MANILA - With numerous reports of extortion and abuse of power by traffic enforcers, some motorists have become anxious at the mere sight of traffic cops.
That's exactly how John Paul "J.P." Mercado felt when his car stalled along Katipunan Avenue at around 3:00 AM, and saw four MMDA officers walking towards him.
Afraid that his vehicle would be towed or that he'll become a victim of extortion, Mercado tried hard to restart his car, hoping he could at least drive to the nearest gasoline station.
"I prayed aloud, asking for my car to start and get me to the closest gas station, which was the Petron at the C.P. Garcia intersection, just around half a kilometer away," he said in a viral Facebook post on Monday.
“I was afraid that they would be unsympathetic or that they would take advantage of my vulnerability and try to get some money from me,” he told ABS-CBN News.
But to his surprise, Mercado got a friendly smile from one of the officers, an unusual greeting from a traffic enforcer.
"All my fears, however, melted away as soon as one of the officers gave me the friendliest smile one could ever hope for at that time of night and said, with a concerned and consoling laugh, 'Sir, ano pong nangyari?'" he said.
Mercado told the officers that he was clueless about what went wrong and that he knows little about cars.
"They asked me to open up my car’s hood to see what was wrong. When we opened it up—which I should have done in the first place—we discovered that my car’s radiator cap had popped off, probably because it wasn’t screwed on properly, they surmised," he said.
“Before I knew it, two of them were pushing my car from behind as I steered with the engine off and the car set to neutral, and the others blocked incoming traffic as we made our way left, crossing the intersection,” he added.
Mercado said the officers, identified as Bobby Caindoy, Juan Pagulayan, Alden Pisebre, and Rodelito Tibus, volunteered to stay and watch his car as he ran to the nearest convenience store to buy bottled water.
“While all this was happening, they all talked to me. Somehow, I felt at ease. I felt safe. And I felt that they weren’t doing all this just so they could extort me,” he said.
The best twist? Mercado offered them some money but the MMDA officers refused to take the pay.
"They all refused the money! Not once, not twice, but thrice! But I insisted because it felt right to me. I know that it’s not something that they should expect—which they didn’t—but I felt that they deserved a small token of appreciation for doing something they were under no obligation to do," Mercado related.
"Ilalagay ko sa Facebook!" he told them.
Mercado is hoping these MMDA officers will inspire other public servants to do good.
"When people hear about stories like this, they are made to reevaluate their negative opinion of MMDA traffic officers and public servants in general. Just as I did when it happened to me, they find hope in what seems to be a bleak situation," he said.