Chairman Danilo Lim of the Metro Manila Development Authority on Monday ordered the immediate suspension of three agency personnel who got involved in beating up a young coconut vendor in Pasay City that was caught on video and went viral on social media.
In a one-page memorandum signed by Lim, the MMDA placed under 15-day preventive suspension the three personnel, whose names were temporarily withheld pending the ongoing investigation of their case.
The employees, members of MMDA Roadside Clearing Group, came under fire from netizens following the incident on March 2 along the northbound lane of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue near the footbridge of Evangelista Street.
The 2:30 minute video clip, posted by a netizen, went viral over the internet.
In a press conference, acting MMDA general manager Jose Arturo Garcia Jr. did not identify the three personnel, all on job order status, pending the investigation of the incident.
“We will never tolerate this kind of action for whatever reason from our personnel,” said Garcia. “These personnel will be accorded due process.”
Moreover, Garcia assured that the MMDA will not interfere should the coconut vendor, identified as Romnick Relos, decide to file charges against the MMDA personnel.
“The employees should be responsible for their actions. It is the right of the victim to file a complaint against them. Definitely, the MMDA will not interfere or help them in anyway,” said Garcia.
The MMDA will also subject three personnel to a drug test.
But while the MMDA does not condone wrongdoing of the personnel, Garcia maintained that the agency cannot allow illegal vending on major thoroughfares in the metropolis.
Garcia pointed out that agency’s clearing operation is only complying with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to clear major thoroughfares of road obstructions, including illegal vendors.
“The public have to understand our campaign to free major roads from obstruction. Any obstruction, especially along Edsa, will create traffic and chaos,” said Garcia.
Garcia said the MMDA is not against vendors trying to earn a living for their families but they have to confine themselves at appropriate areas where they are allowed to sell their products.
“We understand the plight of the vendors but we cannot just allow them wherever they want,” said Garcia.
Last year, Chairman Lim imposed a one strike policy and vowed to dismiss from the service traffic enforcers and other agency employee found to be corrupt, abusive and remiss in their work.
The Commission on Audit (COA) reported in 2015 that only a handful of MMDA traffic enforcers are qualified to man and implement traffic rules and regulations on the streets of Metro Manila.
The COA report further said that more than 2,000 traffic enforcers currently deployed on the roads in the metropolis have not undergone and passed the required training and examination to perform traffic duties.
Lim stressed that the agency has already been addressing issues and concerns raised by COA in its report since it was furnished in 2015.
He said he welcomes anyone to come forward and file a complaint against erring MMDA personnel.