On my way to work this morning I received a text message from one of the engineers on my team:
“Ma’am I will be late all train stuck due to an ongoing suicide attempt in Guadalupe MRT station. The person is in the middle of the railway said to be waiting for Erwin Tulfo a media reporter”
And my first reaction was, “Langya, kung magsu-suicide ka, tatalon ka nalang, di mo na hihintayin si Erwin Tulfo. (Sh*t, if you wanted to commit suicide, you’d go ahead and jump and not wait for Erwin Tulfo.)”
It wasn’t until I got home this evening when I discovered the story behind this “suicide attempt”. Christopher Abdullah had been trying to eke out an honest living as an ambient popcorn vendor. Apparently this did not sit well with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) regulations restricting street vendors to certain areas, because for the third time in a row, MMDA traffic enforcers have confiscated his popcorn cart, with the supplies stocked in it. Out of sheer despair and disgust, Christopher climbed up the gantry of the Guadalupe MRT terminal, where he thought someone like Erwin Tulfo will see his desperate act as a cry for help not only for him but for other people in the same sad situation as he.
I know for a fact that these MMDA “sidewalk enforcers” blow like an ill wind through quiet side streets, grabbing the first juice dispenser jars and ready-to-eat trays that they can get their hands on, and fleeing with them to their waiting dumptrucks. I have seen this happen with my own eyes, on the Estrella sidewalk perpendicular to EDSA, where our office is just around the corner. I have seen our suki banana cue vendor wailing in tears, as she stood helplessly while the MMDA thieves made off with her wares. There are four, sometimes five of these women that we, the working stiffs at Palm Village, depend on for sustenance in the course of each working day. All of them have been victims of these MMDA thieves. The lone male vendor in this line sells newspapers, and since the MMDA thieves cannot eat newspapers (they certainly cannot read them I am almost sure of that), they leave him and his wares alone. Now he acts as lookout, because his spot is at the corner, and he sends out the warning when he sees the unmistakeable yellow and blue dumptruck with the MMDA thieves riding shotgun approaching.
The MMDA, headed by Bayani “BF” Fernando, says sidewalk vendors are an eyesore and a nuisance. Bayani has come up with such signs now posted all along EDSA that in white on lurid pink say “Sidewalks are for People”. Maybe Bayani thinks that sidewalk vendors are not people? Our sidewalk vendors keep their spots clean, and diligently help the Metro Aides do their job of keeping the sidewalks neat. All these vendors want to do is make a living, just like any honest person on the sidewalk. BF will not allow them to do so, because he wants clean sidewalks. Go figure.
Last Monday and this afternoon as well, the sit-down/lay-down strike of the Metro Aides, these men and women in red and yellow who tidy our streets and keep BF’s sidewalk urinals clean, was on the news. They held their protest action exactly where they knew it should be—outside the MMDA building on the corner of Orense and EDSA. At the risk of losing their jobs, these laborers aired their grievances where they knew the person in charge couldn’t ignore their voices, and at the end of the working day, several employees from inside the building joined them in their protest. What are they protesting?
Apart from non-payment of benefits, they have also been denied reimbursement for the tools of their trade which they themselves have to buy in order to do their work properly. Metro Aides buy their own broomsticks, dustpans and the sacks where stuff all the junk that irresponsible people throw mindlessly on the streets and sidewalks. If you thought the MMDA stocked up on Chlorox that the Metro Aides use to sanitize the BF sidewalk urinals, think again. The MMDA stocks up on nothing, the Metro Aides buy their own tools.
I can almost hear Bayani Fernando saying “Carpenters come to work with their own hammers, plumbers come to work with their pipewrenches. Metro Aides should come with their own brooms and dustpans and disinfectant.” He has, however, remained silent and invisible amidst all these.
On a friend’s blog I once saw a post lauding the deeds of Bayani “BF” Fernando when he was Mayor of Marikina. Back then I hardly knew anything of the man, other than the invectives that public utility drivers would hurl at him for the pink barriers erected on the main thoroughfares, which were actually more of a traffic hazard than help. But then I read about how BF “cleaned up” Marikina and that we shouldn’t be judging him by what other people say. So I posted a comment on that blog, thanking the author, as his post had taught me again not to leap into any conclusions.
When another friend saw my comment, acknowledging that I may have been to hasty on my judgement of Bayani Fernando, he told me that Bayani Fernando once fired employees with no notice for coming to work in his factory with a slight tear in their shirts. There was no unions allowed in the factory and therefore no CBA’s or such activities ever took place in this factory. This and other such Hitlerian practices allegedly ceased only after Bayani Fernando got a midnight visit from well-known elements of the underground revolutionary movement. It was said that BF straightened up for a while after that.
This new and increasing tirade by the common people against the MMDA is proof that Bayani Fernando, obsessed with cleanliness and order as he is, may not at all be in the pink.
screen captures from ABS-CBN news