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A wang-wang solution

In the past, powerful politicians and government officials who wanted to have the road for themselves needed only to sound out the loud sirens of their flashy and luxury vehicles. They would then clear the street, overtake other vehicles, and travel faster.

The sound of these sirens—which President Aquino mockingly calls “wang-wang”—gets him easily irritated but not if it came from those authorized by law to use these sirens such as “the President, the Vice President, the Senate President, the Speaker, the Chief Justice, and police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances.”

In fact, PNoy “had to endure being rudely shoved aside by the siren-blaring escorts of those who love to display their position and power,” an experience so unforgettable for him that he narrated it in opening his inaugural speech as president on June 30, 2010 at the Quirino Grandstand.

We sympathize with him because we also get irritated whenever we hear the loud sound of sirens from donated barangay vehicles that are camouflaged as ambulances but carry only barangay officials and their friends on their way to out-of-town picnics.

But we disagree with PNoy when he said in his second State of the Nation Address that “the wang-wang had come to symbolize abuse of authority.”

Because for us, the singular symbol of abuse of authority is Janet Napoles. The way she facilitated the releases from PNoy’s Budget Department of hundreds of billions of pesos of pork barrel funds for ghost projects of her politician-accomplices is the most arrogant display of abuse of authority. Until now, in fact, she remains unconvicted of her crimes while similar pork barrel funds continue to be released.

We also disagree with his declaration in his sixth and last SONA that—

“More than five years have passed since we put a stop to the culture of wang-wang, not only in our streets, but in society at large; since we formally took an oath to fight corruption to eradicate poverty.”

As far as we know, neither corruption nor the arrogant display of authority has stopped. Poverty has worsened instead of being eradicated or reduced.

The culture of wang-wang may have stopped but that is all. If PNoy wants, he could consider it as one of the rare accomplishments of his administration.

But while the sound of wang-wang is now seldom heard, it is not because our politicians and barangays officials are heeding PNoy’s wish. Their sirens have simply become useless amidst our often gridlocked traffic conditions.

For instance, take Edsa which has become our most important highway in terms of economic and social considerations. The trip along it between Quezon City and Makati City that hundreds of thousands of our workers and businessmen must take daily now lasts 2-3 hours rain or shine whether they ride the bus or drive their car. As in what happened last Tuesday night, our traffic miseries reach hellish proportions at the slightest pouring of rain.

We had been crying out loudly for some time now for its resolution.

In fact, our economists have already placed a price tag to the cost of our traffic mess:  P2.4 billion daily, which would escalate to P6 billion by 2030 if left unresolved.

But PNoy has refused—and still refuses—to anoint a traffic czar. Instead, he had opted to merely appoint his buddy cabinet officials to an inter-agency traffic coordinating committee. Perhaps, he is still gathering the guts to declare himself the traffic czar.

Meantime, as if he has mastered traffic management 101, PNoy simple-mindedly called the Highway Patrol Group to take control of Edsa and replace Metro Manila Development Authority’s undertrained traffic enforcers.

PNoy thus made it appear that enforcement is the main traffic solution while underestimating the roles that education and engineering play in the traffic solution.

Much of reporting the problems and educating the public are nonetheless being performed by our media networks, but the engineering component can only be delivered by his government.

But where have all the HPG personnel been all this time? Have they not been disbanded already?

Three days after HPG’s deployment, I have experienced nothing but horrendous traffic jams at Edsa’s southern end along President Diosdado Macapagal Avenue, just a few kilometers before the Cavite coastal road of Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya.

Nobody mans its traffic after 5 p.m., not even Parañaque City policemen. MMDA personnel who used to man the traffic —behaving as if they have been scorned—have elected to disappear mysteriously instead of augmenting the HPG personnel.

This early, an HPG “kotong” cop had already extorted P500 from a naïve friend of mine in lieu of attending a three-day road safety seminar after he unintentionally ignored a partially blocked traffic red light along the old Tramo Road near the airport.

Stopping the culture of wang-wang is hardly the real solution for eliminating the arrogant display of authority. Similarly, HPG would barely make a dent in resolving Edsa’s traffic mess.

Only the army and its engineering brigade—which a President Digong Duterte would likely deputize—could cut this Gordian knot of a traffic problem.

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