This morning, I got into a taxi en route to school. Halfway through the trip, I got bored and picked up my Stieg Larsson book. Before I even read through one paragraph, however, I heard a singular beep. My book was soon forgotten, and I launched into alert mode.
You see, a couple of days ago, I came across an article on the net that went on to detail the various scams and schemes that modern-day Filipino crooks applied to get their “loot”. All the modus operandi presented were quite scary. There was something about hooligans who try opening unlocked taxi doors to rob both taxi drivers and their passengers. Just as well, there was something about baby stealers who hang around hospitals.
And then, let’s not forget the evil taxi drivers who are not satisfied with their damned fare increase and who opt to tamper with the fare meters to add to the bill. This practice is called butingting, and is targeted at locals and foreigners alike. It has to do with attaching wires to a discreet button that the driver can access. whenever he presses the button, the meter’s fare elevates but an alarm sometimes sounds as an acknowledgement to the manipulation. Though some drivers burn off the sound system of the machine to silence it.
Needless to say, I was convinced that the beep signified that a butingting had been conducted. I warily checked the meter and the drivers movements for any curious movements. The report also mentioned that tampering would cause the distance indicator to stop altogether.
My mind started to flash back on all the times that a taxi had scammed us, on both the local and international scale. Boy, do I have a lot of stories to share:
In Kuala Lumpur, there was this man who discreetly covered the meter with a small towel when we told him where we wanted to go. Upon reaching the not-so-far destination, he parked somewhere in the middle of the road and named the price of the fare. It already struck my mom as bad that the meter was being covered, even though the destination was only a few minutes away. But not wanting to make a fuss, we rumaged through out wallets for the payment. Unfortunately, we came up short. (We already planned to go to the money changers in the mall, and did not anticipate that the fare would be that much.) He started to declare that we could pay in SGD if we didn’t have RM. He gave us some crack convertion of his own fabrication and harried us into paying quick. When we met up with my Dad, he told us that the guy basically scammed us out of a hundred or so pesos because of the faulty exchange rate… That driver was a class A asshole.
Next, there was this incident in GuangDong, China where we instructed our diver to convoy with the taxi in front, so that we could visit the nearby newly-opened giant Wallmart. The driver agreed and off we went. However, we noticed that the second car (the follower) actually took the lead because the smart-ass driver claimed that he already knew where to go. In short, the 2 taxis got separated and went to 2 different Wallmarts. The distance of the wrong Wallmart was 10-15 minutes drive away from the wrong one. The hour was spent trying to rectify that mistake and set up a meeting point.
A second incident in China, this time in Beijing, was a planned trip to the Bird’s Nest Stadium at night for a quick photo-op. We got into a cab and it took about 30 minutes to get to the stadium. We even drove on this big, curving bridge. When we got there, the place was closing down for the night, and we couldn’t get past the main entrance. Bummer.
We went back a few days later via cab from close to the same place we hailed the cab the first time. It took us 15 minutes. Turns out, the first cab gave us the good ‘ol ikot (turn).
In fact, the ikot thing in China happened again on a different occasion and, this time, cost us an extra P600.
Come to think of it, taxi drivers here in Manila don’t even print out the receipts for fares. They have these “high-tech” meters that are supposed to be tamper-proof and capable of printing receipts, but only 1 out of 10 taxis I get on actually end up giving me a printed copy.
Should we, the commuters of the Philippines, be expected to list down the 9 out of 10 cabs’ plate numbers and file reports en masse to the LTFRB?… Who has the time or effort?!
What I suggest is the concept of a Ghost Rider: LTFRB hires an undercover person who is put specifically on the payroll to ride taxis (or all other forms of public transportation, for that matter) around Manila. He can also double as an errand person, but one who keeps tabs on transpo operations. Then any infraction is reported via plate number and the name of the taxi/bus company… I think all commuters agree that these petty crimes happen on such a regular basis that it won’t be hard at all to spot these legalized criminals.
I didn’t watch the SONA, but how I wish that the president mentioned something about the public transportation sector’s SEVERE rehabilitation. In fact, I dare him to go around Manila as a commuter in incognito mode. Let’s see if he survives the daily grind.