Parañaque City is notorious for its infamous towing “service.” Basically the towing company (“Red Circle Towing”) tows away “illegally” parked cars without warning, and the hapless motorist is forced to pick up his vehicle at some far-off impounding area — but only after paying a hefty “towing fee.”
It’s a giant racket, of course; their definition of “illegal” parking is indiscriminate and completely arbitrary, and hundreds of cars have been impounded on practically no pretext — even from legal parking spaces. Appealing to the local police doesn’t help, as many of them are in on the scam, along with certain city government officials.
Official city ordinance states that illegally parked vehicles should be ticketed, and towed away only if the driver is not present and the car is an obstruction. If the driver is present, towing is illegal. Of course, Red Circle Towing doesn’t seem to care much for city ordinance, so long as their government-licensed carnapping syndicate continues to generate income. A few tabloids have picked up the story, printing “Hoy Gising!”-type articles with copies of the parking law for clarification, as stated by a government representative named Mr. Abad (I forget his first name), but it doesn’t seem to have helped.
Just yesterday, I found a towtruck driver — backed up by that quintessential Filipino archetype, the potbellied policeman — harrassing a lady who had parked her jeep in the driveway in front of the village. There are no signs indicating “No Parking” or “Tow-Away Zone” along the curb; they simply started hauling her car away — just as she arrived. She began yelling, and I stopped to watch.
Remember, official ordinance is that if the driver is present, the car is not to be towed. Yet there they were, hauling her car up with the towtruck pulley, with the policeman berating her for a nonexistent crime. I approached the policeman, and said to him (in Tagalog), “This is illegal. If the driver arrives before towing, you’re not supposed to tow her off.”
The response was predictable: “She’s illegally parked, so she has to be towed!”
“Wait, you only have a right to ticket her, but not tow her car. Hey, I see cars parked in front of the village all the time! Why are you towing her only now?”
(This whole time, the conversation was periodically — and shrilly — interrupted by the irate lady driver’s protests, and also by passing motorists heckling the towtruck drivers.)
“This is No Parking!” insisted the policeman. “Doesn’t she know that this is Parañaque, and we tow away illegally parked vehicles?” Real one-track.
“You’re not supposed to tow them away if the driver’s there!”
Suddenly the towtruck lurched, dragging the lady’s jeep about a foot forward — with the driver still half inside. She yelled, they stopped, and she let forth a string of curses, saying that if they wanted to tow her, she would not go without making them drag her down the road till she died. The policeman started arguing, and a shouting match ensued.
While that went on, I whipped out my cellphone, dialled up a friend in the village who’d had this same experience before, and asked her for the number to Mr. Abad’s office in City Hall. Then, interrupting the still-ongoing shouting match, I name-dropped.
“Ma’am,” I told the lady driver, “here’s Mr. Abad’s number at City Hall. He’s taking complaints about this whole towing scandal.”
The policeman suddenly changed tact.
“We’ve already started hauling, sir, but she arrived, so we’re not towing anymore. But we’ll need to charge a Clamping Fee, for the labor…”
The lady began yelling again about bribes and corrupt police officers, and she wasn’t too far off from the truth. Meanwhile she had gotten out her own cellphone, and gotten Mr. Abad’s number from me, and was dialling.
The towtruck drivers had been watching this whole time, and upon hearing Mr. Abad’s name, began to lower the pulley. The policeman, however, was adamant about his “Clamping Fee.”
Seeing that the lady would be able to fend for herself from that point onward, I wished her well, and continued on my way, since I had chores to do. I had only walked down the road about two minutes, when the Red Circle tow truck whizzed by, without any car in tow. I was seriously worried they might try to run me over, but I don’t think they saw me.
I’m sorry if this narrative is turning incoherent, but it was a rather incoherent afternoon, towing scandals and all.