Quantcast Being Filipino

By Efren N. Padilla

CALIFORNIA, United States--My recent visit to Subic Bay Freeport in December of 2010 reminded me of a verse from the Book of Matthew: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them."

I was disappointed.

Subic didn't look like the vibrant and colorful place they showed in its official website or the place that my friend dubbed as Little America where drivers still obey the stop signs.

Instead, I saw a place wasting away--its harbor waterfront littered with rows and rows of used cars, its downtown boarded up with abandoned construction sites, its runway falling into disrepair, and its golf course overtaken by weeds.

How is it that a place that was once proudly dubbed as Little America and founded upon some of the best American planning designs has been shamelessly allowed to turn into what one Subic resident calls "a clandestine den of smugglers and profiteers" is incomprehensible to me.

What is the matter with us? Why can't we successfully develop our free ports like what other countries have done?

Why is it that we can't seem to get our act together even when opportunities are served to us on a silver platter? Why do we have a penchant for giving what is sacred to the dogs or throwing pearls to pigs?

Are our leaders inherently corrupt or are they simply too incompetent to be entrusted with the task of managing the general welfare? I must confess that I don't have an answer.

I am still looking for a clue on why we seem incapable to effect real change for the benefit of our people. However, I am entertaining the thought that my architect friend shared to me--that the impetus for real change may come from outside of our political system, not from within.

I think what he alludes to is the tendency of those whom we entrust with power to think within the box rather than outside the box. As we may have already known, thinking within the box is not only less challenging but also expedient to one's own short-term interest or political survival.

And so, if our political life seems familiar and "pa-weather-weather lang," then our citizens are warranted in their perception that indeed nothing will change for the better in our country, except for the lives of the few who are momentarily in position of power.

Is this the best we can offer our people?


Note: The author is an urban and regional planning consultant and a professor of urban sociology and urban planning at California State University, East Bay. He has written books on the American Urban Regional Experience and Perspectives on Urban Society. Email: efren.padilla@csueastbay.edu

By Jose Antonio Custodio


Custodio is a consultant on security and defense for both the government and private sector. He also occasionally teaches history at several academic institutions in Metro Manila.


Last 4 October 2010 I was allowed to attend the Realignment and the Assumption of Command Ceremony of the 19th Fighter Squadron of the United States Air Force which was held in a hangar of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam at Hawaii.

This gave me a rare opportunity to witness an evolving historic moment in the security and defense environment in the Asia Pacific Region. In the past months, the region has seen a gradual influx of US military assets of which the most prominent is the deployment of the F-22 Raptor. The Lockheed Martin F-22 is considered as the premiere air superiority fighter plane in the world and in exercises within the USAF, it has bested older generation aircraft such as the F-15 and F-16. These two latter aircraft are at par with those of the former Eastern Bloc countries especially the Su-27, the MiG 29, and their derivatives.

Chinese aircraft in production are still within the generation of the F-15 and F-16 if not even less capable as compared to the later blocks of these two USAF aircraft. What more then compared to the F-22? Thus the movement of the 19th FS with its F-22s to Hawaii reinforces the already predominant position that the United States of America has in the Asia Pacific Region.

However grand as this depiction I portrayed of the importance of the F-22 Raptor, in contrast the ceremonies marking the occasion of realignment and change of command were simple and very un-dramatic. It had that typical American workmanlike attitude in its approach wherein there was no bombast which is common in other cultures. If there indeed was something approaching bombast it was the praise given by the speakers to the 19th FS as being the best fighter squadron not only of the USAF but in the entire world. Presumably the Israelis would complain, but then again, they do not have the Raptor yet.

What did stand out in the ceremonies was not just the impressive looking F-22 that looked like something out of Star Trek parked at the right side of the stage but of the speeches delivered by the commanding officers of the 19th FS and other units in Hickam. These were not speeches that droned on and on about the personal accomplishments of so and so person, but instead it reached back into the traditions and records of those who had served in the 19th FS during the First World War, Pearl Harbor, during the Cold War, and it was the duty of the present generation of officers and personnel to continue the legacy.

And where did this leave me, a foreign observer of this ceremony? It made me wonder about the state of my country's military. From being one of Asia's best in the 1930s up to the 1960s, the Armed Forces of the Philippines became one of the weakest and most dependent on foreign assistance due to bad governance, internal dissent, and factionalism. The Philippine Air Force cannot even be called a shadow of its former glory as it simply has no more combat aircraft that can survive in a modern battlefield environment. In fact, if any of the rebel organizations in the Philippines do manage to get their hands on portable surface to air missiles then they will neutralize the entire PAF which relies mostly on propeller driven aircraft for combat operations. Its only remaining jet aircraft is a tiny trainer that is even slower than a Second World War P-51 Mustang fighter.

Thus, what role will the Philippines play in this drama unfolding in the Asia Pacific Region? As the United States beefs up its forces and as the Chinese become more bellicose and even the Indians wanting to come into Southeast Asia, where will the Philippines fit into this? Up to this very moment, the country is unsure as to how to define its relationship with the United States of America and how to approach the Mutual Defense Treaty. Though we expect the Americans to defend us, we cannot even defend the Americans. After all, it is called a mutual defense treaty as in the Americans have their responsibilities while the Philippines also has its own responsibilities to the alliance.

For all intents and purposes, the Philippines is just turning into real estate upon which the US and eventually China will play upon as the government within cannot make up its mind as to what direction and choices to take. Due to the decrepit nature of the military hardware of the Philippine military and the long tradition of American military assistance, the Philippine government continues to view the US in terms of a dependency framework.

The thing is, since the closure of the Clark and Subic, the assistance rendered by the Americans, even with the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement has tremendously shrunken and has more reviews and controls upon its usage than before. Assistance provided to Philippine civil and military agencies in matters of defense and security should produce sustained positive results and not fiascos like how despite all the training provided by the Americans since 9-11, the Philippine government and its security forces could not even conduct a proper rescue attempt of foreign nationals held by one lone gunman.

Now that the US is in recession, it is not wise for the Philippines to expect huge amounts of aid that will come pouring in. Instead expect the Americans to demand results to ensure that the money provided was well spent. Expect also the Americans to redefine an alliance in a way that will surprise Filipinos who have become accustomed to and have always expected the largesse of the past. It is time for the Philippines to get its act together.


P-Noy anti-divorce but pro-remarriage?

| 23 Comments | No TrackBacks


By ELIZABETH ANGSIOCO

Ms. Angsioco is national chairperson of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines.

Hearing the President's pronouncements on divorce made me cringe. When President Benigno S. Aquino III stated that divorce in the Philippines is a no-no, but in the same breath said that those who want to remarry may just use legal separation, my initial reaction was - "Does he know that legal separation does not allow remarriage?"

The President contradicted himself and his statement may be described as confused, or perhaps, misguided. Unfortunately, Presidential pronouncements are usually taken as the administration's positions on issues and strongly influence Congress decisions. In this case, the President's message is unclear.

His statement that legal separation should be enough for couples who cannot stay together and who want to remarry reveals wrong appreciation of existing laws. Legal separation does not dissolve the marriage and only settles separation of abode, and in some cases, of properties.

Our work with women from all over the country taught me that some marriages break down, divorce or no divorce. Many times, women's decision to get out of relationships is due to abuse and violence they suffered for years and could no longer bear.

For these women, legal separation is not enough even if they do not have plans of remarrying. Reports consistently show that in this country, violence and other forms of abuse against women are primarily committed by husbands and partners, the very same people who vowed to love and protect them "till death do they part." We know of cases where even if legally separated, women are unable to escape abuse from husbands because they remain "owned" by them in marriage.

President Aquino also said that the sanctity of marriage must be protected and I agree. However, this should not be at the expense of women, particularly those who are victims of abuse.

Does the President really believe that those abused should not be given another chance at life? Would the President prefer women to suffer in silence for the sake of making it appear that their marriages are intact even if in reality, they have broken down? Mr. President, many women want to be free from abusive relationships. The goal is to get their lives back. Whether they will remarry or not is beside the point. The government, which you lead, should make possible women's freedom from abuse within marriages. Legalizing divorce will help and we hope that you will side with us on this urgent matter. We want to know if you are for or against divorce.

Serving President Cory

| 9 Comments | No TrackBacks

By Tess Cruz-del Rosario


Author's note: An original version of this article appeared in the Singapore Straits Times on 4 August 2009, entitled "Cory Aquino's One Great Legacy." Tess Cruz-del Rosario is a visiting associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. She can be reached at tdelrosario@nus.edu.sg.

SINGAPORE--In 1981, I went to Harvard Kennedy School of Government as a Mason Fellow. There, I met Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino who was then in exile with his family.

He was a fellow at the Center for International Affairs and had been giving speeches all over the intellectual community in Massachusetts. I made sure I listened to each one of them.

From the first night he spoke at Kennedy School in the fall of 1981 to talk about Philippine-US history, I recognized the power of his speech. His voice was unwavering; he was sharp, fast, and crisp as he recanted the bitter memories of the Philippine-American War at the turn of the 20th century.

Harvard honed his speaking skills as well as his propensities for methodical research. From the glib politician I listened to as a student activist in the early 70s just before Martial Law was declared, Ninoy became in my eyes a seasoned public speaker, the kind that held audiences at the edge of their breath, as he traveled across a range of topics that was the envy of any aspiring politician and public lecturer.

Then he was shot dead on August 21, 1983, minutes after his plane touched down in Manila, supposedly by an assassin on a hit mission by the New People's Army--the armed guerrilla force of the Communist Party. The television news showed both dead bodies on screen lying on the tarmac, deathly cold on the sweltering airport pavement.

In Manila, the entire city was awake and agitated with the news of his assassination. Cory Aquino, his widow, was already being interviewed non-stop in her Newton home. That old familiar rage of my undergrad years as a student activist returned.

Shortly after the 1986 uprising, I returned to the Philippines and interrupted my graduate student career. Cory Aquino became president of the newly-democratized Philippines after a spectacular four-day people power uprising. I decided it was time to shed the cloak of safety at Harvard and venture into the messy task of democratic governance.

For two years, I worked with Cory Aquino's government, contributing my share to what I regarded was an important period in my country when the structures of democracy were being crafted and made to work. Her government, besieged by seven coup attempts, was struggling to recover its footing with each military misadventure and preserve the infantile democracy that it had just won through the popular uprising of 1986.

At the same time, this period comprised the acid test of applying the lessons learned during my activist and graduate student days to the concrete tasks of reform and social change within the context of state power.

It was tough.

Cory Aquino inherited a collapsed economy that was the result of excessive cronyism and outright misrule. She also inherited a centuries-old social structure that was beset by severe inequality, made worse by years of government neglect for the conditions of the poor and the marginalized.

At the Department of Agrarian Reform where I served as assistant secretary, my colleagues and I faced severe policy conflicts--those that in graduate school termed "policy trade-offs." Government however was non-textbook stuff, but constituted a real struggle between an industrialization agenda and a social redistribution program. The tensions were clear:
Convert thousands of agricultural land into industrial zones to give way to domestic and foreign investment or award land tenure rights to farmers to provide them with economic assets.

In the end, the policy choice was made: economic redistribution and social equity took a backseat, and land conversion out of agriculture saw its heyday in Cory Aquino's government. Not very long after, we--a bunch of ex-activists wanting to give government a fair shake--resigned in frustration.

In circles too many to enumerate, Cory Aquino was often criticized for having missed the "reformist moment," succumbing instead to the dictates of family and clan interest to preserve social status, power, and wealth derived from concentrated landholding.

Perhaps this is a fair judgment of her six years as president, but it is a fairer judgment still, that her contribution to the global democratic movement through peaceful and direct citizen action cannot be discounted. If indeed she inspired the succeeding people power movements across the globe, this alone towers above her domestic shortcomings. Hers was a one-term presidency to accomplish a monumental task--to restore a democracy, however imperfect and oftentimes flailing, so that it can resist any and all future attempts to demolish it.

And now, three presidents and 24 years later, her son is President. Both mother and son, the embodiment of a national trait to never give up on hope. He inspires it daily, from the Tagalog speeches to the refusal of privilege. President Noynoy, born into power and privilege, has elevated ordinariness to the status of virtue. Suddenly it is alright to be frisked at airports, to queue up, to bear slow-moving traffic with Buddhist patience. Perhaps these will not solve the national deficit nor usher double digit growth. But if hope is social capital, it is a wonderful time to be Filipino again.

Back to the hallowed halls of academe, I reflect on Cory Aquino, the only president I have ever served. I recognize full well what she has left behind: She gave the Philippines its one singular moment when millions of Filipinos took their courage and ventured out into the streets, armed with nothing more than their faith to confront a bankrupt dictatorship and force its demise. That's surely more than anyone can expect from one lifetime.

A marching order for P-Noy

| 23 Comments | No TrackBacks

Dear President Aquino,

In your inaugural speech, you said we, the people, were your Boss, and that you would listen to us. Now, Mr. President, please execute this one vital marching order for you as a priority, starting immediately.

With due respect, Mr. President, your security is very lax, and we fear for your life. We, the people, love you. You are our only hope to save the Philippines at this crucial juncture in our history. We do not want to lose you, or give you any excuse to leave us.

As convenor of the US Pinoys for Noy-Mar in Las Vegas, I, and my wife, Farida, and our contingent from the United States, had the privilege of attending your inauguration on June 30 followed by an audience with you in Malacanang the day after.

I noted that on both occasions anyone posing as a member of our group could have easily slipped through the supposedly "secured and restricted area," joined us, got close to you, and harmed you, all because of the laxity and the existing deficiency in the security protocol.

I was able to deliberately enter the "restricted" perimeter of the Quirino Grandstand, without showing my invitation card and ticket or any ID while the security officer was busy a putting a sticker on Farida's camera. I was even able to go up to the grandstand repeatedly (I was looking for our friends, the family of Mrs. Josephine Cojuangco Reyes, who waved at us when we were on our chartered bus at the inauguration site).

At the security gate to Malacanang July 1, I heard someone said the metal scanner was out of order. The guardhouse was crowded. I saw two members of our delegation going in without realizing they had to register first, until a member of our group informed them. The same laxity existed at the lobby registration before the Reception Hall.

When my family and I were invited on three occasions to Malacanang by President Cory, the security was consistently tight, very tight, in all those three visits. I realize that the times then were more tenuous, but the danger is no less treacherous today. The present risk may even be so subtle as to induce over confidence and escape detection.

An honest leader like you is the arch-enemy of the crooks and plunderers in the government. They have been threatened and intimidated by your expeditious strict implementation of good governance and speedy executive actions against corruption in any form hours after your assumption into office. This makes for an even more dangerous situation for you, as real danger now lurks everywhere. An honest President naturally breeds a lot of enemies, otherwise he is not doing his job well. And there are dozens of other reasons why your security must be beefed up to the fullest, even if you feel you are loved and protected by the people.

More than 15 millions of us labored hard for your landslide victory, and you owe us. You owe us the duty and obligation to stay ALIVE and HEALTHY to fulfill your promises to us to save our nation from corruption and poverty, and realize our common dream of a Great Philippines.

We received and accepted our marching orders from you. Now, Mr. President, as your Boss, we are giving you our vital marching order: Secure your perimeter by listening to your security team. Your life and your health are no longer yours alone. They now also belong to the nation and to us, "We, the People."

You are the priceless gem the Divine Providence has gifted us as an answer to our prayers. Please protect it for us.

Respectfully yours,

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS
Chairman
Filipino United Network-USA
www.FUN8888.com
Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com
8 June 2010


Dear Mr. President-elect

| 104 Comments | No TrackBacks

Half a dozen bits of unsolicited advice against triviality

By Oya Arriola

Editor's note: Oya works at the British embassy in Manila, but she points out that this piece is hers and not her employer's.

Knowing your comfort zone is well and good. Having the courage to step out of it to do what must be done is what fulfills destinies.

I don't really care about how you decide which barong to wear on your proclamation. I need to know that you have vision beyond the 30th of June.

Whether you keep smoking or quit the habit is none of my concern. Whether you have the political will to deliver your promised reforms is.

I am not interested in whether you're getting married within the next six years. I want to see that you can build working coalitions to govern effectively.

It doesn't matter to me that you choose long-time buddies to be part of your Cabinet because you feel at ease with them. I'd like to know that you choose your team because you know they can deliver.

It's all the same to me if you choose to live in Malacanang or Times Street. Where your heart lies and whose interests you protect will spell the difference to me.


An open letter to the President-elect

| 58 Comments | No TrackBacks

Dear President Aquino,

Congratulations to you and the Filipino people for an inspiring exercise in democracy. As press freedom and free expression advocates from around Southeast Asia, our wish is for that same democracy to finally see an end to the impunity that has been allowed to kill off hundreds of Filipino journalists since 1986.

We urge you to demonstrate the political will sorely lacking in the previous administration to protect media workers, and to bring the perpetrators and masterminds behind the killing of Filipino journalists to account.

Philippine democracy will not thrive nor survive without a healthy environment for press freedom. Such an environment demands that journalists be allowed to work without having to fear for their lives or liberty. It demands rule of law. It demands justice. It also demands government's earnest and sincere participation in a multisectoral effort (involving national and local officials, the military, the police, communities, and media providers and consumers themselves) to raise public awareness and appreciation for the role of a free press in democracy and development. Most certainly, that environment will benefit from your own strong and unequivocal message to all sectors and stakeholders that any attack on journalists is an attack on press freedom and human rights, and on the Filipino people themselves, and therefore will not be tolerated.

You have an opportunity to immediately set your administration and leadership apart from, and in stark contrast to, the past apathy and ineptitude that has given the Philippines the unfortunate image of being one of the most murderous countries for journalists in the world. We urge you to seize this opportunity to honor a free press that has done much and well to restore and protect Philippine democracy. May that same democracy that brings you to power be allowed to protect the free press in turn.

Seapa

Note: Sourtheast Asia Press Alliance or Seapa (www.seapa.org) is the only regional organization with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow if Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism; the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association; and the network's Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Center for Independent Journalism.

Why I am for Gibo

| 105 Comments | No TrackBacks

By Randi Alampay



1.   Why Gibo?

I like what he's saying. I like what he's talking about. I like how he's saying them.

More than anybody among the major candidates (Noynoy, Villar, Erap, Gordon), he's the only one who has kept his campaign focused on issues, and not on any negative issues about any of his rivals. Isn't it ironic that the so-called PaLaKa candidate is the most non-traditional as far as not engaging in mudslinging? I also like that he isn't simply focused on the short-term, but offers a clear roadmap for the future of the Philippines. More importantly, he's not obsessed with the past.

2. The other day, I heard Ben Diokno on the radio saying that it's easy to make promises during the campaign. Better to look at the personalities, to see who can actually deliver on those promises.

That's a valid point. But when I look at the individuals, I still believe he's the best candidate out there. He's still the one who's more capable, not only of delivering on his promises... but also in making the tough decisions. To me, he's the closest to what Jim Collins describes as a Level 5 Leader for the Philippines--one who exhibits a strong combination of personal humility and professional will.

3. Pero, there are other candidates who have those...

Level 5 Leadership means humility and professional will on top of leadership, competence, knowledge, talent, etc. Some other candidates are good, upstanding people, for sure. But I think Gibo has them beat on competence. On the other hand, there are those who can also claim to have Galing at Talino but fail miserably on personal humility... That's why Gordon is out for me.

4. But what about GMA?

I'm not voting for her.

5. But isn't a vote for Gibo, essentially a vote for GMA's administration also?

Really? I thought you said that Villar was the true candidate of GMA!

6. No, seriously... don't you think that he's tainted by the corruption of the past GMA regime?

I don't claim to know him on a personal level. I've only seen him speak once in public, and a few times on TV. But it must mean something that people like Ting Paterno, F. Sionil Jose, Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, Bishop Oscar Cruz, etc. (people who aren't exactly fans of GMA, by the way) can vouch for his personal and professional integrity. Heck, even people from rival parties (e.g. Erap, Cynthia Villar, Gen. Danny Lim, Adel Tamano, Enrile, Loren Legarda, Duterte, etc.) have nothing but good things to say about him. Not just competence, ha? Integrity.

7. Marcos was also a Bar topnotcher. GMA was the original galing at talino. Look where that got us!

And your point is? ... I think that the lessons from Marcos and GMA are that "galing at talino LANG" are not enough. Character counts a lot. And I believe that character is what differentiates Gibo from FM and GMA. (See #6).

8. Akala ko ba, Coryista ka?

Still am. But she's not a candidate.

9. Two words--Ondoy and Pepeng.

I must admit that he didn't look very good in the aftermath of those two disasters. That said, I don't think any of the other candidates would have fared better, given the same circumstances. Perhaps Dick Gordon, because of his Red Cross experience. But I have doubts about how he would have managed the National Defense portfolio at the same time.

If we're so unlucky as to have similar misfortune happen to us again, I would want Gibo to be the man in charge. Because I think he, more than any other candidate, would already know what works/what doesn't. Plus, he's the one I would trust to keep his cool and his head during a crisis.

10. Even his party-mates are deserting him!

Gibo has run his campaign with honor and integrity from the beginning. People who pay lip service to Palabra de Honor are better off gone. Good riddance, I say.

11. Pero hindi naman mananalo 'yan e! Sayang naman ang boto mo

You're psychic now? In any case, surveys are irrelevant to me. May 10 is about voting. Not at all about placing a bet on who is most likely to win. My votes go to the most deserving candidates. Not necessarily the most popular at this point. (You should see my list of candidates for senator!)

To me, the only votes that are wasted are those that are not cast, and those that are cast for people you don't believe in. I believe in Gilbert Teodoro as President. He gets my vote.

12. O sige na nga, what IF Gibo doesn't win?

Gilbert Teodoro is my CANDIDATE for President. IF someone beats him on May 10, then that person will become my PRESIDENT. Duh!!!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Street smart, not road kill (or road rage)

| 23 Comments | No TrackBacks

By Veronica Uy


(Note: This was written March 2006, but the situation is the same, if not worse.)


My husband and I live in Cavite and work in Manila. To travel that short, 35-kilometer distance, we spend at least one hour in the commute every day, one way. That's on a rare good day. On these daily treks, it is not unusual to encounter tragedy.

Once, while we were coming home from work, on the Aguinaldo Highway, a gang of four motorcycle riders successfully overtook us. These bikes, really just small scooters which are supposed to be banned on highways, zoomed past us. A couple of hundred meters and not even 30 seconds later, we passed by the lead biker sprawled on the highway beside his broken bike. Two of his companions were being pulled out from under a passenger-waiting jeepney to be taken to the hospital, where they eventually died. Shaken by the events, the lone survivor could only survey the remains of what appeared to have been a regular everyday adventure with friends.

That was not the first time I've seen people die of a smash-up or of being run over. At several places on the stretch of Aguinaldo Highway are virtual monuments to the road kill that people have become--rows of abandoned vehicles in different states of destruction--and signs which say, "Tumawid sa overpass. Nakamamatay tumawid dito (Use the overpass. Crossing the street here can kill you)."

But it seems these graphic reminders of the dangers of traffic violations are still being ignored. Man-made, preventable disasters continue to happen.

A research of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of the Philippines showed that while the overall death rate in the Philippines has declined in the last 35 years, deaths from injuries increased 196 percent. The study, the first to report on the overall problem of injuries in the Philippines and published in the November 2004 issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, found that the mortality rate from injuries, such as falls, drownings, and fires, increased three-fold from 1960. I am sure follow-up studies would show road accidents among the top causes of mortality from injuries.

Death and injury are not the only effects of wanton disregard of road rules. Those bikers were not the only casualties because every day our sense of safety and courtesy is assaulted. Why can't people follow the rules for using our common space?

Consider this eight-word, straightforward rule: "Cross the street when the light is green." On the crossroads of Libertad and Harrison in Pasay, which I cross regularly, this has never happened despite the traffic lights or the two policemen who are making like they're directing traffic. Instead, people and vehicles cross, turn left, turn right, stop, move at will, without discernible pattern except chaos, playing the dangerous game of chicken.

Consider again, "No swerving. No overtaking. Keep to your lane. Two-way traffic. Follow traffic signals." These rules are consciously, willfully, and regularly disobeyed by the authorities. And I don't mean just the president, senators, congressmen, mayors, all the way down to the most minor functionaries, wang-wanging their way across town as if their time were any more precious than mine. I mean this so-called counterflow or "buhos" (pour) traffic scheme that is meant to ease traffic during rush hour: In the morning, traffic cops stop all vehicles going to Cavite for 20 to 30 minutes to let all the Manila-bound use all lanes. The next 20 to 30 minutes, it's the other way. And so on.

This scheme which is replicated in several feeder roads to the metropolis is senseless (I heard the same traffic scheme is used on Ortigas Extension and in Novaliches). Drivers are being taught to completely disregard rules by the people who are supposed to enforce them. The exception has become the rule. The culture of entitlement among the privileged is reinforced. "I am in a hurry so the hell with the rules." "I am rich. I have a car. I come first." And what about the pedestrians who have to cross these streets? As a rule, pedestrians, not drivers, take precedence over use of roads because everyone is a pedestrian first; we were born with feet, not wheels.

The thing is, properly enforcing the rules has been abandoned. Jeepneys and buses stop, load, and unload their passengers anywhere they want. By itself, keeping these PUVs from using the road as a terminal would revert "traffic" to what it originally meant: movement, not non-movement, of vehicles.

This is what I want to happen, and not just in my tiny world of Cavite and Metro Manila: I want traffic rules properly enforced--no more special treatment for those with special car plates, no more ambulances towing speedboats to the beach (I've seen it, ang kapal talaga).

I want driver's licenses only for those who know how to drive, not just move vehicles forward--no more drivers cluelessly overtaking on the shoulder, no more under-the-table, 300-peso licenses for those unschooled on road rules.

I want the reappearance of sidewalks--no more public works kickbacks from the absence of sidewalks (and drainage) that is supposed to be SOP in all roads (ironically, SOP now means a corruption cut).

I want traffic enforcers who know and understand road rules--no more traffic violation tickets reading "stepping on the line," no more traffic enforcers overriding the traffic signals, no more MMDA men hand-signaling us to meet head-on the oncoming vehicles from the other side they have just directed to move toward us.

I want people showing more concern for their own well-being and their fellowman--no more rude drivers calling you names for keeping to your lane, no more fathers risking his life and those of his three kids crossing the highway instead of the overpass, no more suicidal (perhaps shabu-addicted) drivers doing a 9-11 on helpless pedestrians.

I want stress-free rides everywhere in the Philippines--no more closing of eyes and gripping the seats when the PUV driver dares the devil, racing with another for the next stop full of passengers.

I want world-class road systems--no more Caucasians blindly following Filipinos crossing the street only to stop midway as they realize that the traffic light is still go for cars.

I want order and courtesy back in the streets, please.

Aren't these simple, doable, and useful stuff? Maybe when we're able to understand and abide by simple traffic rules, we'd be able to change the more complex Constitution to suit our needs and aspirations.

Maybe when we have the discipline in our shared spaces, we won't need to take to the streets when our leaders are performing badly because we won't vote for incompetent, corrupt leaders. We would have higher standards.

Maybe when we have gained confidence in what we can do in our public commons and everyday lives, our realized values and empowering experience would move us to show the world a working, progressing system of governance here.

Maybe when we have these, we'd have fewer frustrations and more time and energy for love, family, passion, work, and fun--you know, the things that really matter.


Top 10 reasons why I joined Edsa '86

| 4 Comments | No TrackBacks
By Hans Cacdac

Editor's note: Hans Cacdac is a lawyer and the deputy administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

10. I knew Marcos was stealing the February '86 snap elections.

9. I wanted to join a massive tide of change.

8. I wanted to be in the company of absolute dreamers.

7. I had faith in non-violent protest.

6. I adhered to Cardinal Sin's clarion call to congregate.

5. I thought Ninoy's assassins would be brought to justice.

4. I believed in Ninoy and Cory and what they stood for.

3. I believed that democracy for ordinary Pinoys was, and always will be, in the best interest of my country.

2. I knew sacrifice was, and always will be, in the best interest of my country.

1. Because I could always hope and be eternally proud.