CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 3, 2018 - 12:00am

For the very first time, Filipinos all over the country were actually thankful, amazed and impressed that the “Explosive Firecracker Ban” declared by President Rodrigo Duterte was successfully implemented by various government agencies particularly the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police. While the ban did not take away the sounds and colors of pyrotechnics lighting up the country’s skies, the ban drastically reduced deaths, accidents and the extremely loud and destructive impact of explosive firecrackers.

People may not have realized it, but the success of the ban now tells all Filipinos that reforms are possible if and when there is political will and when political leaders really empower officials in government especially the PNP. The success of the ban, alongside the passing of the tax reform legislation also raises the bar for the government and political leaders in terms of getting things done in the field of Anti Corruption, pushing for action against air pollution, traffic management, gun control etc. Such success also signals to the opposition and naysayers against government that Filipinos are now willing to make personal sacrifices or support difficult or unpopular programs if this would be for common good or the benefit of the majority and not just the rich or Trapos.

If a survey were held today, the ratings of the President will undoubtedly be up by about two or three points just for successfully implementing the firecracker ban. The question is: What next? The President has already reiterated that the jeepneys will have to be modernized. As a post holiday reaction, I know several people who would support a ban on karaoke machines and public sing-along joints from operating after 9 p.m. Others want a total ban on noisy or after market mufflers particularly on tricycles and motorcycles.

If we want to go for something that requires faith as well as political will, then it would have to be a stop to corruption not just among local governments, but as well as many other offices that are below the radar but are known for “Tong-pats” or “Commissioners” who demand a mobilization or engagement fee of 15 percent for projects approved to suppliers. Whether it’s at the barangay level or higher, we can at least start to dream or think that it’s possible to fight corruption because President Duterte actually made us stop wasting money and risking life and limbs even if it defied tradition and cultural practice. Congratulations Mr. President, it’s a good way to start the year.

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While a growing number of women celebrities have been breaking their silence about being victims of sexual harassment in the United States, I recently discovered a different form of harassment that many women in the Philippines are being subjected to. It’s not a major, major thing so women have not made much of an issue about it, but it’s wrong nonetheless and it has to be stopped. My own wife who is a foreigner often becomes a victim to it and so do many of her friends both foreign and Filipinas.

Many women drivers have regularly been targeted by corrupt and opportunistic local traffic enforcers, male drivers particularly those in the public transport sector as well as male drivers in private cars, often bully, honk to harass women drivers for being slow, indecisive or following the rules or the traffic lights!

As a result, fathers, husbands or male relatives have resorted to mechanical solutions such as fully tinting windshields and windows of female car owners or users. Some place suggestive stickers or commemorative plates to insinuate that the car owner has a baby on board: a “Baby Armalite!” Others have NBI or PNP or PMA commemorative plates. Others use “Media” or “PRESS” vehicle ID. “Wrong” you might say, “Unlawful” even, but the sad truth is it is a proven fact that before such remedies were used, the women were regularly flagged down or accosted by various forms of traffic enforcers who choose women because most of them get scared, intimidated or lose in the argument.

This has got to stop and I humbly call on the women legislators in the Senate, in Congress as well as women in the PNP, MMDA and the DILG to make a public issue of this. Stop ignoring or making a small thing of it because it is sex-based harassment. For starters, all LGU enforcers and law enforcers must all undergo training and indoctrination about such a form of harassment and be made aware that there is a grave penalty for doing so.

Just as important, we must all encourage women to speak out or share whenever they feel they have been targeted. Regardless of the outcome, it is important to start calling attention to how us males behave toward female drivers. I know there are many other areas where women are harassed but for now this has called my attention and I am doing something about it. I hope you do your part.

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With the arrival of storm “Agaton” I am once again reminded of the need to improve and develop the ferry terminal and piers of Matnog, Sorsogon and Allen in Samar. Holidays or not, we can no longer stand idly by as the DOTr as well as Congressmen from Sorsogon and Samar continue to do nothing to improve the infrastructure that connect Luzon with the Visayas. The Duterte administration has repeatedly announced that they will Build, Build, Build! Can you people at least do something about opening a second port to support the existing ones?

Yes, I have written about this before maybe twice if not thrice already, and I will continue being a nagger on the matter. We all have to push for things that will help others and not just our own interests!

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