Why do we get away with it?

On the way to pick up my mom at Glorietta, I got pulled over by an MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) officer. My fault. I entered the yellow lane heading into Ayala avenue a little too soon.

And it was also almost 3PM. Merienda time.

So being the good citizen, I readily acquiesced to the penalty. I turned in my license and presented the car’s registration. I didn’t put up a fight and admitted that I committed a mistake. I apologized but I didn’t plea. In fact, I was very courteous and told him, “Sige po, ticketan niyo na po ako para hindi kayo maabala.” (Please, you may just give me a ticket so that you aren’t inconvenienced.) Funny when you think that I was the one concerned for his convenience.

Then he began running through the penalties: a P500 fine plus four days of seminar on the importance of the yellow lane. (Four days for that?) He repeated it thrice, with each repetition said more slowly and even more deliberate. After that I just nodded my head and said that the terms were acceptable. That is the law, I said. And then I heard the clincher — “Sigurado po kayo? Maaabala po kayo.” (Are you sure? You will be inconvenienced.) Aww. He’s concerned for me? But this time, it isn’t funny.

That question is a sure fire signal that the MMDA officer you’re dealing with is looking for a bribe. I wouldn’t even call it grease money since that just speeds along an otherwise slow and legal process, whereas a bribe circumvents and subverts the legal process entirely. Giving him money wouldn’t have lessened the time I spent learning about the importance of the yellow lane; it would have eradicated this little event from the timeline.

Except now of course, I blogged about it.

Hence the two of us began our little dance, with him insisting how inconvenient the penalty would be for me, and me insisting that it’s alright since it’s in the law. He continued to delay further, shouting at his comrades for that ticket pad. The others replied, “Ginagamit pa.” Another was busy with it, although I could see at the distance that it wasn’t a real pad but a prop.

Eventually, it took forever for the prop to come and as we waited, more cars were caught in their yellow lane net. Clearly, he knew that he wasn’t getting anything from me. Then he promptly returned my license and car registration and said, “Sige na.” As he turned away from me and worked the next car, I sat dumbfounded. At first there was the relief that I’m not attending that four-day seminar, and then there was the disbelief that there still are these kinds of people.

I was tempted to call him out and ask to be fined — but then I felt weird about facing a potential crime of verbally assaulting an officer because I wanted to be fined. I also didn’t want to make a scene and realized that such a fight would be futile in a den full of sharks.

So why do we get away with it?

This is an example of corruption on the street. It is very real and not as black and white. Looking at the profiles of these MMDA officers, you can say that giving in to bribery can mean charity. However, by giving in to that we do the state an even greater disservice. We are a republic, a state governed by the rule of law, and yet by giving in to these corruptive behaviors — however small they may be compared to headliners — we let our country slip further into lawlessness.

It is a basic principle of human behavior that any act is done as long as it is perceived to be either pleasurable or beneficial. In the case of these MMDA officers, fishing for bribes is a lucrative business. Though these officers may not be completely aware that it is an act of corruption, we can condition them to stop asking for bribes by not giving into them. But then we turn the spotlight on our society and culture — those who give these bribes are as corrupt as those who receive it.

And in a way, some moral absolutists can even argue that I was being corrupt by not asserting that I get fined. You know the cliche — “Evil persists when good men do nothing.” However, then I wouldn’t call it being corrupt; I’d simply say that I surrendered to evil and this argument can go on and on.

The point being made that corruption is ubiquitous, where do we start solving this?

Answering that question will take another blog post and an even stronger inspiration. Nonetheless, I end with a quote from Confucius, my political philosopher of choice:

He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.

If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame.

If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good.

Let me make it simple: To solve corruption, we start at the top.

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11 thoughts on “Why do we get away with it?

  1. Indeed a good incident narration that spells out what exactly is this ‘curruption bug’. Your lines, “those who give these bribes are as corrupt as those who receive it” are very apt. Currupt practices will remain there as long as people and law enforcers remain there like ‘beggars’ both in terms of ‘money’ and ‘mind’.

  2. Wow, that was a weird situation. Usually, the one who commits the crime is the one who bribes and the officer is the one who enforces the rules–the one who tells you to pay the fine and go through the seminar. But here, it’s the other way around. You’re asking to pay the fine and he’s asking you to bribe him. It’s understandable though. Many people these days are really desperate for money.

  3. Were you caught by a yellow guy or a blue guy?

    The MMDA people (blue guys) will always ask for a bribe because they really don’t have any power to give you a ticket.

    Tip:

    Always ask for a ticket from the MMDA people. It’s basically useless as they don’t have legal authority to give one.

    If you were caught by the Makati police (yellow guys), that’s a bitch. Because Makati police get 50% commission from the tickets. Also, their penalty system is so severe that you will seriously think about paying off their officers no matter how righteous you are.

    Getting caught once and paying the fine is Ok.
    But on the second offense, your fine will double. On the third offense, your fine will triple.
    And it doesn’t matter what your first offense is, whether it’s color-coding or not wearing your seatbelt. IF your second offense was violating a one-way sign, that’s 2,000 pesos multiplied by two. Ouch!

  4. similar to the question of the other guy, are you referring to the MMDA officer (typically wears the blue polo) or the makati police (in yellow polo)? Most of the time, those in yellow polo are like vultures, hiding somewhere and always at a look out for a prey.

    Regardless whether the officer is in brown, blue or yellow uniform, i would like to give the benefit of the doubt that the officer is not corrupt. he may be simply testing you. in your story, he never asked for a bribe. he did mention that the seminar will take about 4 days plus a fine of P500. It is SOP for them.

    It’s still possible that he sees you as a man of integrity. you admitted your mistake in the first place and was willing to receive the consequence. after mentioning the penalty, he realizes you’re not pretending to be good, you’re really honest. that’s why he turned out to be forgiving.

    most of these officers are not respected. and it’s a normal reaction of a person to be angry when he’s not respected. but in your case, he’d be happy to forgive you knowing he chose to forgive an honest, apologetic, good person. 🙂

  5. Hehe. Of course he was wearing blue. That’s why I identified him as an MMDA officer.

    That’s quite a nice view to have, Mavic. Sans his agitation, I’d believe you. But yeah — let’s give him and everyone else the benefit of the doubt. 🙂

  6. Been out & driving thru our streets for several years now. I can say views of both Sir Martin & Mavic are correct. But, in this case, I tend to agree more with the former.

    Bribery, if professionally done, is never asked of directly. Layering & coating of people, events, expression, talk, etc are just common ways to achieve it. One thing is sure; it’s the culprit’s mission not to be caught with his pants down. In fact, he’ll make the briber the offender not him.

    But of course there are honest enforcers & officers. Those who won’t receive bribes implement the law and immediately issue you a ticket. And those who would prefer to engage an offender in a discussion, merit/demerit of penalties, drill down & reiterate your offense instead of issuing a ticket outright. These types are actually negotiating hoping to see the color of money.

    If you’ve been out of the streets for too long a while, you surely can smell either type of enforcer/officer even a mile away.

    Just implement the law. That’s what our good nation needs. No ifs, no buts. And that we all have to respect.

  7. Once while we were in a taxi, a lady enforcer issued the taxi driver a ticket with no ifs and no buts. I originally saw it as a heartless act. (It’s weird how I applaud the strict implementation of traffic laws in other countries but think an mmda officer is inconsiderate if he issues a ticket.) But then I realized she was just doing her job and we need more enforcers like her.

    And a shallow comment… This is one of the reasons why I’m afraid to drive. haha.

  8. Its funny that what you wrote in this blog is almost the same thing that happened to me. Officers continually stressing the fact that “you will be very inconvenienced”. The difference is that after a few minutes of getting tired of their devilish smiles, I gave in to their little game after realizing that the 2k fine won’t be worth it.

    Its the first time that I got pulled over by traffic officials. And that illegal experience haunted me ever since.

    Tnx for the blog post. At least next time I’ll know what to do. Change has to start somewhere, and we can make a huge difference if we start with ourselves.

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