were standing. Sensing he could not attend to all of us, the traffic enforcer allowed us to go. It was around nearly 10 o’clock in the morning.
In Iloilo City, a “humiliated” male lawyer nearly ran berserk when accosted for jaywalking by city hall traffic ordinance enforcers. A retired male public school teacher nearly came to blows with the same enforcers because of similar infraction. A female GSIS employee engaged the same enforcers in an irritating and ugly verbal tiff that nearly ended in a physical scuffle. And so on and so forth.
These were some of the regular scenarios we witnessed at the intersections of Valeria and Delgado streets (near SM Delgado and Mary Mart Mall) and Delgado-Gen. Luna streets (near Atrium Mall) in Iloilo City.
That was before city hall traffic ordinance enforcers stopped imposing a fine as penalty for jaywalkers right away.
Although they issued official receipts from the city treasurer’s office, the male lawyer questioned the legality of imposing fine as penalty for violators without any court order.
The lawyer insisted that it’s the court that should determine whether he pays the fine or he goes to jail.
According to Iloilo City Councilor Plaridel Nava, who is a lawyer, it is against the law to immediately collect fine upon apprehension or as a precedent for the release of a person caught violating a city ordinance.
It’s unlawful for any law or ordinance enforcer to immediately collect a fine, according to Nava. The violator must first be detained and proper charges be filed against him for violation of law or ordinance. Then the judge will rule regarding the fine.
Nava and his fellow city councilors have expedited a city ordinance amending the procedure in arresting violators of city ordinances as prescribed under City Ordinance No. 2001-017. It already passed the first reading.
Once the ordinance has been approved and signed by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, the unpalatable scenarios we regularly witness in the aforementioned areas and other busy streets and intersections in downtown, City Proper, would hopefully become a thing of the past.