BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
A jeepney driver was resting behind the wheels when suddenly, a former jeepney association officer, accosted him for violating the anti-smoking ordinance.
The arresting person is now one of the few hundred “job-hires” under the administration of Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog. However, he thinks he is licensed to bully people around. To be more precise, he is one of the tough guys of the thing called I-CAST, short for Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Task Force.
The driver remonstrated insisting he was not smoking at all. The I-CASTer picked up a lighted Champion stick from the ground and maintained it was the driver’s. He and fellow I-CASTers grabbed the driver by the collar and twisted the latter’s arm to exact physical submission though the latter was not resisting arrest at all.
The driver, 59, smokes another brand of cigarette, says the leader of the transport organization who also works as consultant to Mayor Mabilog. The stick of lighted Champion was “planted”, she argues.
The driver, granting he would be found guilty for violating the ordinance, at most will only get a fine of P200 but our overzealous I-CASTers must have considered him violator of the Revised Penal Code and thus, their act of physically subjugating him like a dreaded criminal.
If indeed he smoked while behind the wheels, a level-headed enforcer would simply talk and explain to him the grave peril cigarette gives to public health.
That’s not an isolated case though involving our overzealous I-CASTers. In one instance, a freshman of Iloilo Doctors’ College was waiting for a ride in a waiting shed when the driver of a private car, a woman, flicked a live cigarette butt from the window. It landed near the hapless student just at the time our I–CASTers passed by.
Without much ado, the team cornered the boy, one of them grabbing the shoulders of the latter to ensure no escape. They refused to listen to his insistence of innocence. Luckily, fellow students and some faculty members of the college were drawn to the commotion and outnumbered the I-CASTers overwhelmingly. One of them inspected the cigarette butt and discovered its tip had the color of lipstick leading to the reasonable conclusion that it came from a woman, not a man, as the student had correctly argued.
The I-CASTers, being job-hires, are not regular employees of city hall which pays them a measly P350 per day, for which they deserve our sympathy. They cannot work beyond 20 days a month and are subject to the vagaries of the appointing officer. Being non-regulars, their services can be terminated monthly by simply not signing the renewal of their employment. That makes them prone to blackmail.
Notwithstanding their status, some of them still do “waslik poder” (pelf or braggadocio) like the smart guy who collared a fellow driver and twisted the latter’s arm. This is the same person who now faces criminal charges for beating up a woman who succeeded him in the drivers’ association. The woman got knocked down and got a seizure which turned out to be a mild stroke. She is still recovering now but had to support herself with an aluminum cane as she walks.
He is emboldened because he has a powerful backer at city hall. The driver who was his victim reported to the “people’s complaint desk” which immediately investigated and found out the I-CASTer liable for abuse of authority.
However, our good friend Joshua Alim, both city kagawad and I-CAST chair, came to his rescue, and, in the process, triggered a heated exchange in the air lane between Alim and Mabilog’s political liaison officer Jeffrey Celiz and also, OIC of the people’s complaint desk.
Joshua Alim is a reasonable man. And we do admire him for his dogged loyalty to his subordinates in the I-CAST to the point of acting ridiculously, like slapping a woman with “obstruction for justice” criminal suit for reminding the I-CASTers not to harm the driver.
She was the same person beaten up by our I-CASTer; she witnessed the latter’s unabashed display of “waslik poder” when he collared and twisted the arm of a fellow driver suspected to have smoked behind the wheels, and who apprehended a student just because a lipstick-stained cigarette butt landed near the site he was standing on.