Two weeks ago we had The Readers and Writers Festival sponsored by National Book Store.
The three writers who came as guests of the Festival – Adam Johnson, Paula McClain and Ann Todd – spoke of their impressions and experiences in Manila.
Of course, traffic was the premiere experience. Ann Todd was scheduled to have a tattoo and somehow never made it on time. Paula McClain opted to just cross the street from her hotel and get lost in a mall. And Adam Johnson, who brought his whole family with him and managed to go to Corregidor, certainly had a taste of the clogged roads.
I mention the above to illustrate that we are not alone in enduring traffic jams in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, everyone who lives here is bewailing the increased number of cars on the streets, the fact that car sales keep going up and as a result we have the traffic we have.
Because of poor and unserviceable public transportation, everyone not only wants a car but needs one. Our public transportation is inadequate and cannot accommodate the number of people who need it. Furthermore, it is unreliable and unsafe. The public cannot rely on public transportation to be punctual or comfortable. They have to jostle with so many others to even get a ride. Getting a ride does not guarantee arriving at your destination on time or in comfort. These are the realities of our public transportation so is it any wonder that people want something they can manage on their own like a car? It will at least be under their control and not make them pawns of the inadequacies of our public transport system. It matters not in this kind of choice what the traffic will be. One may have to bear it but in one’s own car and environment, not under the mercy of multiple other discomforts.
So, the idea of heavily taxing cars that are on the road will only bring more travails to the public — to the car-riding public and the public transportation public. It would be trying to wipe out a necessity that cannot be wiped out. If everyone had to use the present public transport system, the numbers will overwhelm it and cause more chaos. Moreover, the inequality will pop up again. Some can and will pay the taxes for multiple cars and some will not be able to do so for the one vehicle they invested hard-earned money for. So revisit the idea of heavily taxing cars.
The best way to get the cars off the streets is to have adequate transportation facilities that are reliable, comfortable, safe and user-friendly.
The foreign authors were also surprised that the majority of Filipinos they spoke to backed the Duterte Administration’s war on drugs. It really is not a surprise when one realizes how drugs have proliferated and caused much grief in our society. Drug addiction has resulted in the commission of heinous crimes. It has brought on corruption, and corrupted even those who should be protecting us from drugs. It has brought unexplained wealth to many who in turn use their riches to bribe their way towards getting more through the drug trade. Some have used their drug money to gain political power. Impunity and drug proliferation go hand in hand. Drug lords are caught but are not exactly punished as the New Bilibid Penitentiary conditions have shown. Or they somehow evade prison or escape through mysterious ways.
The world and our country must believe in human rights, the rule of law and the primacy of our Constitutional rights but these beliefs get eroded when justice is elusive for many. Here is where our Judiciary can be faulted for being slow and mercenary in many instances.
When one sees wrongdoers getting the best legal defenders because they can pay their high fees, when the wheels of justice are slow and depend on money to dispense it, it drives the aggrieved to take shortcuts. Impunity as we know it gives rise to taking the law in one’s own hands, or prompts zealous law implementors to take shortcuts.
So let us stop and think about how to go about traffic solutions and drug war management before we do worse things to ourselves.