I’M making this modest appeal wary of the sad plight of agents of the PNP Highway Patrol Group and all other traffic enforcers exposed daily to the elements while manning traffic on EDSA and other busy thoroughfares in the country.
Being exposed to smog on EDSA is really dangerous to health, not withstanding the fact that our uniformed traffic enforcers can be killed or maimed anytime by reckless motorists and their wayward buses, jeeps, cars and SUVs.
I’m saying this based on personal experience. Three weeks after he was designated as PNP-HPG director last July 1, I joined my good friend and fellow Rider, now Chief Superintendent Tony Gardiola in going around EDSA around 7 in the morning to see how his men are doing their job.
He and his men rode their Big Bikes while I followed on board an HPG van. After reaching our destination, I wore an HPG vest and stood in the middle of EDSA with Gardiola to personally experience how it feels to be exposed to the early morning sun and pollution while directing traffic.
After an hour-and-a-half, I returned to Camp Crame sweating heavily, coughing and already with a runny nose. In just 90 minutes, I got sick while standing in the middle of the heavily-polluted EDSA. Now, compare my situation with all our traffic enforcers specifically those from the HPG who have to be in their posts for an average of eight hours a day.
Our HPG traffic enforcers are mortals too. Exposed to the elements—rain, pollution, the scorching heat particularly between 9 a.m. to 3 in the afternoon and worse, abusive drivers—HPG men with their blue long-sleeved uniforms, leather boots and Stetson hats need all the help they can get from us.
I’m making it clear that we should differentiate our HPG men from other traffic enforcers including those from the MMDA and local government units particularly in Manila, Quezon City Parañaque and Pasay cities who have been the subject of public complaints regarding their abusive ways and extortion activities. Around 300 HPG men are manning EDSA and its arterial roads daily in three shifts and so far, they are doing a very fine job.
Gardiola, a classmate at PMA ‘Sinagtala’ Class of 1986 of PNP chief, General Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa told me he has made it clear to all his EDSA Boys that there will be no room for them to commit irregularities particularly mulcting. The penalty is transfer to far-flung areas of the country which will separate them from their families and even dismissal, the HPG director said.
So far so good. Except for the case of two HPG men accused of killing a motorcycle driver following an argument over his arrogant behavior and that of an HPG junior officer who caught on cellphone video arguing with a female driver and allegedly ‘slapping’ her, no member of the HPG EDSA traffic force has been involved in illegal activities.
Being on EDSA exposes our HPG men to different hazards-psychologically, mentally and physically. Instead of criticizing them, they should get the better health care they need. These HPG traffic enforcers are not Supermen who will not get sick in the future, thus the need for them to be subjected to regular medical check-ups to see if their lungs, eyes, skin and other organs are OK.
They need the shelter which can protect them from the scorching heat when traffic is light and most importantly, when it rains. “Hindi yung para silang mga daga na naghahanap ng masisilungan pag biglang umulan ng malakas,’ I would say. Thru my prodding, many friends like philantrophist Nelson Guevarra have donated small movable tents to shelter the HPG men on EDSA and I would like to thank them.
They also need regular stress debriefing, even the popular ‘laughter therapy’ as a stress reliever to prevent them from bursting after their job is finished. Hope that other medical institutions and other experts can provide these services to the Guardians of the Highways for free too.
Last week, Gardiola and I inspected the HPG Task Force EDSA barracks and a soon-to-be completed new toilet and bathroom facility for his men. The facilities are modest by standard but they are the basic needs of a highway patrolman. A place to sleep, take a bath and answer personal necessities.
The HPG is also shouldering the daily meal of the highway patrollers. Simple mathematics will show that if they will have a daily food subsidy of say P100, the HPG will have to spend around P30,000 a day or P900,000 a month. I wish that giant food corporations will realize this since that amount of money is not included in the annual HPG budget in particular and the general appropriations of the PNP in general.