‘Another fiasco, and you’re out’, Duterte tells toll board

President Rodrigo Duterte warned officials of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) that they may face sacking if another “fiasco” such as the traffic mess caused by the implementation of the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) toll collection system in expressways in Luzon would happen.

In a public address late Wednesday night, Duterte called TRB officials “inutile”, and suggested to replace them with a retired military official if they could not improve their regulatory services.

“Another fiasco, alis na kayong lahat at ilagay ko nalang sa isang tao (and you’re all out and I’ll appoint someone else there). You better call them regularly [Transport Secretary] Art [Tugade] at pag hindi (because if not), just set them aside maglagay ka lang ng tao diyan, expert na mag-plano, isang tao lang naman kailangan diyan e. Magkuha ka ng military (just assign someone there, an expert, just one person is needed. Get someone from the military),” he said.

Duterte said that before he could even start firing anyone, TRB officials who acted as “deadwood” were better off stepping down from their posts.

“I have to weed out incompetence. I do not want you becoming a deadwood. If you cannot perform what is expected of you then the best that you can do for decency’s sake, resign and do not wait to be fired because masakit ‘yan, mapahiya ka (because being embarrassed is going to hurt),” he said.

He said the traffic mess and confusion could have been avoided if the TRB had fully prepared for the rollout of the cashless toll collection system before it was implemented.

“Next time you prepare the public. Kayong mga (You) regulators, if there are changes, if there are I said innovations there, let them practice it. Ayusin niyo muna. Huwag kayo basta papasok-pasok (Fix it first. Don’t just suddenly implement it) especially if it involves public interest and public safety,” he said.

According to Duterte, their incompetence had caused additional “hardships” on the people.

“Public interest, protect the public. Do not for Christ’s sakes, do not make it hard for the people to survive. I’ve been telling you just to make Philippines a comfortable place,” he said.

Duterte urged TRB officials to meet with Tugade on Thursday to discuss measures to fix the RFID mess.

He said he could not blame toll operators because it was the TRB’s job to have studied and tested the cashless payment system on a trial run before it was carried out.

“Is it the fault of the system? Yes, because the system was not tested thoroughly which would translate into something like an incompetence at lahat na (and everything). Hindi ko masisi itong may-ari nitong…sila (I don’t want to blame the owners) Ramon Ang, Ayala because meron tayong (we have a) regulator. That’s the purpose of having a regulatory board. They should not have allowed the system right now to put into use without a trail of one week at titignan nila (and they should see) and anticipate what would be the problem. That is the correct frame of mind,” he said.

Meanwhile, Duterte also defended his preference to appoint former military officials in the Cabinet, noting that they always had a “system” prepared before battle or war.

“It’s only I said the military sa experience ko who can do that… hindi naman lahat, pero (not all but) the frame of mind that I want kasi matagal ako sa gobyerno, is the frame of mind of a military man,” he said.

Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian earlier ordered the suspension of the business permit of NLEX Corp. following traffic jams in the city due to the implementation of the toll regulator’s RFID payment system.

The RFID cashless toll collection should have been a seamless and no contact payment system in the expressways as part of the government’s initiative to also curb the spread of coronavirus disease 2019. PNA.GOV.PH