The Road to Malacañang
- Lester Dizon () - March 24, 2010 - 12:00am

My paternal grandfather, the late Fernando Dizon, Sr., was a career public servant who served under several administrations from President Ramon Magsaysay to President Ferdinand Marcos. He was the Deputy Commissioner (Assistant Secretary in today’s ranking) of the Budget Commission (now Department of Budget and Management or DBM) and his car sported plate number “18”, which then connoted his high position in government. When he retired in 1971, he left the government service with a history of exemplary performance and an unblemished record.

He was a just and strict man who valued service and integrity above all. He was a product of his generation that valued one’s palabra de honor (word of honor) like a solemn oath that bound one to a promise. He never used his position for personal gain and despite his status, he lived a simple life. Unlike most Cabinet secretaries and underlings nowadays who drive around escorted by a convoy of police bikes, expensive SUVs and a small army of armed goons, my grandfather drove to work to Malacañang in his car accompanied only by his driver.

He also loved telling his grandchildren of the values shown by his favorite leaders. I remember being told of a story where an incumbent President was riding the presidential limousine when they chanced upon a religious procession at an intersection that they were about to cross. The President (I just can’t remember whether it was Quezon or Magsaysay) ordered his driver to stop and then he got off the limousine, walked near the intersection and kneeled on the road to pray as the carozzas of the religious images passed by. Some people offered their handkerchiefs for the President to kneel on but he declined, opting instead to soil the knees of his pants.

Of course, this was during the time when presidential convoys consists of just a few cars – the presidential limo and a back-up car or two – and when the President of the Republic of the Philippines felt safe enough to walk the streets of the Republic without his security officers clearing the area a couple of days in advance. Mind you, this was also the time when there were insurrections being mounted by various groups like the then-new communist movement and the remnants of the Huks yet the elected politicians felt secure enough and confident enough to interact directly with the people.

While there may have been some graft and corruption during those times, these would have been done discreetly since the preservation of one’s honor and dignity was more important than money. Even the most corrupt of the politicians at the time had the delikadeza or the decency to serve the country first before looting the government treasury and they never flaunted their indiscretions lest they risk being booted out of office and being shamed before the public.

Nowadays, it seems that most politicians from the President down to the lowliest barangay captain flaunt their indiscretions and therefore, have to move around town with a phalanx of bodyguards in tow. The Constitution warrants the safe passage and security of the President especially in these times of sophisticated terrorism, thus the motorcycle police escorts, the long multi-car convoy, the blaring sirens and the small army when he/she is on the road. With the various threats against an incumbent, the security and the unimpeded road travel of the President over other road users is actually guaranteed by law.

However, the Constitution does not extend this privilege to the members of the Cabinet, their growing number of assistant secretaries and undersecretaries, or their families. Even senators, congressmen, ambassadors and local government executives are NOT allowed to use sirens and flashing lights just to slice through traffic, yet many politicians, their scions, friends, paying patrons and even civilian wannabes do so routinely. Just drive around our crowded metropolis and you’ll encounter these egotistical maniacs with their wang-wangs and flashing lights, driving against the flow of traffic or even bullying other drivers to give way just so they could slice through the road chaos that they themselves created with their incompetence and corrupt practices.

This abuse may have gone unchecked for several years now but we are fortunate to be empowered by the Constitution with the decision to change things. While it may sound simplistic and naïvely hopeful, the May 2010 elections will give us the power to choose the next President as well as change the same sorry faces at the Senate, Congress and local government offices. Barring a failure of elections or a sophisticated manner of widespread computerized cheating (Hello, Garci?), we are once again at the focal point of our history – we can either improve our lot by voting wisely or throw our country into chaos by believing the lies many of the aspiring politicians are trying to sell.

I’ve come up with a personal list of attributes that the next President should possess. This includes a list of road manners that the presidential aspirants should display which will show their eligibility to become the next leader of our troubled nation. Here goes:

If the candidate is being driven around in a vehicle that has been tinted all around that you cannot see the occupants, then you can be sure that he or she is hiding something. He or she is not worthy to lead. After all, the blind cannot lead the blind.

If the candidate is being escorted around by a convoy of expensive SUVs, police bikes and a phalanx of armed bodyguards to a campaign sortie, then you can be sure that he or she is afraid of someone or something. He or she also has a huge debt to pay. He or she is not worthy to lead because he or she will be led by someone else.

If the candidate was already being escorted by a security convoy and a small army of goons when he or she was just a senator, congressman, cabinet secretary, mayor, religious leader or a plain influential civilian, then you can be sure that he or she will further abuse power when elected into office. He or she is not worthy to lead because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

If the candidate did not abide by established international standards when he or she was just a senator, congressman, cabinet secretary, mayor, religious leader or plain influential civilian and his or her action further drove his or her area of responsibility to near chaos, then you can be sure that he or she will do the same thing to the entire country upon assuming office. He or she is not worthy to lead because one cannot be a leader if one does not know how to follow.

If the candidate does not know how to drive, then he or she is not worthy to lead. How can he or she know the needs of the average Filipino when he or she has never really connected with them on the streets?

As I’ve mentioned, these are based on my personal opinion and I shared some of them in the hope of helping you, our dear readers, decide on your candidates.

One of the presidential aspirants, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, authored a bill where public works on roads will be accompanied with a 25-year warranty against repairs. This means that contractors who will bid for road works will have to maintain that road for 25 years without getting additional funding from the government. This bill seeks to ensure that the roads are constructed to last, which will limit the “cuts” given to the mulcting congressmen, governors, mayors and councilors involved in the road project. This will compel the contractor to improve his work and services or he will incur more expenses every time the road needs repairs. This will also allow the government to build new roads and bridges instead of constantly repairing the old ones.

However, Noynoy’s bill hasn’t passed Congress because it will deprive many of the congressmen of the juicy income from the never-ending road repairs. Unfortunately, many of the men and women in power today, and even those new ones aspiring for position, were not cut from the same cloth like the noble leaders that my grandfather wanted us to emulate. Many of those running in the elections are really in it just for the money.

The road to Malacañang looks like it is paved with gold, but at what price to the Filipino people?

Here are some of your Backseat Driver reactions from last week’s “The month of good buys” by James Deakin…

These are the kind of informative and factual articles which the normal people need, not the advertising articles copied from manufacturers’ leaflets – we can get these from the dealers at any time. I have just recently decided to buy a new-ish used car and I do not really have a clue as to which insurance company is a good choice. I will be looking up the Chartis insurance company now that I know it settles promptly. Thank you, Mr Deakin.                              – Bruks_pt


James, I think you missed out on something very important. After all the needs and wants are addressed, the biggest consideration should be resale value, especially here in the Philippines where cars are expensive. Sadly, there are only a handful of brands that retain value after a few years.   – amang


Enlightening article. But let’s not forget the Filipino’s penchant for going for the best, Mr. Deakin. The Pinoys have this mentality of “may pera ka rin lang naman e di yung bago at top of the line na ang bilhin mo”, the vulture mannered salesmen will pounce on customers once they see such inclinations and the Pinoy buyer would be just too proud to show off their neighbors and friends that brand new car he/she drives around and park in their driveways. Can’t take that feeling away because that makes them feel good.                                               – TomGuNa

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