Friday, March 14, 2008

I am not a criminal!!!

Have you ever felt being treated like a criminal? Or at least felt that someone thinks you are? It’s such a weird feeling that you wanted to poke a gun at them to defend yourself.., hehehe. Four years ago, I was caught littering at a waiting shed while waiting for a bus. There was a new presidential decree at that time that makes littering a criminal offense here in the Philippines. Since it was a new decree, the MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) officers were very keen on seizing the violators. Poor me, I was caught throwing a cigarette butt while I was walking to board the bus. I wasn’t aware of the new presidential decree, not that I’m defending my actions, but hey it was just a cigarette butt!!! I ended up getting a ticket for my violation. The MMDA agent told me that I have to pay a fine which means I have to go to the MMDA office along EDSA which is totally a hassle to go to. Their office is right in the middle of EDSA and there are no bus stops near the office which means I have to walk from Estrella to the MMDA office (For those who are not familiar with what I’m talking about, trust me, you wouldn’t want to walk that part of EDSA) So I did what a law-abiding citizen would do.., I ignored my violation ticket and didn’t pay the fine. It was the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life!!! Six months later I received a subpoena from the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court. It read-

People of the Philippines
Archilles Esguerra
Criminal case no 3036
Violation of MMDA Reg. no 96-009
as amended by MMDA Reg. no. 99-006

WTF???!!! Throwing a cigarette butt has made me a criminal???!!! Apparently it did! I was so alarmed and I didn’t know what to do. The subpoena said that I have to report in court at 7 in the morning. That is torture!!! I panicked! Receiving a subpoena is not something I get on a regular basis, I mean, come on!!! So, I did what a law-abiding citizen should do, accept defeat and pay the fine. A few days before the scheduled hearing in court, I dropped by the MMDA office to pay the fine (No I didn’t walk along EDSA, I drove my car to get there.., hehehe) They gave me a memo that I have to show the judge on my court hearing. Needless to say, I still have an appointment with the judge in court. The dreaded day in court came. I went there alone because I didn’t want my family to make a big fuzz out of it. I was surprised to see that there were around fifty other fellow accused criminals in court that day (all with the same littering case). We were instructed to stand in a designated place once our case number has been called out by the clerk of court. It was a surreal feeling. I am not a fan of movies that show court proceedings but it definitely is the same as what is shown on TV. Then my case number was called out and the clerk of court asked- how do you plead?..., Oh my GOD!!! I’m being read of my violations and this petite young lady just asked me how do I plead? Before I even answered, the lawyer beside me from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) told the judge that I have already paid the fine and they have received a memo from the MMDA that they are no longer interested in the further prosecution of the case. I was totally numb and didn’t know what was going on until I heard the judge say, case dismissed and she pounded her wooden mallet (whatever it is that you call that) and she asked to call out the next case.

Four years later, I have now recovered from that trauma. I’m a free man!!! Then I received a call from an employer whom I will start working for after the Holy Week (yes.., I’m no longer a bum). As a prerequisite before I start to work for them, I agreed that they do a background check on me.., and guess what.., they found a criminal case filed against me. To make the matter even worse, they found a case for a violation of the Bouncing Check Law. WTF???!!! This is insane!!! What happened here?!!! I don’t even have a checking account!!! The guy from the HR dept of the company that I will work for asked me if I have a copy of the court order that will prove that it was a littering case. Fortunately, I still have it with me. When they did the background check, they found that it was the same case number but it has a different violation record. Luckily for me, they accepted the court order that I have.

What happened here? I was charged for a littering violation but my records have it as a bouncing check law violation? This is so distressing!!! Now I have to go back to the court office that handled my case to clear things out. I hope my records would be cleared soon. I am not a criminal!!!


  1. Yikes. Ang scary naman. I hope everything goes well with the court. Mahirap talaga kasi mga records dito saten tamnak minsan hindi na napansin na parehong case na na-assign kahit ibang violation. tsk.

  2. guess the lesson to be learned is..

    "do not litter"

    it leads to other worse things. =D

    regarding your case, you should be happy. some cases take months to be heard and stuff. and thank god for that PAO lawyer. he/she must have sensed your apprehension when you were asked to plead. who would want to say guilty?

    wish you the best of luck!

  3. lesson learned, i hope.

    having all said that, our justice system still sucks!

  4. Be strong!
    It should also remind us that Jesus Christ was also wrongfully accused and put to death. But his death has not stop him from saving us. Instead, he used it for our salvation. We are living in an imperfect world. For us who have seen the light should let our candle sign and give hope and strength for people who are wrongfully accused. Yes, though we are law abiding citizens can be wrongfully accused. We have to pray and work hard to let justice prevailed in our society.
    Your post will let others be reminded that a simple irregularities could put us into a lot of unpleasant situation. It can be a warning that we have to be cautious in our actions.
    I suggest that MMDA should put a Bus stop near their office. I hope some MMDA officers including Bayani Fernando will consider this suggestion.

    May you have a truly meaningful and Holy Week

  5. thanks for your comments. lesson learned talaga.., kaya pag magtatapon ako ng sigarilyo pasimple na lang.., joke!!!
    buti na lang di lumalabas sa nbi clearance ko ung criminal record ko. Sana lang clerical error lang. i'l be dropping by Mandaluyong RTC within the week to clear things out.
    Fr Jessie thanks for your advice. I believe God is trying to send me a message. this is definitely something to ponder on during the holy week.

  6. belats, panay yosi e.ahehehe!ako din nakasuhan ng ganyan.palusot ko pa s erpats ko e balat ng candy.non dumating yun subpina ayun huli ako.ahehehe

  7. Looks like I have to watch my habits when I am home ha? Natawa ako sa ticket mo! hehehe

  8. hehehe.., pati mga kaibigan ko pinagtatawanan ako everytime i tell them this story.

  9. I'm sorry about what happened to you but I kind of agree with the laws of MMDA.

    Even if it is "just" a cigarette butt it is still trash and that is still littering. If the law is broken fines should be made. Why? Because if the law is lax so will the people. This is just a candy wrapper, this is just a piece of paper, this is just a banana peel and so on with the endless justifications.

    And I also hope that you don't smoke in public like the bus. That is also against the law. I hate it when smokers smoke in public near other people because 2nd-degree smoke inhalation is more lethal than 1st degree smoking. If only MMDA was around in Cagayan de Oro then all those smokers who drag other innocent people to their graves would receive the whip of justice.

    Anyway, I just hope that you learned your lesson this time. No hard feelings ok? Just expressing an opinion.