EDITORIAL - Discipline first
(The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2019 - 12:00am

The mayor of Manila was fuming the other day. Here he was, Isko Moreno lamented, doing everything to clean up the city and make it a more livable place. On Wednesday, the freshly scrubbed wall of the Lagusnilad underpass near City Hall, unveiled by the city government only about a week before, was spray-painted in red with anti-government protest messages.

An obscure activist youth group claimed responsibility for the vandalism, explaining that it wanted to ventilate grievances. Its members should be made to clean up the wall, or else pay for the cost of cleaning, which would otherwise be charged to taxpayers. The Department of the Interior and Local Government said those responsible should be arrested, charged and punished for violating laws against malicious mischief, or local ordinances against vandalism. This is done in Marikina, the DILG noted, and as a result, vandalism is rare in the city.

It’s a free country, but freedom does not mean anarchy; rights go hand-in-hand with responsibility. There are ways of expressing grievances without putting a burden on taxpayers or being a nuisance to others.

This underpins any effort to promote public discipline. The government is launching “Disiplina Muna” – a program meant to instill discipline in many aspects of national life, including road-clearing operations to ease vehicular traffic.

For older generations, the slogan inevitably brings back memories of the slogan adopted by dictator Ferdinand Marcos when he imposed martial law in 1972: Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan. For national progress, discipline is needed.

While the admonition made sense, the methods employed by the martial law regime to impose national discipline led instead to national perdition. In the latest campaign for public discipline, previous abuses and mistakes must be avoided.

Discipline is undoubtedly needed for national progress, in many aspects of life from traffic reduction and the sustained success of the road clearing campaign to garbage management, the anti-crime drive and curbing corruption.

A combination of factors will be needed to promote discipline. Efficient law enforcement is critical; the certainty of being apprehended and penalized even for minor offenses such as vandalism and littering will compel discipline. This is best combined with efforts to raise public awareness of the benefits – to the individual, the family and community – not only of complying with laws and rules but also of developing civic responsibility.

Prominent individuals have lamented the self-centered, “kanya-kanya” attitude of Filipinos. But there is such a thing as enlightened self-interest, with self-discipline among the components.

ISKO MORENO
Philstar
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