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.)”

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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.

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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?

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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

Before You Leap

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7 thoughts on “Before You Leap

  1. I had always thought to myself that these phenomenon of people climbing builduings and giant billboards in order to attempt ending their lives were mainly rooted on some form of urban insanity, drugs and lost love; but I forgot easily that it should be desperation in life, like extreme poverty, that often spur people to do this inane and ridiculous act. It looks like a recent urban phenomenon that’s has been happening in our country, especially Manila as every now and then, the news would report such incidences. It’s like a “Manila Disease”.

    My heart goes out to people like Christopher Abdullah for there he was trying to eke out an honest living, one that may not even sustain his family sufficiently, and then here comes the government (of all people) taking away away his means of survival. Its like taking away a fish out of the water. It was right for me to have some mistrust on the person of Bayani Fernando (nothing personal though) coz the way he handles things, he acts like Imelda trying to cover a whole area of slums for vanity’s sake. He should put into mine that trhis is the Philippines and not Singapore. Cleanliness and orderliness is fine but people in this poor country has to make a living and vendoring is one way our people survives each day and ease their hunger. I think Mr. Fernando is just way too much already. I think the only reason why he is still in the post as MMDA head is political clout and nothing much else. Happy Women’s Day Bambit.

  2. it is so unfair that those who try and make an HONEST living are ill-treated. but the ones who DON’T are well treated. Life is unfair and it hurts to just think about it.

  3. my heart is bleeding for this fellow. However, to see no benifit to BF’s tenure in the MMDA is a wee bit extreme. After all, the MMDA is not in charge of DSWD. How many Filipinos are under paid in government and in the private sector, especially in the provinces? How many teachers resort to vending foodstuff to students to make ends meet?

    We do have a systemic problem in the government beaurocracy. subject any government branch and I will assure you skeleton will be a plenty, the MMDA included. However, I consider the MMDA the least of the deficient departments.

    Not to condone BF’s mistakes. But pound per pound he is the best public servant today.

    Also recall where a part of MMDA’s funding comes from, traffic tickets. It now shares this with the MMC thanks to Jejomar Binay and other hypocrits out there.

    Who would you rather have? Binay?

  4. Major Tom, you may have a point with that “Manila Disease”, as those of us who know life in the provinces forever remember the peacefulness and laid-back atmosphere that we lived in before joining the rat-race here.

    justice, life is unfair yes, and we have people in power who take further advantage of that.

    mell, I would like to know how well you know the people you mention in your comment, both Bayani Fernando and Jejomar Binay. How do you know them, and for how long have you known about them?

  5. i dont personally know these folks (binay and fernando).

    I base my opinion on what I read on various online papers.

    Been reading about BF since I was a child since I was from Marikina and had seen him around my neighborhood since he was a neighbor.

    Binay, all I know of him is from the online news. His tifts with BF regarding TVRs,etc.

    Perhaps, me being in the US is a big handicap to this discussion, and sense my opinion might not be welcome.

    I apologize if my initial comment was of offense, I only speak based on what I have read, nothing else.

    by no means am I saying the above post is invalid.

    corruption and ineptitude in government, no matter how small or grand are just the same.

    yun lang po.

  6. I had titled this post “Before You Leap” as a lesson to myself not to leap to conclusions about anything, and as a dry attempt at humor (misplaced perhaps) referring to the Guadalupe incident.

    mell, you should know by now that your opinion is always welcome here. This is not one of those blogs where people jump on you because you don’t agree with the opinion of the majority.

    I value word for word the ideas of the precious few people who do place their comments here, because of the windows they open into their minds and the way they think and feel. I feel priveledged each time I read a comment, and I thank each one who has given me the precious minutes that they have taken to write down their thoughts.

  7. The Genius of this big Little Boy BF is based on a weird theory that in order to clear the sidewalks of vendors is to go after their capital. The only way to do this is by confiscating vendors’ commercial articles, pour kerosene on it and setting them on fire to drain their capital. Most MMDA enforcers are implementing this rule in a more ingenious way, they eat or steal the vendor’s goods. In his bright idea, BF believes that sidewalk vending will stop once peddlers run out of capital. As if a sidewalk vendor can suddenly own a stall inside SM mall after MMDA destroys his livelihood. No, they will return and ply their trade in a guerilla fashion on somewhere else’s sidewalk. Or, they will end up in desperation by attempting to jump into the MRT railway like what that poor Christopher Abdullah tried to do.

    BF’s sidewalk clearing operations depicts brutality and barbarism sparing no one from poor old folks, children, men, women and even to pregnant women. These operations has resulted to cases of physical assault from MMDA operatives ranging from harassment to extreme use of force that resulted to serious physical injuries and even the death of three vendors. There is even a case of a vendor having his hand chopped while resisting an MMDA operative armed with a Samurai.

    People might say that this is a bias account against BF.

    Now let’s see some facts how this bright theory of BF really worked. According to Mr. Neil R. Lina, the City Market Administrator of Quezon City, in his memorandum to Mayor Feliciano Belmonte dated September 10, 2003: “The number of registered vendors reduced only in books but not in the streets.” “Problems and complaints have arisen against the alleged abuse of authority by MMDA operatives. Cases after cases have been filed against these people, Bayani Fernando included. As a result of their indiscriminate and uncoordinated clearing operations with the city counterparts, the number of registered vendors in the city has been greatly reduced. Many of them refuse to go back to the office to renew their permits, however, some have continued to vend in spite of the risk of being demolished. Our record shows that there are about 10,000 to 12,000 vendors in the city of which 6,000 are registered. After a series of demolition jobs by the MMDA the number of vendors who are renewing their permits considerably dropped, but nevertheless you would see many of them back on the streets again and again.”

    Along this fact, Mr. Lina also noted some negative effects on the “indiscriminate, brutal, inhuman and barbaric acts of MMDA personnel”, to qoute:

    1. “Many of our vendors who have faithfully paid and complied with our requirements have been victimized involving loss of hundreds of thousands of pesos in capital. Goods and even cash sales were confiscated but not returned;

    2. MMDA continues to defy the permits we are issuing. Thus, the vendors’ trust and confidence in our effort to require them to pay our vending taxes and fees is diminished;

    3. Because of this, many of registered vendors have stopped renewing their permits from us. Hence, the reduction and slump in revenues. Last year 2002, was our highest collection of P5.021 million. This year’s collection could have been bigger had not for MMDA’s abuses. As of June 2003, we just collected P3.714 million;

    This is just in Quezon City, it is most likely that the same effect is felt by other cities in Metro Manila as well.

    Oh and by the way, until now BF refuses to accept a Supreme Court ruling denying his agency traffic police powers and continues to send out enforcers to arrest erring motorists.

    Brilliant, eh?

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