Wisdom > Frankly

It’s time to stomp out ‘rent-a-cop’ VIP escorts once and for all

We have been tolerating them for too long

A cop on a motorcycle clearing the path for a VIP is, sadly, a common sight on our roads. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

I have a confession to make: Once in a while, I am making use of my Foreigner Factor while in the Philippines. It’s not to get any kind of pecuniary advantage or skip the line at an event or get out-of-traffic tickets.

Nope, the only time I use the “Sorry, mate, I’m not from here” card is when I come across wang-wang convoys on the streets of Metro Manila.

Knowing full well that rent-a-cops are very unlikely to have a serious go at me—or even know what to do—I have long made it a sport to get in the way of these nuisances whenever I’m out on my bike, and I’ve even been known to feign ignorance to their presence while driving a car.

Of course, there are some motorcades that people on the road have to give way to. SCREENSHOT FROM TIKTOK

Let’s clarify one thing straight away: There are some people who genuinely need police escorts for security reasons, and I’m not talking about them. If I got in the way of the president’s motorcade, it would (A) be a stupid move, and (B) I would be unceremoniously cleared out of the way by the presidential protection unit, and rightly so.

While PNoy was famously on record as saying that wang-wang was unacceptable, and even made his own motorcade stop at red lights sometimes, I understand that the threat situation for high-ranking officials can be dynamic, and some of them prefer to make haste to reduce the risk of an attack.

Some fine examples of unnecessary motorcades beating traffic and parking rules. PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL AND SAM SURLA

No, I am talking about obvious rent-a-cop convoys with mostly self-styled VIPs who think they have some sort of God-given right to swoon past everyone else. I have seen way too many of them over the years, and the arrogance and the disregard for fellow motorists attached to this behavior make my blood boil every single time.

Too many times have I seen them barge their way through traffic only to pull up at the next mall and unload a bunch of random strangers who then went shopping seemingly without any bodyguards or other security worries.

If you’re so important that you need a VIP escort through traffic, you sure as heck would also need protection outside of your car, so more often than not, it was crystal clear to me that this was simply a paid-for-way to beat traffic. A sort of Grab for rich people.

Even government officials tend to abuse this by going into places that they aren't supposed to be in. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Time and time again, I have heard from the powers-that-be that this sort of thing isn’t allowed anymore and won’t happen again, pinky promise.

Yet it still happens. Every. Single. Day.

I’ve gotten in the way and annoyed a fair few of them over the years, and some may say that’s not a clever thing to do, but I’m willing to take the risk. If it’s pretty obvious by the setup that it can’t be a real VIP or politician in danger, then I don’t see any reason why I legally have to make way.

The MMDA is on record as saying that “for authorized use of wang-wang and blinkers, the vehicle must be a marked government property, which is used only during official functions or performance of duties such as emergency response and law enforcement.” So a random Innova being escorted by a single motorbike probably doesn’t qualify.

If only our own government were as good as enforcing the rules it had put into place. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

If we were a lot stricter with implementing these rules, it may actually benefit everyone. But as long as even minor politicians and wannabe VIPs can fly past traffic, they won’t really care about the rest of us who are stuck in four-wheeled hell.

I bet you a dinner (plus drinks) at a fancy restaurant that if we firmly banned VIP escorts for everyone tomorrow and properly enforced it, public transport would miraculously improve in record time. But as long as there is a two-class society on our roads, things will never change. And that’s a shame.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.