As you probably know already, I am driving my own car in the Philippines. The reason: I like driving myself and I do not like to hire a driver and sit in the back of my own car when I have to go somewhere.
Driving in the Philippines sometimes is difficult because of the traffic, not well implemented traffic rules etcetera. As I foreigner I am not completely used yet to the way the Philippines is letting drivers know what is allowed or not. Traffic signs are not always placed on the best spots or not visible when it’s dark or covered with parked cars or placed billboards and other commercial signs. Aside of that, Filipinos are just doing what they like to do. Traffic signs are merely a suggestion, not a ‘must follow’. I have adjusted to that a lot already. That’s one of the reasons I am violating traffic rules at times. And sometimes I get caught.
You can read my earlier post about driving in Manila HERE.
Once, on Congressional Road in Fairview Quezon City, I drove through a yellow light going to red, together with other cars; but I probably had a bad day and was stopped by an officer who said that it was red already. My wife and I had some discussion with the officer that we were going to pick up her sick sister (who recently passed away), to bring to a doctor for her cancer treatment. The officer told us about the danger and the fine for such violation. We ended up with a warning and no further consequences.

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An other time I was in the wrong lane at a traffic light on Aurora Boulevard in Cubao, bringing my sister in law to the doctor to St. Lukes hospital. All traffic in the left lane had to go left and I wanted to go straight ahead. So was stopped and explained by the officer that that was a violation, but that it could be settled. After paying 100 pesos secretly to the officer we could go without ticket.

The third occasion was a traffic sign again. Again through red. It happened at España (Espanya in Filipino) Manila coming from Quiapo and going to Quezon City. This time I really go through red but I noticed it too late. Other cars are going through too and I just followed. I just had another unlucky day: they only picked me to stop. Sweet talks from my wife to the officers (there were more of them, all wanted to know what kind of fish they caught this time) didn’t help much. The official fine for such violation was 500 pesos (I was told by them), to be paid at City Hall and temporary confiscating my drivers license. It took a lot of discussion but finally the highest in rank on duty (and now alone with us) agreed with giving (paying) him 100 pesos and no further consequences.

A few days ago we drove home around 7 pm. We came from Cubao and we had to go home (Antipolo City, Masinag, along Marcos High Way). We wanted to avoid the (around this hour) usual traffic near Santa Lucia mall along Marcos High Way and went through Sumolung High Way, Marikina to go home. What I didn’t realize was, that lots of streets in the surroundings of cemeteries were closed because of the Undas celebration. Also in Marikina near Loyola Memorial park. Once In Marikina we were directed to take a different route along Riverside Mall, along Marikina River, going to Marcos High Way. At the detour route, on a non lighted corner I went right on the ramp to enter Marcos High way to go home. At the entrance of the high way I was stopped. I was told that this was the exit of the high way and the entrance was about 50 meters further. Because of the darkness and no lighted signs on the street I did the wrong thing. After explaining to the officer our reasons for being there he was telling us that such violation was dangerous and he should have to write a ticket of 2000 pesos for it. “But”, he said, “I will just make it a lesser violation which cost only 500 pesos.” Again my wife started sweet talking to the officer and I apologized to him for the violation. We ended up with a warning and he was even guiding us safely going into the high way.

Last Monday, still Undas holiday, it was very quiet in the streets. After we came back from the Himlayang cemetery in Tandag Sora, Quezon City we wanted to see a subdivision near SM Taytay. At the intersection of C5 and Ortigas we had to go down (not on the overpass) to go to Taytay direction Antipolo. Under the overpass a few police officers were talking to each other. When the light turned green I started driving and go left, signing properly and slowly. Then I suddenly saw the sign that it was not allowed to go left or to make a U-turn but I was already half way going on Ortigas. The two police officers didn’t react, so for a moment I thought to be lucky. Wrong….. about 50 meters further we were stopped by another officer who told us that it was dangerous to go left there and that we should have go straight and take the U-turn under the overpass. The fine for such violation was 1500 pesos and confiscating my drivers license for 3 months. We ended up saying thank you to the officer and paying him 100 pesos!!
So there goes my ration of San Miguel for that day…!!!! (according to my wife Flor)

If a ticket is given, the drivers license is confiscated. The fine needs to be paid at the justice office in the city where the ticket is issued. I am told that if so, it could cost you a whole day to be able to pay the fine and to get the drivers license back. It didn’t happen to me so far, but I am afraid it will be one day……
Traffic violations should be fined. It is done in all countries in the world, so it should also be done in the Philippines. I do not have problems with it.
Corruption in the Philippines is making it different. I wonder how many tickets are really written every year in the Philippines. It could be some huge extra income for the government. Fact is that most police officers are stopping drivers to tell them that they have made a mistake (true or not) and that they will be issued a ticket. What actually is happening is that the officer is given some money for not writing a ticket. This is very common in the Philippines. Those ‘leeches’ or ‘crocodiles’ as the police officers are called do not like to write tickets, they prefer cash in stead. Most of them are only making 20 thousand or so a month, so it is a welcome surplus to their salaries.
Some police officers already make clear that there are other ways for not having a ticket. They just say that “it can be settled differently” when they talk about a fine and taking in the drivers license. They are even willing to negotiate the ‘fine’. Most of the times 100 pesos will do. But if a foreigner is stopped, driving an expensive brand of car, they might increase the amount proportionally.

But I also have the impression that there are also honest police men, who are not after your money. They also do not like to go into issuing a ticket and the administration to go with it, they just give you a warning.