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Knee-jerk response?

Renato Tibon .

“One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.” – Rita Mae Brown, American writer, activist, feminist

OF the most annoying attitudes and habits we Filipinos are notoriously known for, and there are aplenty –  manana habit (procrastination) or bahala na (come what may) or crab mentality (if I can’t have it, neither can you) – these come out on top and juxtaposed with ningas-cogon (a flame or spark of interest that easily goes out) reaction, this list would trump all as most aggravating and irksome. The latter describes our initial enthusiasm at doing something, but after some effort, like burning cogon grass, the excitement quickly vanishes and we ignore or put off the activity, leaving it unused or unfinished, “que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be” then deny responsibility or blame others for the negative outcome. 

For one, consider how all those pedestrian overpasses in Cagayan de Oro came about. After some gruesome statistics of road accidents involving motorists who carelessly sped through designated pedestrian lanes, demands were high to put up overhead passes. As the structures sprouted, initial reaction was of relief and people took to using them for a while only to later lose the willingness to climb the stairs because they’re steep and prefer the shorter distance at the street ground level dodging traffic helter-skelter despite the danger it poses to motorists and pedestrians alike. If not for those no-nonsense center barricades installed at the vicinity of Gaisano Mall, Centrio Ayala and SM Premier where pedestrian traffic is heaviest, expect defiant jaywalkers crossing headlong when the eyes of enforcement personnel are averted elsewhere. Clearly, these edifices contribute to safety, permitting uninterrupted flow of people away from speeding vehicles and personally, I see them as a disciplinary means, to teach strict observance of local ordinances and national laws.

Some would propose notwithstanding, that these dysfunctional structures be dismantled reasoning they uselessly occupy precious spaces and people are not using them anyway. Indeed, a keen observer would notice only a few are taking the trouble of climbing the steps, perhaps sensibly dreadful of vehicles speeding right and left past expanded highways that are now six lanes wide. Still, there are those hardy souls insanely flitting in and out of slowed traffic unmindful of wayward motorcyclists which, like them find breaks between vehicles too tempting to fill. But why do we always want the most convenient and comfortable means to suit our whims and fickleness instead of being encouraged as government start instilling discipline towards observance and enforcement of laws and regulations? This narrow, selfish mentality beats me and look, it has not done us any good as it further corrodes the fragile fabric that frames us as a people.

Today, we witness local government officials all agog at the sudden “road-clearing fad” that grips the nation, emboldened by the directives of the President through DILG to “reclaim public roads” and clear highways of obstructions caused by illegally parked vehicles and prohibited structures as a long-term solution to traffic problems. No doubt, they would have stayed there had not a matter-of-fact and performance-driven Mayor Isko Moreno visualized an orderly metropolis and despite threats, precipitated the process, now replicated in many cities and municipalities. Locally, the swift and decisive action of the city against illegal structures was praised by most residents and motorists although expectedly, it was likewise met with condemnation by those whose livelihoods were affected by the suddenness of the enforcement order.

In some municipalities, some trees planted by the roadsides may have to go too, posing hazards to vehicles especially during stormy nights, although some quarters pointed out impulsive LGU officials were “blind and hasty,” misunderstanding the substance and content of the directive and implementing without dialogue with affected residents.

DILG gave Cagayan de Oro a medium compliance rating of 81-90 percent while giving failing marks to three municipalities in Misamis Oriental in its assessment and validation rating. Others are hard put to comply. There are 97 out of 1,245 LGUs still found to be non-compliant and after the deadline imposed by DILG which directed them to “show cause” for failure to implement, it would be interesting to know how penalties will be meted out.  

I sincerely hope this is not just a knee-jerk response to something which should have been implemented long ago. We are not known for our ningas-kugon mentality for nothing. The obvious advantages are reassuring as they are confidence-building and if local government can maintain its gains, despite my reservations, we might yet see a populace capable of understanding orderliness and the supremacy of law, and show that we are not helpless at all becoming a socially and morally upright people. It just defies logic why we are so anxious and keen on probity and observance of regulations when we happen to visit or emigrate and adapt to the culture of other countries. Are we afraid of their laws catching up on offenders and punishment handed out speedily or are their people more disciplined and governable than us?

It would take a whole gamut of analytical evaluation to explain the why and wherefore of these negative cultural traits that permeate the social make-up but what we are interested in is to know how to overcome the obvious: our disordered priorities and attitudes are counter-productive to building a society and unless we seriously act on them, pro-active instead of reactive, not just a knee-jerk response, not a flash in the pan reaction, we’ll always have leaders who will tell us to go look for Superman to solve our national ills.

(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute with focus on political technocracy. He  holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines.)


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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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