Why appeals for discipline and consideration is an exercise in futility in the Philippines’ current incarnation


So there you have it. Just a few days after the HPG’s handover of the traffic control of EDSA from the MMDA, one exasperated trooper blurted out what level-headed Pinoys have been complaining about their co-citizens since Day 1: Maraming pasaway.

Granted that the monster EDSA had become has been the result of years of neglect and toothless incompetence of the present government, one can’t help but wonder how things would be if every person in that major highway knows his place in the bigger scheme of things. But as that cop had unwittingly proved with just a single statement, Filipinos—or at least Metro Manilans—are an unruly, opportunistic lot.


That observation may have been what prompted a lot of people to accept and even support the brand of Wild West governance Rodrigo Duterte had been practicing in Davao for years. Where the rules of one governing unit takes precedence over rights and, at times, proper investigative procedure in dealing with criminals. There are a lot of arguable points on that approach from moral, ethical, and humanist standpoints. One could even argue that such approach is a blatant shortcut that eschews proper expected behavior of an ideal leader but that’s another story altogether.

Thing is, Duterte’s style—abominable or not—made such a distinct impact on the Pinoy psyche because it speaks the language most Pinoys know and respond to: Intimidation. Or in that popular Tagalog expression: Unahan lang yan sa sindak. No doubt using fear and severe punishments as a means to keep everyone in line.

The type of iron-fisted rule that bleeding hearts and so-called progressives like human rights groups had condemned as barbaric and uncivilized. Maybe so. But in light of those accusations of barbarism and savagery, there are some questions that need to be asked:

  • How does one define civilized?
  • Can the Philippines be considered a civilized country in the first place?
  • Do the majority of the people residing in it behave in a way that’s expected of a civilized citizen?
  • Are the rights accorded to every citizen balanced by a sense of responsibility and duty by making sure they behave collectively as a single unit to achieve a common goal?
  • Do people who recognize their roles and responsibilites in the society outumber those who do not?

For lofty concepts like human rights, liberty, and that overused ‘freedom’ to take flight, you need a society that at least behaves like it recognizes these concepts and the responsibility that comes to continue practicing it. But applying concepts like that to an apathetic and ruggedly self-serving population and expecting the people to comply appropriately on their own accord is like patting a lion’s head and expecting the predator not to eat you because you were nice to it.

The tricky part about the concept of democracy is that citizens are expected to place safeguards and limitations upon themselves and proactively participate in nation-building. And when individual initiative fails, the law enforcement agencies take over to maintain peace and any semblance of order to make sure the wheels are still turning despite minor interruptions caused by erring citizens.

Ironic because the Philippines is regarded as a champion of democracy and freedom especially after the 1986 People Power revolution. But look around these days and try to see if there really is some freedom for everyone to enjoy. The Metro Manila traffic alone is robbing people of valuable hours with which they can spend productively outside their jobs.

If we are to depend on the Pinoy’s innate “goodness” and “sensitivity”, as the recent appeals for more discipline in the road by the traffic adminstrators, then we might as well carve our individual epitaphs because we are doomed. It will never happen.

‘Lack of political will’ had been a very catchy buzz term these days. It implies the governing body should be stern and not afraid to lose popularity for employing drastic measures to keep the general population in check.

But then looking back at some of the applicants who possessed a semblance of that “will” who were never given a chance to serve and the jokers who pranced and preened their way via cheap thrills to get the votes, is simply head-scratching: That it has to come to force Duterte to run for everyone to realize the urgency for a much-needed spanking.

[Photo courtesy Inquirer.net.]