What President Duterte should have selected as his swan song in his last State of the Nation Address was to call for national discipline, particularly the strict enforcement of traffic rules and regulations which are being flouted and ignored by both motorists and commuters, and which has become a source of corruption among traffic enforcers.
Stopping anarchy in the streets is the first imperative. Some motorists, motorcycle riders, cyclists, tricycles, habal-habal, even e-trikes blatantly disregard traffic rules. The red, green, and yellow lights of traffic have no meaning to them. The zebra stripes of the pedestrian lanes are ignored and those crossing them have to dodge reckless motorists. Motorcycle riders have become the new Kings of the Road dethroning the jeepney drivers. They zip through all the traffic signs, converge on pedestrian lanes in major intersections, scratch vehicles as they wiggle through small and tight spaces, and almost always get away with it.
President Duterte, a known motorcycle aficionado, should lead the reform by ordering them to follow the rules: stop when the light is red, use only the designated motorcycle lanes and truck lanes for heavy vehicles, and impose very stiff fines and penalties for traffic infractions. The painful reality is this: the country has too many laws but only a very few follow them. Moreover, many traffic law enforcers are prone to taking bribes.
What a compelling SONA it would have been if President Duterte emulated the late Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and started chewing out fines for traffic violations to instill discipline in Filipino motorists, commuters and pedestrians.
We suffer from daily irritants such as PUJs stopping in the middle of the street to unload or load passengers, taxi drivers zipping through the roads like maniacs or like funeral corteges waiting for passengers. This is why invectives fly straight out of the mouth of motorists; and road rage episodes have resulted in a number of deathly encounters.
One famous TV host during the martial law years rephrased the government’s battlecry at the time – “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan” into “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, bisikleta ang kailangan” – and this caper landed him in jail.
The absence of road discipline is a scourge that continues to denigrate the country’s progress. We pose this challenge to the millennials, Gen Z or Tik-Tok fans: start a movement for road and traffic discipline. The younger generation should step up and heed the challenge: Be the agents of change and model citizens who exemplify good manners and right conduct on the road.
The well worn cliché’ bears repetition: The youthful drivers who grasp the steering wheel also hold the country’s future in their hands. By heeding the call for discipline and modeling it with their behavior as motorists, commuters and pedestrians, they are helping shape a gentler, kinder and more prosperous nation.