Peace and order is seen to be a priority feature of modern societies that is important enough to warrant drastic measures enshrined in a national Constitution to guarantee that these be maintained. When there is a breakdown of peace and order, the law allows the government to declare a state of emergency and undertake drastic measures to restore it — like, for example, seizing control of enterprises (media, utilities, energy sources, etc.) vital to national security. The law also allows the national government to temporarily cutrail certain liberties to enhance its ability to act quickly during these emergencies.
Unfortunately, we are in the midst of an emergency today for which there is no legal framework to act quickly and decisively:
Seen from the proper perspective, the traffic situation in Metro Manila is nothing short of a complete disaster.
In most modern countries, an inability to travel just 20 kilometres by motor vehicle in less than one hour will have already been considered a calamity deserving priority attention from any decent national government. Not in the Philippines. Filipinos have, for years, already resigned themselves to wasting one third of their waking hours stuck in traffic. It is so bad that the total amount of time Metro Manila residents will have spent imprisoned in a vehicle over their lifetime would almost equal the prison term of a murderer.
It is, indeed, an astoundingly confronting reality to come to terms with when we take stock of the scores of Philippine governments who just sat idly over several decades and simply watched while the traffic situation in the Philippines’ premiere metropolis went from bad to wretched. But there it is. The traffic problem is not only staring us in the face, it is staring down at us. It monumentally towers a hundred times above the Torre de Manila “issue” that Manila’s chi-chi “activists” wail about non-stop on Twitter (as if “photobombing” the Rizal Monument is such a life-threatening issue worthy of those screeching bird-brained tweets).
The thing with the traffic mess that grips Metro Manila is that the solutions are obvious. Any Metro Manilan can mouth them off from the tops of their heads — too many buses running chaotic routes, too many cars sharing very few roads, low carrying and turnaround capacity of public transport, exclusive private schools situated along major thoroughfares that lack sufficient pick-up/drop-off bays for their chauffeur-driven students, and squatters that deposit their household refuse down stormdrain infrastructure among many many other no-brainers.
What keeps a government from acting on problems that beg obvious solutions? That is another no-brainer. It is because these obvious solutions impact a who’s-who of influential cronies that wield lots of lobbying power thanks to an abundance of the mounds of cash Filipino politicians salivate over.
For the Philippine government to act decisively on the traffic mess requires no less than a massive overhaul of the people who infest it. It is populated to the brim by lackeys of Chinese Mall Taipans, cadres of Ateneans, LaSallites, Povedans, and USTians, “brods” from prestigious frats like Upsilon Sigma Phi and Alpha Phi Omega, squatter-coddling bleeding heart commies, and the warlord-like ex-Generals who own those homicidal bus companies that ply Manila’s highways.
Small surprise then that those malls and schools along EDSA, Ortigas, Katipunan, and Espana are sitting pretty resting assured that they remain forever immune from being taken to task for their role in traffic snarling. It is also small wonder that Filipino politicians and oligarchs stick together and continue being members of the same golf and country clubs (even while they pretend to be at each others’ throats when in front of the TV cameras) — because they all share “brotherhoods” and “sisterhoods” that go way back to their university days. And those infernal squatters? They form the vast vote farms that politicians cultivate on a low-cost diet of pagpag, misappropriated pork, and heart-warming dole-outs for baptisms and weddings in between elections. And of course, the public bus business is a cash-only enterprise. So go figure that last one out.
In short, Manila’s traffic mess will never be fixed under the current system. Any such hope had long ago been crushed under the immense weight of the patronage and collusion inherent to governance in the Philippines. And this is why nothing short of emergency powers can solve not just Manila’s traffic problems but remediate Manila’s systemic problems at the very core where their roots reside. You need those powers to eliminate those people with entrenched interests in maintaining the status quo who stand in the way.
History is full of case studies exhibiting the effectiveness of drastic and unpopular solutions applied to seemingly intractable problems. One such case is the French city of Paris and how it blitzed its blight within less than a fraction of a generation…
Between 1853 and 1870, Baron Haussmann ordered much of Paris to be destroyed. Slums were razed and converted to bourgeois neighborhoods, and the formerly labyrinthine city became a place of order, full of wide boulevards (think Saint-Germain) and angular avenues (the Champs-Élysées). Poor Parisians tried to put up a fight but were eventually forced to flee, their homes knocked down with minimal notice and little or no recompense. The city underwent a full transformation—from working class and medieval to bourgeois and modern—in less than two decades’ time.
Simple lesson: You cannot force the source of a city’s blight to take flight permanently when an entire country is boxed in by a perverse form of popularity politics. It will never happen under a system that allows all the wrong arguments to win all the time. It just does not make sense to expect a different result while doing the same things over and over again.
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