It must be lonely at the top, especially when a leader has to always set an example of how to get things done and fast in this chaotic country — even simple tasks such as segregating garbage or using pedestrian lanes to cross a street, which seem too complex to do like rocket science for many people sometimes.
In his recent State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and officials of local government units (LGUs) to “reclaim all public roads that are being used for private ends.”
The President did not say if his directive to clear public spaces of traffic obstructions applied to the entire archipelago, but it might as well do, just to put back order in the streets, Many of these streets have served as basketball courts, garages for cars and jeepneys, even resthouses of the moneyed and politically influential in an urban barangay (village), also especially in Metro Manila.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) tried to save face when Duterte jumped the gun on them by announcing on Thursday that his office would release a memorandum circular “requesting that all mayors submit to us road network map[s] in their respective cities” and “conduct a road audit to identify all roads and streets.”
The LGUs were given by the DILG, through Undersecretary Epimaco Densing 3rd, 45 days to carry out the President’s order on the removal of the traffic obstructions
under pain of “investigation” for “gross negligence and dereliction of duty,” with the coup de grace being “suspension” of a mayor found to have failed to deliver on the President’s order.
It was laudable for some of the newly elected young mayors of Metro Manila to start moving without having to wait for the DILG memorandum circular, which Densing, also as of Thursday, did not say when they would issue.
One of the most visible of them was San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora, who was pictured also on Thursday installing a “No Parking” sign in his city.
Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto had suspended the odd-even traffic scheme to help decongest chokepoints in his city.
The city mayors were given the discretion to relocate sidewalk vendors, who are generally seen to be traffic obstructions themselves — but where they would be transferred was not quite clear at this writing.
In Manila, its mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso seemed to have raised the ante even as he substantially cleared the streets of the dugyot that has long been associated with the once clean and proud capital of the Philippines, in his first few days in office.
Domagoso now wants to ban from the roads of Manila e-tricycles or e-trikes, which “should be registered with the Land Transportation Office and regulated by the local government’s Tricycle Regulatory Offices.”
The moves of the young mayors of Metro Manila to give back the sidewalks and the streets to ordinary citizens deserve the support of the public, and it would be a show of national unity and resolve if other city and town executives, young and old, followed the lead of Zamora, Sotto and Domagoso.
Taking Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian up on his proposal that nobody should be allowed to buy a motor vehicle if the prospective purchaser has no parking space for the car, but if he has, he may be allowed to buy the vehicles he wishes to have.
The better call would be for the buyer to acquire only a number of cars that he essentially needs — an option which lessens congestion on the streets.
What these young mayors have been rallying the people to do — to cooperate with their local government’s programs of cleaning up their cities and having discipline in complying with their city ordinances — may sound like a simple, obligatory and perfunctory call. But sometimes, negligence of these basic, fundamental duties of citizens is what leads a society to acquire bad habits that in the long run form a culture conducive to crime and corruption.
Now is a chance for us to support these leaders and like-minded officials in other LGUs in stemming the spread of such bad national habits. We can also show our support by reminding and encouraging our young people to help build cleaner cities and strive to become upright citizens of this country.