A BILL renaming the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to President Corazon C. Aquino Expressway has cleared the House Committee on Public Works and Highways. This news was met with derision in most newsrooms and among the vast majority of Philippine netizens, and with good reason.
The bill (HB 4920) had been gathering dust since it was filed by Nueva Ecija Congresswoman Magnolia Rosa Antonio-Nadres last year. Now it seems likely to pass the full House despite there being more pressing matters for that august body to address.
In her explanatory note introducing the bill, Antonio-Nadres asserts that, “If favorably passed into law, it will constantly remind us of the noble deeds of the late President, especially for the poor, and inspire our people to emulate her example of selfless service to the nation.”
How a toll highway operated by a private contractor will remind anyone of selfless service and noble deeds on behalf of the poor is a bit unclear, particularly when the highway in question was initiated under the regime of the first President Aquino’s predecessor, and expanded and upgraded by her successors. In fact, as our resident expert on roads and infrastructure, Times columnist and InfraWatch head Rick B. Ramos, pointed out, the NLEX actually deteriorated due to lack of attention during Cory Aquino’s term, necessitating the work done during the terms of former Presidents Ramos and Arroyo.
And then there is the matter of the new name for the highway. Because we Filipinos have a penchant for creating acronyms (e.g., NLEX), it is only natural that “President Corazon C. Aquino Expressway” would be shortened to something a little less unwieldy for everyday reference. Rep. Antonio-Nadres, anticipating this, specified in the bill that the abbreviation for the new name should be “CAEx,” but to no avail; the natural-sounding acronym to nearly everyone who’s offered a comment on the matter is apparently “Corex,” which as most Filipino adults will recall was the name of a once-popular brand of cough syrup.
Naming important public works such as roads, bridges, dams, and airports after important national figures is a time-honored tradition, not just in the Philippines but in every country around the world. It can, however, be overdone.
Some years ago, not long after the death of former US president Ronald Reagan, a bill was introduced in the US Congress that would have required every county in every state to name at least one public feature in Reagan’s memory. Despite Reagan’s popularity and the existence of many things already memorializing him—Washington’s domestic airport, for example, had been renamed in his honor—the proposed measure was treated as a joke by the American public and their Congress, and died a quietly appropriate death.
So should the ridiculous HB 4920. Even if we completely disregard the political perceptions of many Filipinos that the Aquino name, particularly in the last few years, has become associated with a legacy of questionable performance and ethics, memorializing anyone to excess cheapens the very concept of commemoration. Cory Aquino, no matter what anyone may think of her performance as president, did play a gigantic role in the EDSA Revolt. Any memorial to her should be relevant, tasteful, and actually remind people of her importance. None of that is accomplished by the proposed renaming of the NLEX, particularly when the result will be an unintentionally funny nickname, and particularly not now when there are so many other vital issues that need attention.
HB 4920 is a waste of legislative time and effort, and does not commemorate the former president in the way she actually deserves. It should be discarded, quickly, and the attention of our nation’s lawmakers returned to more pressing matters.