Several years ago, my good friend Atty. Alex Lacson and I had a meeting. He asked me what’s the first duty of a Filipino if he wants to change our society. I told him to pay taxes. “Wrong,” he said. “It’s following traffic rules.”
And I understand why. While paying your taxes is second to Alex’s list of “12 Little Things a Filipino Must Do” book, I agreed that following traffic rules should be considered the first “little” thing.
Following traffic rules has an immediate social effect. Imagine you’re a motorist. And you always follow your designated lane. If everyone does the same, imagine the simple act of cutting traffic by almost 30% would do to our economy. A Japanese study reveals that we lose billions daily due to traffic congestion. How much revenue would we save if all follow these traffic rules? A billion, maybe?
Second, we de-escalate systemic destabilization. Do you know that government deploys additional personnel and spends enormous extra resources to get the traffic back to a manageable level? Traffic congestion usually occurs when a motorist changes lanes or beats a red light. An MMDA study reveals that. Just not speeding up when you already see that “yellow” means a great deal for all of us, especially the government, which is forced to pay our responders extra, and in the past, this usually happened.
Following traffic rules also means being responsible enough to accept the consequences if one unintentionally violates these rules. In the past, traffic enforcers issued citation tickets to offenders. Almost all motorists complain of kotong—a form of corruption when motorists give money to traffic enforcers to avoid paying fines. Most complaints accuse these enforcers of “creating scenarios” to fleece some dough off an unsuspecting driver. Such acts even turned into something like an “urban legend” or, to be precise about it, an “urban anomaly.” A singer even immortalized this in our psyche with the song, “may pulis, may pulis sa ilalim ng tulay” (there’s a cop, there’s a cop underneath a bridge). Instead of managing the traffic, enforcers focus more on money-making schemes like this kotong. For years, this has tarnished the reputation and image of our enforcers.
Now that highly sophisticated cameras with hi-tech detection systems are in place all over the Metro, some of us are commenting against it. It may be a symptom of what Alvin Toffler, a noted author, describes as “future shock.”
We Filipinos have been accustomed to paying our way out of difficult situations—time for us to find the courage and be responsible for all our actions. Those who want the “old ways” should think very hard—do we want to pass these age-old problems to our kids and grandkids? No, right?
I am referring to the no-contact apprehension programs that many Metro cities are now implementing this program because it has a very reputable record of lessening traffic accidents. One example is Bataan. Traffic stats show that from a high of 73 serious accidents, only three accidents had been recorded along the Roman road in Bataan. In Paranaque and Manila, repeat offenders account for just 3% compared with data several years ago.
Digitalization is an international norm that puts other states ahead of us. Lessening human imprint in implementing laws regulating behavior makes sense because it saves us millions of pesos and allows our traffic enforcers to focus more on managing traffic than spending time guarding violators or waiting for motorists to commit violators.
Are stiff fines part of our sacrifice? Yes. Admit it—some of us are stubborn folk. We want an easy way out of some situations.
Such a mindset brings us back to the Spanish days when having contact with the government was desired because such contact might save one from the gallows. Let’s change our mindsets. Otherwise, some unscrupulous lawyers and pseudo-leaders out there will surely exploit us.