Long and winding road: Hapsay Dalan project
Since the city government’s Hapsay Dalan project started on June 2013, a stricter and more conducive atmosphere for enforcing traffic rules has been created. People crossed only at pedestrian lanes and vehicles parked only at designated areas. Still, a lot of questions have emerged on the use of money collected from violations and on inconsistencies regarding the implementation of the project.
Clearing it out, putting it back
Hapsay Dalan—the implementing task force created through Executive Order 02-2013 by Mayor Oscar Moreno—has two main purposes: to set order in the streets of Cogon Market and Divisoria. Since its birth, operations have been done daily by the Roads and Traffic Administration (RTA) officers.
Since March 2014, the task force and the RTA were able to apprehend, on a daily basis, around 100 people found to be jaywalking. By June and July, the number dropped to around 25. With this significant drop, Edgardo “Egay” Uy, chairperson of the Hapsay Dalan Task Force, said, “Pwede na man diay mu subay ang mga tao sa balaod.”
A major factor in the effectiveness of the Hapsay Dalan project is the competency of RTA officers. They underwent a screening process and were required to have attained a college degree, preferably in criminology. “We were able to send a message na there are traffic rules to uphold [sic] by pedestrians, not just by motorists,” said Uy.
The Hapsay Dalan project aims not only to instill discipline and to raise awareness about basic traffic rules and regulations, but also to ensure the safety of pedestrians and motorists. Given that areas of Divisoria are its pilot location, numerous cases of XU students having violated these rules had been recorded. Violations of pedestrian and traffic rules correspond to different fines (i.e. Php1,500 for not parking within white boxes, Php500 for not crossing on pedestrian lanes). While the imposition of fines calls for a stricter observance of the rules, reports of inconsistencies in terms of payment have surfaced. Reena Mercado (BSDC 3) shared that she was caught jaywalking last year but was able to go scot-free mainly because an RTA officer happened to be a friend.
Another XU student, Mayang*, was caught crossing the street while the green traffic light was on. However, her case was not recorded after she explained to the RTA officers that she had no idea on the said violation. Instead, they lectured her on traffic rules and regulations. Although she was spared from the fine or community service, Mayang is fully aware of the negative implications of the incident. “Usahay maka-ingon ko nga naa’y inconsistency. Sayang bitaw, maayo ang intention sa balaod, pero inconsistent sila. So ang tao, imbis anaron nila nga naa na siya na balaod, ang tao pud kay maglipat-lipat, ‘Ah kung wala’y RTA [officer] mu-tabok rako maski asa.’ Ayha ra sila mag-tarong kung naa’y RTA [officer],” she said.
Fines are fine
As much as the Hapsay Dalan project has earned praises for maintaining order in the city, complaints and controversies on the Php500 penalty fee have emerged, especially from students who find the amount unreasonably high. People have constantly panned the value of the penalty and have speculated its actual use. Uy, however, claimed that the amount of penalty is irrelevant. He said that stiff and high-priced penalties are stipulated only to effectively instill discipline to the pedestrians and motorists.
He noted, “Ang penalty [fee] para sa ako is irrelevant. As long people will abide with the traffic rules or any other rules or law, the amount of penalty or the period of imprisonment… becomes irrelevant.” Uy also clarified that the fines are directed to the general fund of the city government, expended primarily on development projects, employees’ salaries, and infrastructure improvement.
On the other hand, while people complain about inconsistencies in implementing the ordinance, Uy reckons these instances as more of circumstantial measures rather than discrepancies, given that the action or sanction may be relative to what the circumstance calls for.
For instance, first-time violators, people below 18 years old, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens are exempted from paying the Php500 fine and are only given a lecture by the RTA officers in their operation center at Divisoria. The same course of action applies to indigenous people and people who do not reside in CdeO.
Road to change
Since the implementation, critics of the project have always been present; in extreme cases, enforcers have even been issued death threats. Apart from external factors, the project also faces problems in the bureaucratic processes in the government. The RTA, having been one of the most neglected offices in the past, yearns to upgrade their facilities to ensure work efficiency.
Setting aside the obstacles, Task Force Hapsay Dalan longs to expand its scope after a year or less. After the Divisoria project, Uy said that their next priority of implementation is in the public market at Cogon and Carmen. As of press time, the task force is working on expanding the project to the North (i.e. Cruz-Taal Street, Gomez Street, Pacana Street, Yacapin Street) and toward the South (i.e. Chaves Street, Hayes Street, Garland Street, Hernandez Street).
Despite the setbacks, Uy is optimistic that the Hapsay Dalan Project will thrive and will help the city become a more organized locality. “Kana ang ideal situation nga atong gatan-awon sa future … Taga lain lugar na sad muingon nga gwapo’s Cagayan de Oro [City],” he said.
While concrete change has been accomplished through the Hapsay Dalan project, a big room for improvement has yet to be attained. For one, being able to follow traffic rules speaks volumes about how people observe other laws. Long-term solutions also require both the efforts of the government and the cooperation from the people.
Development may still be a vague idea we heedlessly read in books and hear from politicians, but who knows? Our first step toward the ever desired change may be a road paved better by the Hapsay Dalan project.C