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When the city government endangers road safety

This story is about my personal experience about road safety that was endangered by a mysterious pothole in the middle of Kalayaan St, Makati.

Morning of Nov 14, 2018 around 9:00 am, I was driving from JP Rizal going to Jupiter St in Makati. At the corner of Pasong Tirad and Kalayaan streets, my vehicle fell into a large open manhole, which I did not see despite being in broad daylight. Upon recovery from the fall, my vehicle’s front left tire was quickly deflated and I had to go out and check the damage to my car. As soon as I was going around the car to find where I had fallen, three men came to my “rescue” and I was taken aback because I felt threatened by their sudden appearance. I refused their offers of help and drove the car to the nearest gas station despite the blown out tire.

Upon arriving at the nearby gasoline station, I had the tire changed using my spare tire. The original tire, though still new, was beyond repair, and that meant I will have to buy a new one. The tie rod end was also damaged because the steering wheel was no longer aligned when I drove out of the gas station. Several repairs were needed to make my car as road worthy as it was before, all totaling P14,500.

According to the Makati Police themselves, if you are in a situation where you feel like you might be in danger, best to extricate yourself from the scene. So in my case I did do the right thing by leaving the place as soon as I could. However, the police also warned me about filing police blotters against persons who may have exuded an aura of wrongdoing, but has actually done you no wrong.

Yet.

PO1 L.C. Buban of the Makati Police issued this warning to me about filing blotters against persons who have actually done you no wrong. It is against a person’s human rights. If one of three unidentified men had actually made a threat, then the blotter would have been proper.

So I decided to bring the matter to the Makati Public Safety Department. They agreed with the police that my case was a public safety concern and that they would investigate the matter, as well as make an ocular inspection of the area. Their inspectors reported that there is an ongoing road work in the area and that the open manhole might have been necessary to complete the construction.

Back in 1968, a pedestrian fell into an open manhole in the City of Manila. He fell because at the time he was wading into ankle deep floods and because of the murky flood waters, he wasn’t able to see the manhole until he fell into it. The pedestrian sued the City of Manila to get some form of compensation for the injuries that he experienced which he believed was caused by the negligence of the city government of Manila.

The City of Manila defended itself by saying that the road where the manhole was situated was in a national highway and was thus not within the jurisdiction of the Manila city government and thus could not be held liable for the unfortunate incident. The question remains who should have been liable for the incident.

These days, the government agency who ordered the road repairs can be identified easily because permits and related information are shown conspicuously onsite, including the contact numbers of the developers or third-party contractors if there are any. So in case of any accidents, the guilty parties can be identified easily, without any question as to who will provide the necessary assistance.

Specific rules and regulations have in place as far back as 2004 and prior, by the Department of Public Works and Highways that carry heavy penalties from fines to project termination. One such example is Department Order (DO) 135 that recommends the penalties prescribed in Rule 10 of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service. Also quoted in DO 135 are the rules outlined in RA 9184 which is the standardization and regulation law for procurement by government agencies more commonly known as the Government Procurement Reform Act. The agency that initiated the procurement leading to the construction or road work will be able to crack the whip on erring contractors in cases where accidents and public inconvenience become a direct result of the contractor’s negligence, as in the case of a manhole left open.

Knowing this, I could expect the Makati city government may choose to indemnify the contractor for this event. Naturally, an investigation will follow to see if my claims are true and valid. If they find it to be so, then I may not get the compensation I seek. The fact that the elections are just around the corner, there may yet be a beacon of hope.

So how does all this relate to my predicament of my car falling into an open manhole? I was directed to call someone in the Makati mayor’s office and I am still waiting for a call back. I am hoping that the city government of Makati can compensate me for the bother and the unnecessary expense, which could have turned out into a tragedy. Been weeks already and still no call back.

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