Crying over spilt milk

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - July 22, 2018 - 12:00am

Many say we, senior citizens, remember events that took place decades ago more vividly than those that happened more recently. I do not need a medical explanation for this because I am really experiencing it. For instance, I overheard two gentlemen in a coffee shop conversing about a legal precept called “assumption of risk” and to my surprise I wrote on a piece of paper I held “Luzteveco vs. Republic,” a case I read in first year Law school in 1973. But when a friend asked me last Sunday about the ruling of the Supreme Court on the Martial Law declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte, which I discussed with my students early this year, my mind went blank. Jesus Christ!


I recall in 1992, (26 years ago) Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña was given the use of Revised Road Ordinance of 1992, something that would have anticipated our present traffic woes. As a member of the city council then, I helped craft it. We did not forecast the horrible present-day gridlock as we discussed it, guided simply by the thought the future would bring more vehicles. At that time, then councilor Pureza Onate described Cebu City as a 15-minute city because one could travel from its north end to its south in 15 minutes. Even then, we started feeling the exponential growth of the city would mean more vehicles.

The ordinance had three main features; (1) Straighten unsymmetric streets, (2) Widen roads, and (3) Build new avenues. This is not a belated apology but we were not engineers and tried to make a local law from input we each got from engineer friends. D. Jakosalem Street should be a classic case. Running parallel to Osmeña Boulevard from corner Colon Street to the Ramos market, it is a one-way road simply because it is too narrow for two-way traffic. Aside from that, it was probably built to favor influential sectors the way it zigzagged, hyperbole intended, every few meters.

The legal framework was set up as early as 26 years ago. If road travel were our work animal, the ordinance was its milk. It was for the mayor to avail of. We could have widened roads like Sikatuna Street for people driving to City Hall. Or a visionary mayor could have punched the end of Colon Street at corner Mabini and vehicles would not have to cue at Zulueta Street. Had the mayor not been cold to the idea of opening a new road linking Gorordo Avenue and Osmeña Boulevard, we would not see the daily monstrous traffic at Escario. But with Osmeña not lifting a finger to implement the ordinance, he allowed the milk to spill uselessly.

Unfortunately, Osmeña focused on such real estate business as the South Road Properties and now the Kawit Island brouhaha. Here, not even the richest of the city’s businessmen would tinker. For reasons only he knew, Osmeña never cared to widen any of the city’s narrow roads. In all of his three decades as mayor, constructing roads was not in his milieu because, as far as I know, he has not built even a meter of new highway. The daily traffic jams we suffer are the result of Osmeña’s unforgivable ineptness.

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