Aquino cracks traffic joke but nobody’s laughing

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MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino may have to direct traffic personally with the situation expected to get worse on the first day of school today. That’s Abigail Valte, Presidential deputy spokesperson, talking on radio the other day, apparently in reference to President Aquino’s complaint that he arrived late at a speaking engagement because his car was caught in a traffic gridlock.

The President had profusely apologized, made light of the matter, and suggested that maybe Mr. Tolentino should take his place in one of the city’s major thoroughfares and start untangling the mess himself.

Of course, the President was joking. But except for the President’s audience who dutifully took his explanation good naturedly, nobody else was laughing. Although three hours late, the President found his audience still there to listen to him deliver his speech. We ordinary mortals are not so lucky. We’d lost the business if we keep our customers or clients waiting, and, if we’re working for a living, we’d lose our jobs—if the tardiness is habitual, and the way things are, we’d be late everyday.

It is not entirely Mr. Tolentino’s fault though. There are just too many cars and too much indiscipline on the road. But apart from that, the problem can be directly traced to traffic enforcers, who, rather than keep the vehicles moving smoothly, induce motorists to violate the rules so that they can pounce on them and get them to cough out a hundred bucks or so.

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But you really can’t fault the these guys. The MMDA itself reroute traffic to favor a mall south of Manila—and tie up traffic for kilometers down the road and up. Did the leadership of that organization do it in consideration of a few million pesos? Sure, one does not have any proof of that. But then there’s no proof of traffic enforcers mulcting motorists either, except for the few who have been apprehended doing just that. The fact is, the result is there for everyone to see—and experience.

The traffic situation is symptomatic of what’s wrong with our society. Government security forces manufacture evidence or plant drugs on hapless civilians. It has become so bad that cops are feared as much as robbers. But as in the case of traffic enforcers, the cops/robbers are not as bad as the PNP leadership that buys those second-hand helicopters for the price of brand-new ones or authorizes the distribution of faulty arms and ammunition to the rank-and-file.

It is worse, much worse, in the AFP. By now we have grown tired of Army and Marine personnel being ambushed and killed by the Abu Sayyaf bandits and the NPA communist guerrillas. These ambuscades occur, experts note, because of intelligence failure.

The question begs itself. What happens to the intelligence funds given to the top brass every year?

Some people dis intelligence funds, but half of the battle is won if you know what the enemy is planning to do. And you can only find out if you pay snitches, and there are plenty of then on both sides.

The CIA traced Osama bin Laden, hiding in plain sight, to Abbottabad, Pakistan, by employing paid spies from that country—and had him killed by Navy Seals.

There is no inducement more powerful than money. Not religion, country, tribal identification, even blood relation. And so the CIA buys information. So do the FBI and the Secret Service. In fact all military and police organizations, through their spy networks, pay a hefty sum to keep information flowing in.

Not the PNP and the AFP. Their intelligence funds go to buy the generals’ condo units here and abroad, to finance their children’s studies in exclusive schools, and support their wives’ shopping sprees.

Meanwhile, solders on the ground get ambushed. And even when they survive the attack, they cannot be airlifted because there is no replacement part or gas for the helicopters. So the soldiers die, even if they suffer only a flesh wound.

But to go back to the problem at hand. We hope Mr. Tolentino can come up with a solution. If he succeeds, so can the PNP and the AFP, in turning themselves into a powerful fighting force against internal and external enemies. Then maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for this country.

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