Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Daang masikip

(congested road, a play on the government slogan "the straight and narrow road" of good governance)

Some people complain, not of being wronged, but of being corrected.

At the Ortigas Central Business District, a residential condominium stands fronting Ortigas Avenue. Its back entrance leads to Sapphire Road.

A friend of mine has a unit in this building.  And since she drives herself to work (her office is in Makati) every day, her only point of entry and exit to her building is Sapphire, which has been made into a one-way street.

It’s not a main road, and neither is it wide. It’s a busy thoroughfare nonetheless, especially during rush hours when every vehicle seems headed for Robinsons Galleria, ADB Avenue or Ortigas Avenue.

My friend observed that several vehicles park on at least two lanes of the street, on both sides of the road, thus congesting the flow of traffic. This in spite of visible “no parking” signs, and despite the abundance of two kinds of enforcers in the area:  the Ortigas Center security and the Pasig traffic officials.

My friend complained to both the Ortigas and the Pasig uniformed men about the double-parking vehicles—some of which, she noticed, were of the luxury-brand types.
Some even bore car plates of politicians. The response she got from the Ortigas officials was that it’s Pasig that’s in charge, and vice versa.

And then some months back, everything changed.  Traffic officers started enforcing the no-parking-on-either-side rule. Consequently, the flow of traffic improved. My friend felt, as did her neighbors who also complained, that at least some systems were working. They attributed it to the much-vaunted “daang matuwid”.   

Alas, their relief was short lived.  After about two months, it was mayhem on Sapphire again, with vehicles parking indiscriminately – to hell with the consequences. Incensed, my friend took the time and the trouble to get in touch with the Pasig City traffic office and inquire what happened to the good changes that had started sweeping the area. 

She was told that yes, indeed, there was an operation done in recent months to ease the congested area. However, somebody reportedly influential “complained”—and so the rules were relaxed again.  My friend was aghast. She thought that people complained when there was something wrong or unjust being committed.  In this case, the complainant was decrying the enforcement of law and order – and got his (or her) way.

What a classic case of “wang-wang”, she said, something she thought had been done away with when the fellow she had voted for was swept into the presidency.
Unfortunately, the “daang-matuwid” culture has yet to really permeate the rest of bureaucracy.

**

I was surprised at the sheer amount of reaction generated by last week’s column, “Locked in and ripped off”.  Apparently, people would read an opinion piece about what’s going on in politics, or some other topic, think about it and then keep quiet.  But when you write about something as close to their hearts as the behavior of telecom service providers, they come out swinging – eager to share their expertise at best, or tell their similar sob story at least.

An industry insider who claims to have spent 18 years with various wireless operators in Asia says telecom providers are not customer-friendly because of an impotent regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission. “Big operators can refuse to follow basic requests for pricing, fairness and quality controls, simply because they can use their political connections to twist the regulator’s arm.” Indeed, he says “ Success is defined by what you can get away with, not by how good you are or how hard you work. “

Another reader asks: “What else can this be but deceptive marketing?”

Yet another reader has become jaded: “Why can’t we bother our lawmakers for a law concerning service providers?  Or is it too much to ask for?...Big Business can make lawmakers dance to their tune. In an ideal democracy, we can get this to work... in ours, even if we are treading the ‘daang matuwid’, this will just remain, as our lawmakers would smugly smirk, ‘in your dreams!’”

Some readers said I did the public a disservice by not naming the providers in my piece. “If [what you say] is factual, then you have nothing to fear,” one told me.
They and their evil schemes deserve to be exposed,” a friend added.

Others emailed, texted or posted on my Facebook wall to ask who the providers were, just so they could avoid them. I was happy to oblige.

“I paid P8,000 last week and I did not understand what they were talking about,” admitted a friend. Imagine how many other people pay by the thousands just so they could maintain their good record, and because they do not have the inclination or the patience to comprehend their carrier’s convoluted explanation?

Finally, from those who guessed, and wrongly, and from the subscribers of the competitors who expressed equal disgust, I confirmed that this wasn’t a case of one heartless company taking advantage of its consumers. “We have the same story, but my provider is [the other carrier],” another friend, who knows my number, said. “They are already rich and they are still fleecing their customers!”

It’s an industry norm, an organized ill. “That’s highway robbery!” an impassioned Facebook friend said. The tragedy is that many of the millions of consumers know they are being wronged, but they bear with it anyway.

adellechua@gmail.com

No comments: