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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, January 19, 2011
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DPWH’s obligation


The sawing off of signages put up by Bantay Banwa has created a controversy. Bacolod District Engineer Josefino Melgar has stirred a hornet’s nest that is now difficult to stop because the City Government, through Vice Mayor Thaddeus Sayson has entered the fray and he demands explanation.

The first time I wrote about this was with the thought that something had to be done. An emissary called me and said that Melgar wanted to explain to me but I said there is nothing to explain to me but rather, Melgar should enforce the law as he sees fit but fairly and without exemption.

I was assured that he would, and that he does not want to taint his name which is a good response and what we want to hear from our public officials. Now the ball is in his hands – implement the law.

Bantay Banwa installed those signages with the permission of the city government as now confirmed by Sayson and the city was informed but the information relayed to the city was so general that Sayson, like any sane man, did not think that signages are road obstructions.

Sayson is absolutely right because those signages were not on the road but on the sides and if there are on the road those railings in 6th and Lacson Streets and at corner of Galo and Lacson qualify since they straddle right at the middle of the road.

So why were they not taken out, considering that there were several vehicular accidents there? Why were the signages sawed off instead when they were on the sidewalk? Is it because, according to Bantay Banwa, they carry the names of the donors? Has Melgar a bias against private donations?

Let Melgar explain to the vice mayor how signs are obstructions but from our end, we now demand that Melgar implement Department Order No. 52 of 2003 and all the other orders and directives that were cited by the newspapers and used as a defense for Melgar’s actuation.

This authority might justify “Operation Baklas” but it also opens the gates for Melgar to explain why he has not enforced the same orders on what are really obstructions as narrated in Department Order No. 52 which are not only specific but wide-ranging.

I agree that, as among the obstructions listed in this DO, signages are included, but I think Melgar failed to see one little word, “private” that distinguishes the signage of constructed by Bantay Banwa with the consent, if not due to the request of the city and thus they take on the nature of a public, not private signages even if the names of the donors are there.

Sayson and Melgar can quibble over terminologies but the DO is clear about signages to be removed – if they are private, as advertisements.

If there is one good thing that came out of this issue it is law, Presidential Decree No. 17 (Revised Philippine Highway Act) which lays out the duty and authority of DPWH on these obstructions and other allied matters and DO No. 52 which provides in clearer language the duties of the DPWH offices.

So now we know who to lay blame and basis to demand that Melgar and other DPWH engineers in all congressional districts enforce the law or be made culpable for negligence, criminal in fact, if this negligence causes an accident and lives and properties are lost.

Section 23 of PD 17 states that “It shall be unlawful for any person to usurp any portion of a right-of-way, to convert any part of any public highway, bridge, wharf or trail to his own private use or to obstruct the same in any manner.”

These powers are clear and easily implementable if he DPWH has the courage to enforce the law, but as we all see every day the DPWH is remiss in doing its job, not just now but for so long people think that it is all right to occupy public places and they do with impunity.

Each day DPWH personnel move around. Mornings I follow a smoke-belching pickup of DPWH and it passes by the same national road (Lacson Street) that I do and therefore ought to see the same road obstructions that I see, like lean-tos, repair and vulcanizing shops, motor and machine components, etc.

Why were they blind to these, including the Police Station 2 that straddles the sidewalk and have converted the frontage as garage? How about that wreckage in front of Guerrero Geodetic Office? I will continue tomorrow.*

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