Quick fixes don’t work, don’t last

Ma. Isabel Ongpin

Ma. Isabel Ongpin

Talk of a legislative initiative to impose an excise tax on cars or vehicles supposedly to solve the traffic situation is worrisome for the consequences of inequality and futility that will be its real effect.

Excise taxes will not prevent or stop the haves from buying a car. They have the money, they want the car, they will pay the tax. Meanwhile, the ordinary souls struggling in the lower income brackets who have saved for years for a car or need a car due to public transport difficulty, will be left frustrated for having the excise tax unexpectedly factored into their quest for a car. The whole exercise will be a clear chasm between the haves and have-nots. One more to add to the current number that this society so unfortunately is noted for.

Since public transportation infrastructure is what is needed, perhaps this is where new taxes may be justified if they are spent thoughtfully, usefully and directly and with timely results.

In the matter of the traffic mess which came about from lack of foresight, no planning and the poor handling of public transportation facilities, many shortcuts and quick solutions are proposed, such as granting emergency powers to be able to force gated subdivisions to have their roads used. Since they are compact or less-than-sprawling, just imagine traffic getting in and out of them only to end up on the same road one has been trying to avoid. In fact, just creating more jams as the ingress and the egress in these gated communities will not be able to accommodate the density of vehicles so as to create new gridlocks.

I think we are into quick fixes that never bring lasting good results. The Emergency Powers fixation is one. The few times they were put in place they invariably violated human rights or lowered standards of civility and politeness. Remember the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus and Martial Law? In the more recent past, the emergency powers to get us out of the power crisis of 1987 made us bear a heavy cost in funding and an eventual number of white elephants (the power barges). Thoughtful and carefully studied legislation, implemented in the correct way, as well as precisely tailored executive orders can handle most pressing problems rather than going the way of Emergency Powers. So, best to be more creative and more constitutional, more democratic and fairer. And less obsessed with quick fixes.

In the police and judicial branches, the helter-skelter filing of charges for what may very well be real crimes that have to be paid for results in no convictions because of the lack of study, failure to gather incontrovertible evidence, precipitate presentation of dubious witnesses that either have their own axes to grind or cover-ups to make. The whole scenario turns out to be a useless exercise because of the drive to get quick solutions or terminations.

But it is in the legislative sector that the most quick fixes are attempted and which invariably fail. Laws so hurriedly put together, with not enough research or feedback from those who would be affected, result in loopholes or outright errors. This can be true, too, of executive orders done on the fly or for a whim or under pressure to solve a problem.

Back to the proposed excise tax on cars and vehicles, it will not ease the pressure of traffic. When there is a need, there is a way. Cars and vehicles will still be bought in large numbers when public transportation is nil or unattractive or too difficult. Think of all those struggling, desperate jobseekers who pay recruiters, legal or illegal, unconscionable amounts of money to get a job. Somehow they come up with the money. In the case of cars, it may be a Herculean effort for some and just mad money for others but they will pay and the cars will be on the road.

(Correction to last week’s column: Iran is 1.6 million plus square kilometers, not meters.)


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  1. Rubbish to blame lack of foresight when everyone remembers it was outright economic sabotage by both Aquino presidencies that left a legacy of daily brownouts and traffic. Cory out of petty spite mothballed the Marcos’ BNPP and shelved the EDSA MRT. The EDSA MRT completed only during the terms of Erap and Gloria, was again destroyed by the mismanagement of PNoy the son.

    One thing we learned from both Aquinos, “quick fix” is preferrable to their “no fix” presidencies

  2. In this seemingly insoluble traffic problem of ours, to be anti-car or pro-car depends on where you stand in the class struggle, period.

  3. The proposed excise tax on new cars will boost the used car market. Repair car shops and second hand dealers will benefit as consumers spend to keep the old cars working and on the road. The net result will be that old cars will never be junked.