Rule of Law cannot be implemented in the Philippines until Filipinos learn to follow simple guidelines

Upholding ‘rule of law’ in the Philippines is a complicated, labour-intensive exercise. Take the tony enclave of Rockwell in Makati City. It’s got expensive zebra-striped pedestrian lanes painted across most of where its nicely-paved streets intersect. These markings give the impression to someone who does not know of the way things are in the Philippines that she can cross the street assured that approaching motorists will stop to make way for her. But then, as most island Filipinos know, that is not the way things are in the Philippines. Lane markings on Manila’s streets are really all just decorations. They give a nice “modern” look to Rockwell, for example, something desperately needed to justify the stratospheric property prices there.

A foreigner from Sweden, for example, who finds herself in Manila (on business, presumably) with her kids will appreciate the importance of briefing them carefully to ensure they are fully-aware of the way things are in the Philippines; specifically that pedestrian lanes are of no consequence to the average Filipino motorist. Commanders of the private security army of the principality of Rockwell are fully aware of this. You can see their troopers posted on most intersections there to ensure none of the many foreigners who inhabit the enclave naïvely step onto a zebra-striped lane thinking that these markings are normally honoured in the former US colony.

Having to tell your kids not to trust zebra striped lane markings in the Philippines after they had been raised in places where things generally make sense can be a bit complicated. As kids do, they will ask Why? And in the course of such a hypothetical dialogue on pedestrian lanes with a particularly cluey nine-year-old, the question will eventually come to this: Why paint them to begin with if they aren’t followed?

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City ordinances on the use of road markings are among the simplest of guidelines. But in the Philippines, even the simplest guidelines are not followed. In this light, it is easy to see why the Philippines simply cannot progress.

There is very little evidence that Filipinos are capable of living by the “rule of law”. The society is quite extraordinary in the sense that simple rules and regulations whether on the road or in the work place are for the most part ignored. This is because each individual has this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. It is why you see people cutting you off on highway lanes on the road or pushing their way in lines ahead of the rest in a queue. In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.

One would think that ingraining the concept of the rule of law has to begin in each Filipino household. But as the Rockwell anecdote shows, even foreigners need to adopt a mindset of not trusting Filipino laws if they are to survive their tours of duty in the Philippines.

Indeed, not following the law in the Philippines is a matter of survival.

It is a matter of survival when crossing the street for a Swedish businessperson in the same way that it is a matter of survival for an enormous sector of Filipino humanity — squatters. In this sense, Fililipino squatters and Swedish businesspersons living in Rockwell are really not that different. For both, taking Philippine law with a grain of salt is a conscious life-and-death decision.

So, yeah, flouting the law is an act of desperation for both foreign and Filipino residents of the Philippines. A desperation to get on with meaningful life is something Philippine law and the way it is (or is not) enforced is simply not in strategic alignment with. Following traffic laws on Manila’s streets, for example, will certainly not get you home in time for dinner. Trusting a zebra-striped lane in Rockwell might not get you across the street in once piece. Observing property laws, many have been assured, will not make life for them a fair proposition.

Desperation, indeed, is a good excuse for Filipinos to violate the law.

Got nothing to eat for dinner tonight? Just prove how desperate you were when you stuck an icepick through your pal’s liver for a share of his day’s pay, and you might just be awarded a nice Get-Out-of-Jail pass if you make your appeal within earshot of the right politician. That’s Da Pinoy way. Righteousness-by-desperation is a national philosophy. Indeed, playing the desperation card is favourite campaign fodder for Filipino politicians. It gets them the votes. It makes them look concerned about their constituents’, well, desperate plight.

To understand, then, the innocent elegance of a child’s question on pedestrian lanes, — why paint them to begin with? — is to understand the unique nature of Filipinos’ apathy to their own laws. Indeed, the Philippines’ is a society of modern laws applied to primitive people. It’s sort of like toilet training a dog — an exercise of trying to change one species’ way of life to suit the way of life of its masters’ species. It can be done. But you need to be creative and understand how dogs think.

44 Replies to “Rule of Law cannot be implemented in the Philippines until Filipinos learn to follow simple guidelines”

    1. A very important part of it all is attitude. For example, following rules is connected to how a person respects other people. If they do not respect other people, it follows that they will disobey rules that are meant to make things easy for other people. Because the feel that it is their so-called right to inconvenience other people. Lack of respect plus false sense of entitlement.

      1. Yup. I would call it superiority complex. On the other hand, some have inferiority complex and they overcompensate by being arrogant and degrade themselves before they let someone else get an advantage.

        ..And I gotta say it’s pretty effin’ demoralizing to follow rules when everyone around you is breaking them willfully with near impunity.

        MJ’s “man in the mirror” would be a good background music for this post..

  1. Ang mga hindi taga Olongapo na pumunta sa Olongapo ay mapapansin mong sumusunod sa batas trapiko doon. Dahil ang mga traffic officer doon ay mahigpit na pinatutupad ang batas doon. Pag nasa Olongapo ka ay parang hindi ka nasa Pilipinas.

    1. voted for gordon in the past, will vote for him again

      its hard to do but its possible to change the bad habits of the filipinos. you gotta start early, with kids

      1. Noon napupunta ako sa Olongapo ay “time” pa nila Gordon. Hindi ko alam kung napanatili ng kasalakuyan mayor ang kaayusan ng trapiko.

      2. Nope, wrong again twat.

        Read this about Mr. Gordon and WEEP again:

        In 1980, he was elected Mayor of Olongapo City. During his term as mayor, Olongapo soon became a highly urbanized city by the year 1983. Under his leadership, Olongapo City was converted from being a “sin city” into a “model city” by raising police accountability through I.D. systems, proper health and sanitation, waste management and the strict observance of color-coding in public transport

        Magreresearch ka lang mali mali pa.

        Magresign ka na

        1. Here’s another one (some parts are Japanese):
          Even though it’s just the Subic people, still Dick Gordon gave them real jobs. Your precious president, his mother and his merry mafia did nothing to all the people nationwide. Now if you’ll gonna say about FedEx’s Asian hub closure, blame it on your precious president’s mother’s constitution about economic restriction.
          Still a dummkopf eh vincensus ignoramus?

      3. Who the hell is rolen paulino? Never heard of him before. Did you just named that random person for your trying hard counter argument?

      4. This site was created because of people like you.. I’d say “get real or get lost” but hey, part of the fun here is bashing your kind.. and I respect freedom of speech..

    2. I think Benignos point is – a responsible individual will follow the rule of law whether he get’s punish for disobeying it or not, whether a law enforcer is present or not.

      1. Thank you for stating the obvious but the title is point enough for me. Sorry couldn’t help myself. Peace bro! 😀

        1. Nopobs bro. But my point is – Gapo is not a model city for the pinoy to exhibit their “goodside”, though we may consider that it exhibit good governance. They follow the rules in Gapo out of fear of the consequence because the local govt effectively enforce the law and not because they are responsible matured individual.

  2. “In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.”

    What would it take to foster a sense of community and oneness — e.g. thinking in terms of what would benefit the entire group instead of self-interest?

  3. Linawin ko lang na noon napupunta ako sa Olongapo ay panahon pa ng mga Gordon. Hindi ko na alam kung napanatili ng kasalakuyang mayor ang napakaayos na trapiko. Maayos ang mga signs, signals and road markings.

    1. I hate to say it but the last time I visited Olongapo, it’s not kinda what was used to be before when Dick Gordon was mayor.

    2. My friend lived in Angeles, Pampanga (close to Olongapo) for a while, and he was surprised that people follow the rules and are disciplined there. It can work. He wants to go back there sometime, hopefully to live permanently. If you are against the Angeles and Olongapo examples, then it means you don’t want the Philippines to improve.

      1. Where in Angeles? My wife’s family lives there and when I visit I always comment how it seems a life or death decision to cross the street and that pedestrian crossings are a waste of paint. Hell they even ignore the traffic lights if there isn’t someone enforcing. As for Olongapo, I would agree from observations that crossings and traffic lights are obeyed. The relevant question is why?

  4. Anybody ever been to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone? I’m not saying it’s perfect, but WOW! What a difference. I have nicknamed it Little America. I mean that both in a good and also cynical way. (And, yes, I’m from ‘Murica so I think I have a valid reference point.)

    For the good part, it seems that some retraining of the Pinoy mind has begun to take place. Jeepneys and trikes are mostly banned. I see the occasional jeepney drive through there, but it’s always empty so it’s not like it was picking up customers.

    The traffic is manageable. Sure it gets crowded on the weekends, but everybody still manages to drive like normal people. Cops will actually do their job there if you decide to drive like a typical asshat Pinoy. Dare I say, driving in the SBFZ is actually pleasant, especially Mon-Thurs.

    The waterway between SM Olongapo and Harbor Point needs help, but the place is otherwise quite clean.

    People there also tend to act differently. You know, like… normal. Sure, you’ll still get the random jackhole once in a while, but I’d say the jackhole frequency is no greater than any other suburb back in the USA. The frequency is certainly much less than in the rest of the Philippines.

    Long story short, I am quite impressed with the SBFZ. Like I said, it’s not perfect, but I really don’t want to hammer on the negatives since so much good is going on.

    My question is this: How do the Pinoys look upon the SBFZ? Is it just some sort of anomaly to them? Is it just “that place near Olongapo” where you shop for stuff?

    I’m just surprised that more Pinoys don’t say: “Hey, if Subic’s Freeport can look world class, so can the rest of the Philippines.”

    Instead, most Pinoys just seem to flip a switch and accept going back to the crapper upon exiting the Freeport Zone. Weird.

    Oh, and as for the cynical portion of nicknaming the SBFZ as Little America, it seems that they also copied the vapid and banal nature of American commercialism. Oh well. It looks nice, smells nice, and it seems like it’s making money. Can’t be that bad. Pinoys can work on being artsy fartsy AFTER they get a world class economy and infrastructure.

    1. I absolutely agree on you about SBFZ being Little America especially when me and my family drive there sometimes and buy groceries at Royal Duty Free. It’s just too bad that the Asian hub of FedEx there was gone and transferred to Guangzhou in 2009. Makes me feel very sorry for those Subic people working there.

    2. I tend to call it Little Singapore as well. The same thing happened; foreign military bases left, the people decided to make do with what they have, and made it work. It’s where people are disciplined and they follow rules. I agree that it should be an example for the rest of the country.

      1. I agree. Problem is that the people have become very cynical now of their own leaders that they need an outsider to keep them in line. Too bad the only thing the ordinary Juan can associate with a foreign military base are the rape cases 😀

  5. Good blog. I took to carrying a jagged chunk of concrete when i used the crosswalk. If a motorcycle jumped the red light and was coming at me, I would raise it over my head and act as if I were going to throw it at him. I worked. They changed their minds and stopped.

    Unfortunately, when traffic stops on top of the crosswalk; any walking becomes impossible. The new traffic lights with the descending numbers which show how much time is left before the light changes are definitely helping to train motorists and pedestrians.

  6. indeed it is hard like comprehending the law regarding “reckless imprudence resulting to a etc etc etc”…..while if you think hard some of the victims violates a traffic system….and since that theres a casualty all the blame will be on the driver…..see how complicated things here in the phl…

  7. Laws in the Philippines (be it traffic or otherwise) exist only on paper. The laws are not enforced so citizens have nothing to fear by breaking the laws. We see it each and every day on the streets of Metro manila. Back home (in SFO) you may see a driver do something completely idiotic once or twice in a week. Here, you see it once or twice per minute! In the US, citizens are conditioned to follow the rules or face getting a ticket. Police and Highway Patrol Officers actually drive the streets and freeways (they turn their red & blue lights on ONLY when there’s an emergency or to signal a driver to pull over) doing their job. We, as drivers, may see them some of the time but we never see them all of the time so… We follow the rules. Here in the Philippines the police who have patrol vehicles drive dangerously slow with their red & blues flashing for no reason what-so-ever. I often wonder what they do to signal a driver to pull over; roll down the window and wave? Turn OFF the red & blues? Anyway, there is NO enforcement in Metro Manila therefore, citizens are able and encouraged to do whatever the hell they want. ZERO discipline! ZERO consideration! ZERO driving skills (there’s a huge difference between operating a vehicle and knowing how to DRIVE a vehicle)!

    I’m reminded of a poem that was featured in Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star;

    “3:30 in the morning with not a soul in sight
    we sat four deep at a traffic light…”

    A scene like that could NEVER happen in the Philippines!

  8. Yes, teaching large numbers of people is possible BUT does anyone want to learn? IDK, BUT after getting instructed to pull over to the side of the road for making a left turn where no left turns were allowed. I got out of my truck and shouted at the LTO officer that I was late to a fire and that the P200 I was handing him was all I was going to give him. HE SAID(and I quote!)” THANK YOU, THANK YOU SIR!”. I said, “Can I go now? I can’t be sitting here all day with you. I am already late.”. I did not wait for his response although he was smiling a lot as he really needed the 4 Euro’s.
    only in the Philippines.

  9. Best way to acquire income is to fine the crazy drivers those that don’t even have lights and driving at night, no tailights this is a money maker for the police. The Philippine police force is not up to the task though they don’t train for this and they also don’t leave office much or mini sitting spot, what a joke, get these guys in vehicles and start giving out tickets that’s how you create discipline. restaurants, start putting cattle cages, they just push and shove and sneak right in front of you, it needs to happen even in the airports returning OFW’s it’s nut-to-butt, they don’t learn much when gone it seems and in a month I get to buy their Black Label for a couple hundred peso’s, love it.

  10. I can never understand why people come to the Philippines and complain.

    Just do what I do:
    fly here
    fuck about 20 young filipinas
    fly home

    Anything else gets too complicated. Filipinas are made for fucking, the rest of the country can go to shit for all I care.

    1. only purpose of philippines to the rest of the world is to get fucked, literally and figuratively.

      filipinos have no will power, no tenacity, no persistance, no commitment. they are like goldfish with short attention span and will easily get distracted in a nano second for the need of instant gratification. they will basically make a 180 degree turn and deviate from any plans they thought they had, just to get some instant gratification.

      there is no hope but to just bend over, philippines. bend over and let an established country come and implement true standards.

  11. its a sad state of affairs for my beloved country. Full of undiscipline idiots. When will my Kababayans ever learn.? Maybe when the Crow turns white and the Egret turns black as Philippine folklore says. To the present mayor of the Philippines who agreed with Dan Brown that “Manila is the Gateway to Hell. Dont be offended because its quite true in a sense.

  12. Good blog, spot on observation. Put a Pinoy in the US, though, and voila! No problem in following the laws of the land. Why is that?

    1. Filipino’s when overseas or abroad follow the countries rules, why because they will be heavy penalized for breaking the rules. In the Philippines, they can just break all the rules because penalty is not enforced. All you have to do is find a padrino or politicians and you are free or give grease money. As I said in my previous article (blogs) Martial law is the only answer to all this problems. This is the only time that law and rules are being followed. In martial law, all graft and corruption will be eradicated. Nobody in the Philippines like this because they cannot enjoy the result. Under martial law, they cannot do any graft and corruption. If you do a group brainstorming, this will be the only answer to all the problems in the Philippines. No matter who you elect, the same problem will exist under the democratic law. Philippine need an iron hand to follow rules of the land. The only way they will follow rules of the land is to implement martial law. 80% of all of our politicians are corrupt, only maybe 20 % is not. With this how can you implement discipline, and how will the people follow the rules if the leaders are corrupt. Wake up Filipinos otherwise it might be too late. Imagine we are no. 2 in the world for corruption, only next to Indonesia which is the most corrupt country in the world. Are you happy in hearing that news? I will bet my bottom dollar that this is the only way. If any reader will follow this blogs, let them think of any other practical solutions which is not applicable.

  13. It’s quite simple…Drivers of motor vehicles of any type including cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles MUST give way to any person on a marked pedestrian crossing as well as a green pedestrian light at traffic lights.
    Please filipinos when you walk on to a crossing don’t stop for cars just keep walking, make them stop for you.
    And car drivers of all types including jeeps and BMW’s i don’t care obey the rules because one day your own kids or grandmother will need to cross the road too. It’s RESPECT and it’s the LAW!

  14. Sa lahat ng mga nagsusulat ng mga naaapakahabang posts dito, ilan kaya sa inyo ang sumusunod sa batas trapiko o di kaya’y hindi tumatawid sa pedestrian crossing habang nakikita niyo pa ang ‘Don’t Walk’ sign, nang walang pulis patola? Humayo nga kayo at maging ehemplo imbes na magtayp nang magtayp dito 🙂 hahayo na ako.

  15. “UNIQUE NATURE OF FILIPINOS”, Kiss my ass whoever said that, you’re actually doing what your writing about. It’s because our peace and traffic enforcers are getting paid too little to even care or to deserve respect from citizens ! EXCUSE’S has become the ultimate downfall of my country. If gov’t officials can learn to be discreet about their business and actually be the example in following the law, then maybe the people won’t have any excuse’s but to follow the law !!!!!

    1. Nakakatawa man ikwento, pag nagbabakasyon ako sa pinas, ako lang yata ang nagaantay ng walking signal bago magcross. Pinagtatawanan lang ako ng mga tao. Law abiding citizen is actually an anomaly sa Pinas. Nahihiya akong sumagot pag tinatanong ako ng mga taong banyaga.

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