Estrada warns vendors of syndicates inciting them to rally against road-clearing ops

The Daily Tribune| Written by: Pat C. Santos| August 24, 2016


Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada yesterday called on the thousands of vendors to be wary of criminal syndicate-backed militant organizations inciting them to rally against the road clearing operations in the city.
Estrada bared he received reports that unscrupulous groups are organizing street protests to derail the ongoing campaign against illegal vendors.

“I’m appealing to the vendors to be suspicious of these individuals instigating mass actions. Don’t become unwitting victims of these moneyed syndicates masquerading as cause-oriented groups,” he said.

“‘Wag na kayong magpadala sa mga grupong ito. Think about the general welfare of the Manileños who are losing time and money because of traffic jams and anarchy in our streets. They are the very same people who patronize you and give you livelihood,” Estrada added.

The Manila mayor said there have been reports that a purported militant group is going around offering money to vendors to join a street protest they were supposed to hold yesterday; the protest rally, however, did not push through because no one joined.

“These extortionists and syndicates who earn money by demanding ‘protection fees’ from illegal vendors are feeling the heat of our street clearing operations. It is not surprising that they are attempting to make this desperate move to break our momentum,” Estrada pointed out.

Earlier, vegetable truckers from Benguet had personally complained to Estrada that they shelled out P80 a day for a bogus “business permit” and P300 “intelligence fee,” aside from the weekly P2,800 fee, to a group of individuals operating on Recto Avenue in Divisoria.

Estrada remained firm that he will not back down from his road clearing campaign which, he said, is “just and lawful” despite several issues being raised against it by several militant organizations.

While he admits it hurts him that the livelihood of many vendors is being affected, Estrada said as a leader he has to make unpopular decisions such as this one for the good of the majority and the city as a whole.

“For so long I’ve been so lenient to the illegal vendors. I know how it is being a poor, but sometimes, you have to see things in a wider perspective. Traffic congestion has been affecting not just the individual motorists and pedestrians but also our country’s economy,” Estrada said.

He cited the study made by the Japanese government that showed the Philippine economy is losing P3 billion a day due to missed opportunities and lost time caused by traffic jams.

Estrada said the previous administrations had tolerated illegal vendors and operators of illegal transport terminals to the point that it has become a peace and order concern: it is no longer safe to walk around in the city streets without being mugged and robbed by criminal elements taking advantage of this anarchy.

“All of these clearing operations are authorized by law,” Estrada said, citing the Manila City Executive Order 004 or the city’s “Zero Obstruction” policy.

This is just and lawful. In fact, we even issue notices to the affected vendors before we conduct any clearing operation.”

Even the Supreme Court, in a 1992 ruling involving the case of one Francisco Dacanay versus then Caloocan Mayor Macario Asistio, ruled that a public street is a property for public use, “hence outside the commerce of man,” Estrada pointed out.

“We are only implementing the law, there’s nothing personal or any vested interests involved in it. The Supreme Court is clear—no vending is allowed on the sidewalks and public roads,” Estrada said.
“Progress will not come if we continue to allow anarchy in the streets. Sidewalk vendors do not even pay taxes. I’m only balancing the rights of the law-abiding, tax-paying legitimate business owners and the poor sidewalk vendors,” Estrada stressed.

“Besides, who doesn’t want clean, traffic-free and well maintained roads?” the mayor asked.

Amid the threat of protests by militants and illegal vendors and their protectors, Estrada said his road-clearing drive throughout the city will continue.

“There is no turning back. Hate me, curse me, but I’m only doing my job, and that is to serve the interests of the general public and the common good,” Estrada said.