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Plain wrong

We should be thankful for small mercies.

These days, technology allows us to record anything that catches our fancy—or gets our goat. We no longer need bulky and conspicuous cameras to shoot something we believe should be communicated to a wider audience. Our mobile phones will do.

Social media sites often serve as channels for these footages. These range from inspiring performances, individual outbursts, actual crimes committed, to wrongdoing by the people who are supposed to do us good—but don’t.

Making the rounds of the Internet this week is a video of a traffic enforcer of the Metro Manila  Development Authority posted by a private car owner, Dianne Versoza, on wheninmanila.com. Versoza was apprehended for supposedly speeding along Commonwealth Avenue.

The enforcer told Versoza that he would give her a violation ticket but hinted clearly that he wanted the driver to bribe him with cash. The driver said she would look into her purse to see if she still had money and asked whether P1,000 would be enough. The enforcer said even half would do. The two eventually agreed on P210, which he instructed her to tuck behind her license.

Versoza said she had changed her mind, and then lifted her phone to capture the enforcer’s face on her camera.

MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino—whose main function of managing the traffic in the metro’s major thoroughfares is now being performed by the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group—was heard over the radio saying  that the person who had recorded the conversation had equally violated the law, specifically the Anti-Wiretapping Law.

“Pwedeng maghabol ang na-entrap na enforcers [The enforcers who were entrapped can also go after them],” Tolentino said.

We wish this were a joke, but this is coming from a lawyer who now tells us he wants to be senator. And, horrors, make more laws.

Another lawyer in the agency, the head of the MMDA Traffic Discipline Office, agrees with his boss, saying Versoza recorded surreptitiously, without the knowledge of the traffic enforcer.

“Hindi naman po kasi ipinagbabawal ang recording kung pumayag ang kausap [recording is not prohibited so long as the person being recorded agrees],” says Crisanto Saruca.

A lawyer from the University of the Philippines, however, said recording this particular exchange would not be illegal because a public official exercising a public duty is involved.

Sensing he had alienated many potential voters, however, Tolentino changed tack and encouraged the “public to videotape wrongdoing. I still maintain that,” he said.

How the public can heed this call after being spooked by Tolentino’s pronouncement that those who record such things may be charged with wiretapping boggles the mind.

Then again it confounds us, too how somebody like Tolentino could have the gall to latch on to his job and milk it for whatever it could do to his senatorial bid even as he fails spectacularly at the few things he is paid to do. Now he says the enforcer has been relieved of his post on Commonwealth Avenue. Is that all?

It’s not about the technicalities of the law. It’s about discouraging citizens from reporting wrongdoing by the people who are supposed to serve them. If this is daang matuwid, we wonder what crooked is like.

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