Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tricycles and crime

TRICYCLES DO not commit crime, it is their drivers and riders who have sometimes been involved in gruesome crimes with the aid of these three-wheeled vehicles.

The latest victim in a tricyle-aided crime is Cyrish Magalang, 20, a cum laude graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, the youngest in her family. The two suspects—Roel Garcia Jr., 24, a trike driver, and his brother, Rollyn, 27, a vegetable vendor—have been arrested by Bacoor police. On national TV, both promptly and tearfully admitted to robbing and killing Cyrish.

Their confession: Rollyn was seated behind Roel, the driver. Rollyn transferred into the sidecar, sat beside Cyrish and brandished a screw driver. The brothers then took Cyrish to a farm where they killed her. Rollyn said being high on drugs and alcohol was the reason they committed the heinous deed. As if this would lessen their guilt. The screw driver used to stab Cyrish, the tricycle, and Cyrish’s shoulder bag have been recovered from the brothers.

A witness said it must have been around 11 p.m. when Cyrish boarded the tricycle. She was on her way home from work at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. The news report said a farmer found Cyrish’s body the next morning inside a hut. Police said Cyrish’s body bore 49 stab wounds, her face was crushed with a hollow block, and her hands were tied. Although she was found with her underwear pulled down, rape was not immediately confirmed or ruled out.

Tricycles have become part of our daily lives. They serve as school buses, farm-to-market cargo vehicles, ambulances to carry the sick and the dying, even as family “cars.”

The tricycle is an Asian innovation. If the jeepney is to the Philippines only, the tricycle is to Asia. The latter has so many variations and names. In Thailand it is tuk-tuk, in India I heard people simply calling it a rickshaw. (Rickshaw is also the name of the ancient kalesa-like carriage pulled by a human being.)

I have taken pictures of different kinds of tricycles. I even took a photo of one in New York. In the Philippines this passenger bike is called tricycle (pronounced traisikel, with accent on the last syllable), pedicab, tri-sikad, sidecar, depending on how it runs—on gas or leg power. The carriage may be in front, back or side. Many street families now live in home-made tri-sikads. I once took a photo of a homeless family’s tri-sikad with a frameless “electric” fan that ran on wind power and cooled their pet dog.

Tricycle drivers know the layout of their small communities and many of the people who live there. They have been eyewitnesses to crimes. They have themselves been perpetrators of heinous crimes, rape included.

If two-wheeled motorbikes are used often by “riding in tandem” gun-for-hire criminals, bag snatchers and holdup men for a quick getaway, tricycles also serve a purpose for other crimes. These small, noisy trikes are not only perfect getaway vehicles, their drivers can also do surveillance and serve as lookouts. A crime being committed inside a moving tricycle’s cab—say a holdup or a prelude to rape—can be easily covered by tarps, especially on a rainy day.

I do not mean to put down tricycle drivers, but I am sure many can attest to their daredevil way of driving. Several times have I driven through a crossing with the green light for my lane, and a tricycle suddenly crosses before me, with the driver casting a mean look at aghast car drivers who have the right of way. Once I pointed to the green light to indicate to the trike driver that it was “go” for me, but I got only expletives.

The flamboyant jeepney is the king of the road? Not anymore. It is the tricycle. It has nothing to do with size or decor but with daring with a capital D. The trike driver astride the machine throws caution to the wind and roars past highway behemoths such as speeding dump trucks and buses. Worse, he blocks the path. You’d think the drivers are driving Harley-Davidsons or are from the California Highway Patrol.

People complain about how driving on highways has become dangerous because of tricycles that suddenly materialize from nowhere and race with big vehicles. Compared to motorcycles, tricycles are slower, and worse, loaded with people and other endangered species.

But here’s something more worrisome. The police know that tricycle drivers are good choices to be couriers of prohibited drugs, if they are not users themselves like Roel and Rollyn Garcia. They could earn more from their sidelines even while staying as drivers.

The air and noise pollution that tricycles cause is another concern. What have our local government authorities done to make people safe from tricycles and tricycle drivers? (Sorry to say it this way.) Should these vehicles go electric, should their waiting stations have CCTVs? How should they be designed? Who assesses the membership of tricycle associations?
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Am now a techie! With patience and daring I successfully downloaded online the new Windows 8 released two weeks ago. By myself! I availed myself of Microsoft’s promo price (till January 2013) for my new computer. No Windows 8 CDs on sale yet so it took eight hours, prayers and sweat to download. Entering the kilometric ID, promo code, product key and annoying captchas was enough to discombobulate me. Past midnight the new keyboard would not correctly write @ (for my e-mail ad being asked) and the high security password I had earlier chosen—though caps and num locks were off. I solved it. Next was transferring my apps and 20-year-old files. Yes, I had read up on what some had warned about: unnerving new features. One day was all it took for me to get used to them. I wrote this piece on Windows 8.