Tolentino, Coloma and Gazmin should resign now

If Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino has any self-respect left, he should resign from his post immediately. 

Tolentino is unfit for the job, as seen in his inability to manage the traffic problem in Metropolitan Manila since he assumed office in June 2010.   That inability is magnified by Tolentino’s refusal to enforce fundamental traffic rules like keeping slow vehicles off the fast lanes of major roadways in the metropolis, Edsa and Commonwealth Avenue in particular. His incompetence is aggravated by his refusal to retain MMDA traffic enforcers on the roads during the late hours, as if roadway traffic automatically eases up the moment suppertime begins. 

As everybody has observed, Tolentino is occupied with his unannounced campaign for a seat in the Senate in the coming May 2016 elections.   One can readily see that his alleged “projects” for the MMDA are designed to promote his image to the voting public nationwide. 

Last Christmas, Tolentino required all cinema houses in Metropolitan Manila to exhibit, before each film screening and for the entire duration of the Metropolitan Manila Film Festival, a long and winding film clip about his role in the MMDA. 

Earlier this year, Tolentino created “motorcycle lanes” along Edsa and Commonwealth Avenue.   When this “project” was launched, Tolentino was featured in the news media.   When the publicity ended, Tolentino lost interest in the motorcycle lanes.   Motorcyclists kept to the “motorcycle lanes” when the regulation was new.   Today, the motorcyclists using those roads ignore the regulation, and Tolentino couldn’t care less.

When scientists announced that Metropolitan Manila may be in for a big earthquake any time in the near future, Tolentino took advantage of everybody’s anxiety and held earthquake drills all over the metropolis.   As he had expected, the news media covered those drills. 

So far, Tolentino has not given any satisfactory explanation how and why P20 million worth of traffic lights meant for Metropolitan Manila ended up in Legazpi City in far away Bicol.   That anomaly has all the indications of technical malversation penalized under the Revised Penal Code.

Instead of attending to his duties as MMDA chairman, Tolentino has been visiting major cities like Cebu to promote his image.   What a public official like Tolentino, who is assigned to Metropolitan Manila, is doing in the Visayas is unclear.   What is clear is that since the national election is just a few months away, those sorties to the provinces are part of Tolentino’s pre-mature campaigning.   That explains why the traffic jams in the metropolis are horrid.

 Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma defended Tolentino’s provincial sorties.   Coloma said that traveling to the provinces, speaking before crowds, and distributing multi-million peso traffic lights all fall within the functions of Tolentino.   He added that Tolentino’s sorties to the provinces are meant to share his knowledge and experiences in disaster preparedness as the head of the National Capital Region Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Does Coloma understand what he said?   As its pompous title indicates, the NCRDRRMC is based in the National Capital Region, otherwise known as Metropolitan Manila.   Why should a public official who is assigned to the NCR travel on official time to the provinces and in the process neglect his duties in Metropolitan Manila where he is supposed to work in the first place?   What does Coloma take the public for – fools?   A presidential spokesman who tries to hoodwink the people does not deserve to remain in office.   

 The nationwide job Coloma attributed to Tolentino belongs to Voltaire Gazmin, the Secretary of National Defense, and not to Tolentino.   Under the law, the job of national defense is not limited to protecting the country from external threats.   That job includes seeing to it that the people are prepared for any national disaster.  

Speaking of Gazmin, he also has a lot of explaining to do.   First, his department bought defective, overpriced helicopters.   Just recently, his department purchased defective, overpriced rifles. 

 Although Gazmin appears unfit for the defense portfolio, assigning his work to Tolentino is not the solution.   At any rate, Coloma’s specious explanation only confirms that President Benigno Aquino III needs to deodorize Tolentino for the coming senatorial elections.       

Weeks ago, a Catholic bishop who was exasperated with the traffic mess in the metropolis got out of his vehicle, directed traffic, and found himself in the news.   Soon after that, Tolentino tried to imitate the bishop and strategically stationed himself at a major intersection in the metropolis, also to direct traffic.   The news media covered his gimmick, but instead of reaping public praise, Tolentino ended up with public scorn and revulsion. 

Ever since Tolentino directed his attention to his forthcoming campaign, the traffic mess along Edsa became absolutely unbearable.   The problem was so bad that President Aquino ordered policemen of the Highway Patrol Group  to manage the traffic along this historic avenue.   In effect, that directive kicked out the MMDA from Edsa.

So far, any improvement in the traffic situation has been anywhere from dismal to minimal under the HPG.   Anyway, whether or not the HPG can do a better job attending to the traffic mess at Edsa than the MMDA can is immaterial at this time.   Since the HPG has been on this new assignment for only a week, it may be too early to make an accurate performance rating of the group.  

What matters is that the replacement of the MMDA at Edsa by the HPG is an obvious indictment of Tolentino himself.   It’s the handwriting on the wall for Tolentino to see, and it says that Tolentino should resign from the MMDA immediately—now, not in October 2015 when candidates for elective office must announce their political plans to the public.   Coloma and Gazmin should follow suit and tender their resignations, too.   The public interest demands it.     

(Next week: The alleged 10-day rule is not applicable to Grace Poe’s SET case.)

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