The Chris Lao flood incident: what the MMDA could have done

Poor Christopher “Chris” Lao. He is not your average guy. He seems like the type of person who would not hesitate to just do things. Whether it is driving through a flooded street or speaking his mind in front of millions of people in front of a TV camera, he apparently would not think twice. He does not look like the type who would stop to think about the consequences of doing both either. He is what you would call a go-getter. But for that, he has become a national laughing stock.

I wouldn’t call Chris Lao stupid. What happened to him was kind of silly but silly things happen to the best of us in the worst of times. But it is not everyday that a news crew would happen to be standing around to record everything that is happening while we decide to do or say something silly.

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I can think of a few different scenarios around how Lao will have got himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can imagine that he saw the flooded street, stopped to mull over his options, assumed that the cars parked after the flooded part of the street probably passed through it earlier and thought to himself, “I can do this too”.

Or maybe he saw the flooded street, didn’t stop to think, considered that there were no signs to indicate that the water was deep enough to get into his car, and drove straight for it. Or perhaps he didn’t see the flood on the street; drove through it and got a rude shock when the floodwaters almost swept his car away. Or, he saw the flooded street, saw the news crew from afar and decided that he could make it to the six o’clock news. Whatever went through his mind before, during and after the incident, the last thing he expected was the whole country crucifying him for his little adventure.

Whatever way you look at it, Lao was right when he suggested that the “traffic enforces should have already blocked the road”. His suggestion is worth looking into. Most countries that put safety as their priority would have installed early warning signs or announced impassable areas to the public to prevent harm to individuals or damage to property. In the Philippines though, individuals are on their own. In fact, most Filipinos don’t really expect any member of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to be much concerned about the safety of Metro Manila’s motorists. The way I see it, it is the majority who are silly for not demanding more from the agency. After all, the MMDA should be on top of these things. Considering that there are some parts of Metro Manila where flooding is a recurring problem, I don’t think it takes a genius to think of a way to procure signs that the MMDA can take out of their warehouse whenever flooding occurs.

When I went to the MMDA website, there was actually an announcement that stated that the agency will be inaugurating its “newly-created Flood Control Information Center (MMDA – FCIC), a nerve center for the agency’s flood control and disaster-related operations.” It is supposed to “comprehensively monitor Metro Manila flood-prone areas and provide crucial information needed to make policy decisions in crisis situations.” Here is an excerpt of the announcement from the MMDA website:

The Center is equipped with sixteen LCD monitors connected to over seventy closed-circuit televisions trained on key Metro Manila intersections, flood-prone areas and pumping stations.

The Center will tap PAG-ASA and other international satellite-based weather monitoring services and utilize an Incident Management and Map Navigation Software that will collate information on flood and other disaster-related incidents. It has a floor map of Metro Manila and outlying waterways that will help trace communities that would be affected when water systems overflow.

“It’s a decision support system,” said Ramon Santiago, head of the MMDA-FCIC, “especially for emergencies. It collects all information regarding floods and operating systems, especially our pumping stations. We’ll be able to draw in information from PAG-ASA and information in critical areas so we can plot incidents and what is the response that we have done, and what further measures we need to do.”

“The information generated at the Center will eventually be made available to the Metro Manila local government units and the public, to guide them on what to do during emergencies,” he added.

If the monitoring system does what it’s supposed to do or, better yet, if the operators of the system actually use it for its intended purpose properly, maybe “the Chris Lao incident” will be the last of its kind in Metro Manila — not unless, of course, there is another person who would want to defy the odds and try to battle the floodwaters again with his car.

This new equipment of the MMDA should make our traffic enforcers’ jobs easier. We should now expect warning signs on the streets even when flooding is not a recurring problem on a particular area. The MMDA should strictly enforce a no-go zone in areas where streets are flooded. Filipinos should actually demand that the MMDA do their jobs during days when there is flooding. Likewise, Filipinos should hold the MMDA accountable when an accident occurs as a result of a lack of appropriate signage to warn against safety hazards on our roads.

In western societies, city councils get sued when an investigation finds that council officers have been negligent in their duty to protect taxpayers. The threat of a lawsuit actually puts council officers on their toes, hence forcing them to do their jobs. Having said that, we don’t really want a society in which people think that everything is just a lawsuit waiting to happen. But a system of checks-and-balances should be in place so we can hold both the corresponding agencies and members of the public to account for their actions.

Chris Lao should not be made a laughing stock. People should not use this as an opportunity to make fun of a suma cum laude graduate who made a silly decision. His dilemma should be a turning point in our society — an opportunity for every Filipino to start demanding more from the agency that is supposed to be monitoring the streets and guiding motorists to safety. After all, there are a lot of people out there who can’t rely on using their better judgment during a crisis situation. And crisis situations can be prevented when those in charge think of as many of the possible scenarios that could happen even before these happen.

47 Replies to “The Chris Lao flood incident: what the MMDA could have done”

  1. Take a hard look citizens of PH, the reason why our services are pathetic is because we would rather keep quiet and allow the mandated agencies to deliver less than what taxpayers pay for. When one would rather be outspoken, many choose to crucify him for having an honest opinion.

    1. I remember Elle Woods in Legally Blonde 2 asking the world to speak up after her bad salon experience. These things happen to us because we allow them to happen.

    2. The problem is PAGASA already warned us that have a public storm signal no. 1. This means that there will be floods along the streets of Metro Manila. This also means everyone should be careful driving, walking, doing whatever outside their houses as there will be a storm. The tax that I paid is used by PAGASA. I don’t see why it is the government’s fault.

      1. Huh? You mean the MMDA does not get a share of your tax?

        As I keep saying, we can’t assume that everyone will use their head all the time. So it is up to the agency to ensure that no one gets a chance at making a fool of themselves.

        They just need to block the flooded road.

    3. But it seems that everybody are just complaining, without contributing.

      Ex. maybe the residents (of the area where chris’ car floated away) could contribute a sign. Yeah I know, that’s supposed to be the gov’t job, but people should help each other out. The residents probably knew about the flooding a looooong time ago. That may not even have been the first car to have been submerged.

      Just a thought.

      1. Good point Juan

        It’s pathetic that the residents near that road don’t even complain about the flooding. They are so used to it to the point that they think that it is “normal”. The situation on that street is actually a microcosm of what is happening in the country.

        Hopefully this article will reach the MMDA.

  2. more often we pass judgement (one of the sickness of our society) to people based on little knowledge we have. Mr. Lao might be an arrogant person on that moment but we should consider what was the situation why he “explode” on that moment. Ang kagandahan lang, i never heard him say curses and “pagmumura”. Yes, he blamed everybody but was he in right position? Oh yes! Ikaw ba naman yung bago lang dadaan sa street na yun at ang mga tao ay walang malasakit na hindi man lang nagabiso na malalim ang baha how would you react? Let’s all admit, all of us, once in our life, acted and show arrogance baka nga mas worst pa yung iba sa atin na nagmumura pa. Mr. Lao made an error and he apologize, who are we to continually condemn his “arrogance”? Let him who was never been an arrogant person be the first to throw a stone at him.

    1. “He was in a right position? Oh yes!” You got to be kidding? Since when being in a not-so-desirable position an excuse for arrogance? Oh, in a worst case scenario, “Im sorry I killed him… I ‘exploded’…”

      Never mind…

      He was a practicing lawyer – Where is the “grace under pressure”…?

      He was a Summa Cum Laude – Where is the smarts, the common sense…?

      … … …

      All in all – it is just basic karmic principles, “You reap what you sow (and sometimes more)…”

      1. that was not arrogance. that was a frustration from a motorist due to the failure of the local govt. inform motorists about the conditions of the road.

      2. What always gripe me is that nowadays, too many Pinoys tend to label fellow Pinoys showing smartness or speaking out of one’s mind (and telling the truth as is) as “arrogance”. Remember, arrogance is something of an intentional showing of overbearing pride to others, making them feel inferior. Chris just made those statements to get to his point, a point that nobody around seems to be bothered with the flood and no signs were erected, not even people around were helpful to warn him. Where is arrogance there?

        Or maybe many feel inferior just because he is summa cum laude and is speaking in English, thus he acts and speaks arrogantly?

        Ah, the Pinoy mindset really…

    2. Kung bago ka lang na dadaan sa lugar at baha, bakit ka susuong sa baha kung wala kang nakikitang ibang dumadaan na sasakyan?

      Ganun na ba ka-rare ang common sense?

      1. The best explanation to this: he must have assumed that the cars parked after the flooded part of the street probably passed through it earlier and thought to himself, “I can do this too”.

    3. While he was wrong in blaming the people at the site for not warning him, I don’t think he was wrong in pointing out that the road should have been blocked already.

      I think his reaction, which is perceived by a lot of people as being “arrogant” has something to do with his wrecked car and his embarrassment. Call it saving face but I can imagine it would have been pretty hard to stay calm under those circumstances.

    1. Yes, that can explain it too. It was his choice to proceed. Which is why the MMDA cannot expect everyone to use their head all the time specially in crisis situations.

  3. while i admit i was one of those who immediately thought “what was he thinking?!!” when i saw the video, i have come to realize that given the situation, perhaps we should cut mr. lao some slack. i still think he should have just said he miscalculated the depth of the “puddle” instead of going on a verbal rampage, but i guess there was just a lot of things going on in his head. the most surprising of these which is that he actually believed the gov’t, as embodied by the mmda et al, should have done something about it. he seemed to have forgotten that you really can’t expect much from the gov’t (except increase in taxes). we are on our own. it’s a fact that we, by now, should have learned to live with. twas rather naive of him, but maybe he’s still an idealist. how cute.

    what i am wondering now is what the hell has ndrrmc been doing all these time? now that they have re-named ndcc to include the term “Risk Reduction”, shouldn’t they be working year round so that considerable risks, such as the one mr. lao had to take, be reduced?

    the new toys of the mmda are fine and dandy, and certainly makes them more high-tech, but i’d rather they come up with projects (like, say, regular de-clogging of the drainage?) that will make a bigger impact on the lives of people who live constantly at the mercy of the forces of nature.

    as i said in a previous comment, i still think mr. lao will make a fine lawyer someday and maybe even get a stint in one of the gov’t’s comm groups. 😉

    1. Yung iba kasi jan nag ko-comment lang, HINDI NAMAN NAG DA DRIVE.

      Alam nyo guys minsan pag nagda drive kayo sa hindi nyo kabisadong lugar namimiscalculate nyo ang lalim ng baha (kung meron) Minsan nga huhulihin ka dahil one way pala yung street NI WALA MAN LANG SIGNAGE!

      The MMDA should exercise due diligence in protecting people’s lives. Kung may warning sign na dun at pinagpatuloy pa rin nya, sige magtawa tayo at sabihin natin na kasalanan nya.

  4. Where I come from, the local Police force blocks off whatever streets are impassable to motorists. The Philippines is a JOKE! Sana hindi na lang ako naging Pinoy!!! Pweh!

    1. @Jude S Krise

      Which is why there are less “Chris Lao incident” in other countries.

      If only Filipinos could learn to demand more from their government agencies, the service would greatly improve. Putting up visible warning signs during low visibility situations is not something that is hard to do.

  5. Putting Electronic Flood Monitors, is not solving the flood problem, that occurs annually in Metro Manila. The cause of the flooding is because Metro Manila is a Delta…and this is aggravated by the Squatters, that throw plastics and garbages, that clog the canals and esteros…unless, they solve this; we will accept floodings as normal way of life…The people in charge of Metro Manila do not know how to solve the problem; the national government does not know how to solve the problem. And they all don’t care about it…

  6. Really, how would you know if the flood is that deep/impassable? The kind of flood that we have here in the metro is so murky, it beats the Pasig river by a mile! I have seen flooding in mundane proportions in the Makati – Manila area that looks like hell. And the only way to find out if its really impassable is if you try to brave it. So to the smarties there, how can you tell?

    What if it just so happens that there were no other cars passing by? What if I’m just the only one passing by at that time. Its not EDSA for crying out loud. Which queue would I take? So smarties… Answer?!

    On a daily basis we are faced with situations where information to make intelligent decisions are just far within our reach. We talk about common sense, but really, what is something commonsensical?

    1. There is a low-tech system used in other countries: permanent water depth indicators installed at regular intervals along flood-prone roads. These are simply posts that have depth markings on them. Even at night or when a road is covered with murky water you can still see the posts and therefore know how deep the water is. Here is an example of one:,

  7. He cant and shouldnt blame MMDA because before you enter that street there is a signage put up by MMDA to avoid Mo. Ignacia because of flood.

    Its his own fault for not reading the road signage. Its his own fault for not asking the local folks. Its his own fault for answering simple question with arrogance. Its his fault for blaming others of his own decision.

    I dont hate Mr. Lao, I hate what he did. But his face has become the symbol of arrogance. If he really want to clear his name, and if he really is truly sorry have the decency to show your face and say it with your mouth instead of hiding from a typewritten note. And hopefully aside from saying sorry he’ll be man enough to also admit that what happen to him is really nobody’s fault but his.

    1. there is a signage put up by MMDA to avoid Mo. Ignacia because of flood.

      What does the sign say exactly? If it’s just a general warning that says that street is prone to flooding, people can easily ignore it. Likewise, the low visibility or unfamiliarity might be a reason he didn’t see that sign.

      What I’m trying to say is, we all make unwise decisions, which is why it still boils down to the MMDA to ensure that people do not put themselves in harms way. They can’t assume that everyone will use their head all the time.

      I think he blurted out stuff that regular folks would in stressful situations. I can only imagine that having a wrecked car and the embarrassment of knowing that the whole thing was being recorded got to him.

      He did apologize eventually.

  8. Ilda,

    This will be a bit off-topic:

    “In the Philippines though, individuals are on their own. In fact, most Filipinos don’t really expect any member of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to be much concerned about the safety of Metro Manila’s motorists.”

    It doesn’t have to be in a typhoon situation to experience this. If you drive on that stretch of EDSA from Trinoma to Balintawak, you’ll immediately notice the swarms of swerving cars/buses and even tricycles — damn those u-turns.

    If you drive on EDSA-Cubao area, you’ll even notice people sniffing solvent under the MRT elevated track (just before the flyover). Not only are these people killing their brains and pose harm to themselves once they wander on the road, they’re also a potential hazard to motorists and pedestrians.

    I think the MMDA is getting way too many pats on its back even if it’s doing a poor job.

    on Chris Lao:

    Napahiya yung tao. Wala sa sarili. He has a point on the absence of signs. However, the MMDA cannot be everywhere (which defeats my comment above..hehehe). A good driver should check the road conditions before setting off. Like, he could have asked the bystanders. Imho, information was available, he just didn’t know where to get it.


    1. Hi brianitus

      I hope that the officials of the MMDA are taking notes. It is so easy to prevent this from happening again. They just need to block impassable roads due to floods to prevent “arrogant” people from being put in harms way.

      The guy was obviously under a lot of stress while being interviewed. It’s not everyday that a news crew greets you after fording through a flooded street and coming out of your car with half your body soaking wet. Napahiya talaga. He apologised anyway.

      1. So, that’s a lesson for future disaster victims. Whenever faced by the media, make sure matino na pag-iisip bago magsalita.

        Make sure you have snappy answers to stupid questions.

  9. Yes, we need more Chris Laos to keep our government officials on their toes. If Chris Lao did this in the US, he’d not just be expecting much sympathy his way but also a windfall from lawsuits

    1. It seems that most Pinoys love letting the government agencies off the hook. Lao made a few mistakes but obviously the MMDA is not off the hook in this situation.

  10. Hi Ilda, just wondering are you still with I have not read your articles and the rest of the writers from antipinoy for months now. Are you officially here now?

    1. Hi JOn

      You finally found us!!! Welcome to GRPost. 🙂

      No, I don’t publish my articles at Antipinoy anymore. I hope you can tell everyone.


      1. Oh, Ilda, why you left antipinoy? I love your articles there. Something happened there in antipinoy (that’s why I’m seeing less and less articles and mostly articles done by BongV, albeit in very slow spurts each week)?

  11. Hi Ilda

    Let’s face it: Mr Lao was arrogant. He blamed everyone else except himself for the situation he was in. There may be other people/institutions that to blame for the circumstance he was in but his actions played a huge role into that circumstance. So he was partly to blame for it. He shouldn’t have gone around throwing tantrums. The pressure he was in or the bad situation does not justify his arrogance in front of the camera. Now, people losing thier cool because they’re in a terrible situation does not also excuse Lao’s reaction (argumentum ad populum). Let’s use this as one of the lessons of the article: whatever situation we are in, we should think rationally and do the right thing.

    That said, MMDA and other relevant agencies also have a part in Chris Lao’s mess. They should use this incident and make appropriate to ensure that, as you said, Chris Lao would be the last of his kind.

  12. Hi to ‘getrealphilippines’…

    Can I congratulate you on producing a very interesting forum… well rounded and incredibly balanced… and one that is often based on some painful realities… something not often found in forums which address sensitive issues such as you do.

    Can I ask this… is the owner / moderator of this website / forum a Filipino? I hope so as if so it makes me believe that there’s still hope for this amazing yet poorly administered country!


    Thanks… and the very best wishes.

    B & R.

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