Thanks to the budget airline’s airfare promo; I have found the “tuwid na daan.” Strangely, it’s in the Ilocos region, home of the Marcoses.
The late president Ferdinand Marcos, probably the most hated and perceived as the most corrupt Philippine president, seemingly remains well-loved and remembered by his fellow Ilocanos, as reflected in the victory of his wife Imelda, daughter Imee, and son Bongbong in their candidacies since they came back from self-exile about two decades ago.
It may sound ironic that “tuwid na daan” is the campaign slogan of President Benigno Aquino 3rd against corruption. It is a mantra that was meant to help restore people’s faith in politics and politicians.
In spite of claims of success in bringing about reforms in curbing corruption and regaining investor confidence in doing business in the country, critics find more reason to harp strongly on the administration’s anti-corruption campaign.
Let me make it clear that the “tuwid na daan” I saw during a recent three-day road trip around Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur was the physical straight, smooth path to the areas frequented by tourists.
Ilocos Norte, where Imee Marcos is governor, is obviously being developed as a choice destination for tours, and conventions or seminars. The roads are well paved and smooth. Vehicular traffic flows with ease even in the town centers. Training and convention venues abound, and more are under construction.
President Aquino’s “tuwid na daan” slogan refers to personal and moral values, which are beyond the physical aspect. Physically, we have not seen much infrastructure projects built under the present leadership. Complaints about bureaucratic red tape and corruption in government deals still abound, and none of those charged in court has been convicted.
It is indeed unfair and improper to compare the physical “tuwid na daan” in the Ilocos region and President Aquino’s “tuwid na daan” anti-corruption slogan. I am not doing that. I was merely impressed with the good road network in the neighboring Ilocos provinces.
However, my friends and I wondered why the international airport in Laoag City is still in such a dilapidated state.
While waiting in line for check-in, a first-time visitor from Bacolod City complained about the crowded and untidy departure area. She remarked that while the roads in Ilocos were notable because it made her group’s long travels less tiring, the airport’s physical state somehow lessened her good impression of the province.
She said that her group of 30 persons went to Laoag from Manila on a luxury bus provided by Governor Marcos. The travel took the group 12 hours with a few stops for meals and call of nature. Before reaching Ilocos, it was a bumpy ride, she said.
In some provinces and cities, the government had built new and bigger airports like in Davao, Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro. But their road networks are far from the wide and smooth highways of Ilocos. It was probably a choice for the local leaders between road and airport for priority infrastructure development.
When I was younger, my father used to share his admiration for Marcos for prioritizing roads and schools in his infrastructure development projects while Imelda took care of projects involving the arts and culture.
My father, who served as barangay secretary for 20 years during the Marcos administration, said that residents somehow feel progress when the roads in their community are well paved and that the children are more motivated to learn when they are not cramped in classrooms. Besides, he said, the road is the first thing that a visitor notices when setting foot in a new place.
Perhaps, building good roads to progress was a legacy that Marcos had left behind and that his children are continuing in their reign of the province.
That could also be President Aquino’s vision when he adopted the “tuwid na daan” mantra.
In a speech before Chinese investors in Shanghai in 2011, the President explained what “tuwid na daan” means. He said it was to ensure a level playing field that requires undoing the mistakes of the past. “In some instances, this means reviewing contracts entered into without particular care for due process,” he told participants and delegates to the Philippine Eastern China Business Forum in the Chinese city.
This was also the reason that Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson gave when he cancelled several contracts in 2010 after discovering that necessary processes like public bidding and other provisions of the procurement law were either broken or totally not followed.
Sadly though, errant officials who tolerated or encouraged anomalous deals have not been punished and may even be still in business with government agencies.
The President is viewed as being soft on corruption especially in dealings involving his allies in the Liberal Party. Critics cite the multi-billion peso misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as a political tool for the President to malign and pin down political foes while he shields those who aligned with him.
If the investigation and litigation process on those charged in connection with the PDAF scam continues to drag on, we may wake up one day seeing them in higher office, and the “tuwid na daan” slogan would prove to be just a campaign watchword.
At least in Ilocos, there is a “tuwid na daan” one can travel on without hitch.