When I am stuck in traffic jams and I find out that the culprits are undisciplined drivers, often of jeepneys and buses, I think about having a strong leader who can put order on our roads so that vehicles and people can move smoothly.
When I go to a new place, the first thing that impresses or disappoints me is the road network.
Places with wide concrete roads look progressive. I tend to associate rough roads with local politicians with misplaced priorities. But there are a few exceptions because some politicians make road projects a profitable activity by demanding kickbacks from contractors and suppliers.
Travelling across Metro Manila’s cities and towns is a sure trigger for migraine. To describe it as chaotic may be an understatement. Traffic rules are either ignored or selectively enforced by authorities. Road widening projects end up as parking lots for residents and customers of commercial establishments.
Bus and motorcycle lanes exist in major highways like Commonwealth Avenue and EDSA, but these are observed only when drivers see traffic enforcers actually apprehending violators.
Private motorists hardly keep to their lanes.
These situations bring back to mind the slogan “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.”
It was a creation of then President Ferdinand Marcos after he declared martial law and ushered in a “bagong lipunan” or new society. The slogan is translated as: For the nation to progress, there must be discipline.
When President Benigno Aquino 3rd laid down his “no wangwang” policy in his inaugural address on June 30, 2010, I thought it put discipline on the road.
The term “wangwang” is a street lingo that refers to blaring sirens. Aquino’s no wangwang policy was meant to strengthen the implementation of Presidential Decree No. 96 issued by Marcos in 1973, four months after he declared martial law in September 1972.
PD 96 regulated the use of sirens, bells, whistles, horns and other similar devices only to motor vehicles designated for the use of the President, Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Land Transportation Office, Bureau of Fire Protection and ambulances.
While he is among the privileged officials who can use “wangwang” to breeze through the traffic congested streets of Metro Manila, Aquino maintained he would set the example even if it means being stuck in traffic and being late every now and then.
But observance of the no “wangwang” policy seemed shortlived. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) actively enforced it after Aquino’s inaugural address, confiscating “wangwang” from public officials and private motorists who illegally used them.
The incidents may have decreased though as private citizens can easily take abusive officials to the social networking sites and be subjected to a shame campaign.
We have not forgotten the incident involving no less than the Mayor of Makati City who attempted to throw his weight around when security guards at a posh subdivision refused to allow his four car convoy with “wangwang” pass through a restricted gate close to midnight on Nov. 30.
Accidents happen in Metro Manila’s roads every day primarily due to lack of discipline. Most traffic jams are caused by unruly and undisciplined drivers. Sometimes, the presence of traffic aides worsens the congestions, especially when these aides engage in mulcting activities or allow street vendors known as “takatak” boys to collect grease money from passing jeepney drivers.
When an 8.9 magnitude earthquake that triggered a 30foot tsunami struck Japan’s eastern coast in 2011, we witnessed how disciplined the Japanese were as they formed long lines and took their turns in buying water and other basic necessities in groceries, supermarkets and convenience stores even when stocks were running out.
We saw a different situation in Leyte a few days after monster typhoon Yolanda wiped out homes and business establishments on the coastal towns and cities. Looting was not limited only to basic necessities but even to freezers and other home appliances and whatever the victims could get hold of.
The extreme situations in Japan and in Leyte tend to show that discipline indeed plays an indispensable role in development. We need to have discipline to move forward and be strong again, just like how the country was about 40 years ago when it was a leading economy in the region. The Philippines used to be the region’s No. 1 rice exporter. It is now the top rice importer, buying rice from neighboring countries whose farming leaders trained in the Philippines.
We need discipline leaders, not those who take the lead in breaking the rules.
We need leaders who strictly enforce the law, not those who ignore the laws and seek exemptions when caught.
If our public officials are disciplined, we could probably adhere to President Aquino’s 2010 campaign slogan “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”
And if only former President Joseph Estrada lived up to his warning during his inaugural address, the Philippines would probably be in a better position today. Estrada said then: “Binabalaan ko sila: walang kaibigan, walang kumpare, walang kamaganak, o anak na maaaring magsamantala sa ngayon. At ngayon pa lamang sinasabi ko sa inyo, nagaaksaya lamang kayo ng panahon. Huwag ninyo akong subukan.” (I am warning them: no friends, no best friends, no family members or children may take advantage now. And now, I am telling you, you are just wasting your time. Don’t dare me.)