'Walang pinapanigan': MMDA assures strict, fair enforcement of election caravan policy

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 13 2022 08:33 AM | Updated as of Feb 13 2022 11:08 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) — The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority on Sunday assured strict and fair enforcement of its policies for all candidates planning to hold motorcades along major roads in the capital region.

"Lahat 'yan applicable sa lahat, 'yang policy na iyan. Rest assured na wala tayong pinapanigan dito," MMDA officer-in-charge Romando Artes said in an interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(That policy is applicable to everyone. Rest assured we are not taking anyone's side on this.)

Artes was responding to a question about the possibility that traffic enforcers may overlook violations committed by certain candidates.

"Although alam naman natin na 'yong former chairman ay campaign manager ng isang kandidato, rest assured hindi magiging factor 'yan sa pag-implement ng aming polisiya," he said, referring to Benhur Abalos.

Abalos resigned as MMDA chairman last Monday to manage the campaign of presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

Artes said the MMDA Metrobase, not its traffic enforces, will flag the violations. This would be done through "no-contact apprehension" to avoid heavy traffic buildup during motorcades, he added.

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The MMDA has given tickets to candidates for violating the protocols, Artes said, without specifying who and how many.

Under MMDA guidelines, campaign caravans and motorcades can only be held in major roads in Metro Manila during the weekend, from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.

A candidate's camp must first coordinate with the MMDA and submit a traffic management plan before the event. The vehicles must occupy only a single lane.

The campaign period for national position candidates for the May 9 elections opened last Feb. 8, while the one for local candidates starts March 25.

ALERT LEVEL 1

Artes said the same policy would be applied to candidates even if Metro Manila shifts to Alert Level 1, the lowest in a 5-tier alert level system that dictates COVID-19 restrictions.

"Hindi na namin babaguhin 'yan dahil ang major consideration naman diyan sa policy na 'yan... ay more on epekto sa traffic rather than health consideration," he said.

(We won't change that anymore because the major consideration in that policy... is more on the motorcade's effect on traffic rather than health consideration.)

Artes said the Metro Manila mayors are prepared in the event that the region eases to Alert Level 1.

The mayors have drafted recommendations for protocol changes under the lowest alert level, Artes said, though he did not disclose the details.

The government on Monday is expected to announce new alert levels in the country beginning Feb. 16.

In a separate TeleRadyo interview, Philippine College of Physicians President Dr. Maricar Limpin called on those running in the elections to consider the safety of people attending campaign events.

Limpin made the appeal after the Department of Health expressed concerns over the large number of people attending in-person campaign activities, which the agency described as potential COVID-19 super-spreaders.

Dr. Guido David of OCTA Research said his group has yet to see a spike in COVID cases due to the election-related events, but that does not mean there is no risk of the disease spreading in those events.

"The risk is there, it can happen," he said.