Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Monstrous traffic jams in Metro Manila can be relieved by un-bribable, no-nonsense PNP-HPG enforcing common-sense traffic regulations, e.g., giving true meaning to yellow traffic light. Japan’s practice of no-vehicle purchase/registration unless buyer has parking space is worth emulating. FVR cites LEDAC as effective consultation tool in his presidency, coaxing Congress to pass 221 laws, signed at rate of one every 21 days. But this calls for Chief Executive at ease with other branches of government, not hostile nor given to bribery.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos at Philconsa monthly fellowship, with
board president Martin Romualdez., director Nelia T. Gonzalez and this journalist.

The traffic impasse in Metro Manila has reached such hideous proportions that the Aquino government can only ignore its alleviation at a risk to the Liberal Party's survival in 2016---especially since the series of APEC meetings are to commence in a few months. The traffic in Metro Manila will be an election issue as it directly affects the daily welfare of the commuting public---DOTC Secretary Abaya's claim to the contrary.  Moreover, the traffic has gravely affected the economy and productivity of the metropolis, an estimated P2.4 billion loss daily, which could be even bigger in the worst week day, Friday. 

Not surprisingly, a recent world survey placed Metro Manila as the 5th worst city with regard to traffic---so much for an international tourism come-on.

What COULD BE an enlightened move is the recent decision of the administration to remove the supervision of EDSA from the MMDA and entrust  it to the PNP’s Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG).  The idea, as explained by the designated PNP-HPG Director, Chief Supt. Arnold Gunnacao,  is to identify six “chokepoints” on EDSA that would showcase “instilling discipline on motorists.”  It remains to be seen if the PNP-HPG would truly be effective.

Part of Chief Supt. Gunnacao’s admonition to motorists is to refrain from bribing  his men, as the bribers  would be apprehended.  But obviously   this admonition would be taken to heart only if the HPG officers prove to be truly incorruptible. It is no secret that some MMDA traffic officers have developed over the years such camaraderie with bus and jeepney operators through the influencing magic of kotong.  Otherwise, how else to explain all the illegal parking in the metropolis? 


Any campaign to ease traffic would depend greatly on the will to enforce regulations.  One morning recently. as I was rushing to turn left from EDSA into Santolan next to Camp Crame, our long column of left-turning cars got stuck. Why? Because buses on EDSA heading toward Makati blocked the Santolan intersection even when it was already yellow light, and they couldn't care less about the other side. In more developed countries such as Australia and the US, that intersection space is painted brightly, so that if a vehicle is caught there by the yellow light it is apprehended and fined heavily. We ought to enforce that yellow light here. 

Moreover, there's a practice in Japan that makes sense: DON'T ALLOW PEOPLE TO BUY  AND REGISTER A VEHICLE UNLESS THEY HAVE PARKING SPACE FOR IT.  

Despite being one of the world’s leading car manufacturers, the Japanese are the first to prevent clogging of their streets, so that traffic even in downtown Tokyo is relatively much lighter. How do they do this? There is a stiff regulation that one cannot buy and register a car even if he could afford it, unless he has papers to show he has a PARKING SPACE for it in his domicile or place of work. Thus, in Tokyo where space is truly truly tight, city government allows the RENTAL of select space in sidewalks, but it's expensive---and therefore prohibitive for most Japanese. 

A friend of mine in Mainz, Germany, was buying another car. Grilled intensely by a city official when he signified intention to register it, ("WHATEVER FOR' this second car?), the poor guy withdrew his purchase. 


Here in the Philippines the moneyed could buy as many cars as they want because there is no such space regulation whatsoever and they park anywhere they please even overnight.

 Of course, the counter-argument against imposition of paid parking space is that the local car sales industry would suffer if such regulation were to be imposed. This industry is currently in a boom, at 20% increase in car sales every year. But some degree of regulation is now demanded, as vehicles are often wantonly parked along major streets, further constricting traffic. This is true  especially in shopping malls such as the UP Town Center in Katipunan, Q.C., where traffic from Ateneo and Miriam in rush hours add to the parking nightmare.  EDSA near the Guadalupe Market narrows to a one-lane affair, as marrket-goers park anywhere they please. And so on...


At his appearance last month before the Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa), former President Fidel Ramos, wearing a black Fallen SAF T-shirt and his favorite veteran’s be-medalled beret, held a rambling Q/A, which proved far more interesting than his speech. Some highlights:

  •     A law that’s not acceptable to all the components would not guarantee lasting peace.   He was obviously thinking of the BBL now hanging fire in Congress.
  •     PH’s ranking in the UN in terms of human development: Out of 195 member      countries, PH ranks No. 117, along with nations like Fiji and Samoa.
  •    Charter Change has become so necessary to install parliamentary system because the present presidential system has become quite inefficient for our needs. Among others, FVR  cited climate change, pandemic diseases, Ebola and AIDs are the threats to mankind’s survival. Parliamentary system is simply better for adaptation to change.
  • The provision against Presidents appointing relatives up to the fourth degree of consanguinity should be extended also to other executive officials vis-à-vis their own relatives.
  •  The ‘Daang Matuwid’ should be ‘Tamang Daan.’


Dwelling on the ill-fated Mamasapano Operation, in response to queries from the audience, FVR emphasized that since it was supposed to be part of the peace process, there should have been proper coordination, teamwork and bonding among those involved in that operation. He stressed the need for full utilization of the intelligence network and consultation, including the kagawads, the peace and order council chaired by the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, with the Secretary of Defense as Vice-chair. 

FVR then raised a favorite theme:  the full utilization of the Legislative-Executive Development and Advisory Council (LEDAC) during his term in Malacanang. FVR pointed out that during the 9th and 10th Congress, no less than 221 laws of a “structural nature” were passed because the LEDAC was actively working. In fact, he stressed that HE WAS SIGNING A LAW EVERY 21 DAYS. .

FVR’s lengthy emphasis on LEDAC was an indirect way of hitting at President Aquino who has rarely convened that inter-agency since he came to Malacanang.  P-Noy has isolated the presidency from proper inter-action with critical agencies of government, which, in turn, is understandable given  his very limited experience as a legislator.

The former President  also deplored that with all the abundance of natural wealth in the country it is  “a crime” that our young children should be selling sampaguitas in the streets when they should be in school.  He cited the need  to industrialize our various agencies and create jobs here, calling for a bigger role for the private sector in moving the country.


The prolonged Q/A and hearty responses from his audience showed how much they missed FVR. Behind the success of his administration was the combination of a wide experience in civil and military governance, plus a distinguished military career where civilian supremacy was carefully imbued beginning from his West Point days.  In the race for the presidency  these days, beginning from the election of Benigno S. Aquino 3rd in 2010 due to the huge outpouring of sympathy for his mother’s passing, this invaluable experience in governance has been missing and it extends to most of the candidates for the 2016 electoral race.       
What the country needs in the coming elections, more than anything, is a candidate who can jump-start the severely stagnated and deteriorated public services that the broad masses of our people have had to endure in the current administration.  Suffer the people, indeed.                                     

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