Told You So!
- Lester Dizon () - November 4, 2009 - 12:00am

Ever since I was made a motoring columnist of The Philippine STAR, I have been writing about the increasing number of traffic violations that seemed menial at first but would prove to be disastrous in the long run.

Crossing the intersection during a red light, loading and unloading at the middle of the road, driving/riding without headlights at night, turning suddenly without signaling, driving/riding/parking against the flow of traffic, riding without a helmet and the blatant abuse of sirens and flashing lights are just some of the traffic violations now being rampantly and wantonly committed by almost all drivers regardless of classification – tricycle, jeepney, taxi, FX, bus, truck drivers and even drivers of private cars and motorcycles.

I used to accost drivers, both professional and non-professionals, who violate the traffic laws and once, I even blocked the lane of a convoy of red-plate vehicles, wang-wangs blaring and all, who were going against the flow of traffic just so they can get their VIP (Vehemently Inutile Passenger) who turned out to be a neophyte congressman, ahead of the traffic gridlock. The armed motorcycle escort and the security men in the lead car gave me dagger looks but when I flashed my media card, they all looked away. Perhaps they don’t like my ID picture…

I always get flak from the violators I accosted and subtle threats from some bullying drivers but I’ve always been on the side of the law. My friends from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) wanted to deputize me when they learned of my vigilantism and I joined the Road Safety Management Team (RSMT) of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) under Undersecretary Dante Lantin so I could use my experience on the road more positively. My loved ones kept begging me to stop being a traffic vigilante and after things were becoming a bit too dangerous, I heeded their advice.

But the recent calamities from typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng proved my point about how the lack of traffic discipline has grown and spawned other disasters.

When people think that menial traffic violations are acceptable because they do not bother others anyway, the violators will inevitably develop defiance towards law and order. Soon, they will be emboldened to commit more serious and more dangerous violations until their wanton violations becomes common and creates a bigger problem or worse, a disaster of Biblical proportions.

When I was a small boy, we were afraid to throw anything out of a moving vehicle because we might get accosted by the then-active Sanitary Police. Nowadays, people spit, throw out cigarette butts, candy wrappers and plastic bags, even plastic cups and Styrofoam food containers from cars and buses and nobody does anything. The trash gets swept into the drainage system and into the canals, esteros and rivers. When torrential rain pours, floods are always expected because the waterways are clogged with garbage. Of course, everyone now knows what happened when a month’s amount of rain fell in just six hours – it was, literally, a disaster of Biblical proportions.

The popular adage “From little acorns big oak trees grow” apply to the major problems we Filipinos are currently facing. What were once minor traffic violations now cause huge traffic gridlocks and serious road accidents. When drivers wantonly and routinely cross red lights and ignore traffic signs routinely, they will soon make a fatal mistake and bump into another vehicle at speed. Remember the tragic accident that befell Sen. Rene Saguisag and his wife? I’m surprised that the good senator isn’t moving heaven and earth to influence Congress or the LTO, at least, to enforce traffic laws more sternly and introduce heavier fines and penalties for violators. I know that it won’t bring his wife back but it will surely save the lives of countless other road users.

What were once simple acts of driver discourtesy have evolved into everyday driving practices that have sparked unreported incidences of road rage and caused serious accidents. When truck drivers speed recklessly and bully smaller vehicles, they are literally accidents waiting to happen. Did you see the video of the speeding 18-wheeler that rammed through a parked truck and several other vehicles and claimed the life of the driver of the parked truck? The driver of the speeding rig claimed that his brakes failed but why was he driving at such a high speed in city streets anyway? How many truck and bus drivers do you see dangerously speeding along EDSA and other thoroughfares at night? When accidents happen, they always blame brake failure as the culprit. Where are the traffic enforcers? Why do we pay taxes to pay for their salaries when they are useless and inutile?

What were once menial oversights are now shameless cases of gross graft and corruption which sucks the life blood of our national economy. When our government officials place their personal interests before the welfare of the nation, and nobody does anything, we are courting anarchy for the future generation. I don’t know about you but my wife and I are beginning to fear for the future of our children. We wouldn’t want to raise them in a place where cheating and lying are institutionalized and where leaders shamelessly flaunt their excesses and taunt their critics. Only in the Philippines do we have officials like Bayani Fernando who declared that he should be blamed for the floods during Ondoy and the damage and deaths it caused, and still cling to power, even aspire for the presidency. In other countries, officials resign out of shame or even commit hara-kiri before the people lynch them for their dastardly inaction but not here. Heck, our elected officials must think that we Filipinos are really stupid or something and judging by our lack of action, I guess we are.

What were once the unnecessary but rampant cutting down of a few trees have now caused serious climate changes. Only in our country do we cut down trees just because they interfere with overhead electrical wires. In other countries, they re-route the wires because it’s a more logical engineering solution and easier to do than grow a tree or replace a decades-old one that has sprouted a large foliage which helps absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and reduce global warming. But do we even care? Heck, one less tree is one less tree sap to wipe away from our car’s detailed finish, right?

Oh, I could go on and on and complain about government inaction, the state of our roads, the misuse of government funds, etc., etc., but what’s the use? Our officials are more concerned with the May 2010 Elections and many of our countrymen are more concerned with getting “a piece of the action” from the election spending, which our national economy can no longer sustain. The lack of rubber boats and rescue equipment, the unprepared state of the authorities, the uncaring attitude of the dam managers and the resulting calamities after the Ondoy and Pepeng debacles are just signs of even worse things to come if we don’t change our mindset about traffic discipline, starting with our selves and how we behave on our roads.

I believe the time to act is now before it’s too late! I wouldn’t like to say “Told you so” after we’ve experienced another disaster of Biblical proportions.

How’s this for a reaction to last week’s lead article? I’d say the depth and analytical skill displayed in these two paragraphs is worth it being printed in its entirety and on its own this week. We’ve got one word for you, Daniel…Wow.

In the 1970s movies from Hollywood stereotyped oil rich countries and oil corporations as the bad guys justifying murders of politicians and criminal activities to prevent alternative sources of energy and fuel of entering the markets. Electric cars and fuel cells and perpetual technology were buried and covered up by politicians needing the support of oil producers. With climate change as a realistic reason to the wealthy for the current worldwide destructions, alternative sources will be the future because the wealthy can fight back better than inventors and dreamers.

Will we see electric motorcycles priced like current motorcycles in the market from Honda? Retail jobs keeping the Philippines economy developing are low income for the younger generation not needing post graduate degrees, but the gasoline tax and gasoline prices are preventing the children from saving and spending on livable expenses such as housing and food. The Philippines needs affordable mobility to continue to develop with the population of mostly 25 years and under. Honda can still profit by helping Third World Countries develop. – Daniel Escurel Occeno

BAYANI FERNANDO DANIEL ESCUREL OCCENO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS DRIVERS EVEN LAND TRANSPORTATION OFFICE ONDOY AND PEPENG RENE SAGUISAG ROAD SAFETY MANAGEMENT TEAM TRAFFIC
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