Sunday, June 14, 2009

What are they there for?

Driving to the cathedral one morning where I usually park when I have errands in town, I was flagged down by a traffic policeman for a violation. I had no idea what the violation was. Was number-coding back? It couldn’t be because I was driving too fast. Was I going the wrong way because they’ve re-routed traffic again and I didn’t know? None of the above, it turned out. I was driving without a seatbelt. Perhaps prepared for the usual pleading from apprehended drivers for leniency, the police officer was even apologetic when I told him that I deserved the citation and that I’m glad that they’ve revived the campaign to promote the use of seatbelts. I needed reminding and if takes a whole morning of lining up and going back and forth City Hall and the police station to pay a fine to remind me, then so be it. I think it's well worth it. Oddly, it may seem, I was sincerely glad to be apprhended, but that didn’t last long for on my way out of the cathedral grounds, I was quite disappointed to see the same policeman standing at the same spot and ignoring several jeeps and private vehicles with unbelted drivers, add to that the sight of jeepneys loading and unloading passengers and No Loading and Unloading zones.

The citation I got was a fluke, and that’s probably why I, along with thousands of other drivers in the city, still forget to put on our seatbelt every now and then.

The seatbelt incident crossed my mind again when on my way to the market yesterday, I almost hit a pedestrian who darted out of nowhere to cross a very busy intersection right below the pedestrian overpass, right infront of several policemen standing at the corner right beside a police station.

It sounds so simple: the laws are there, all we need to do is to enforce them, without fear nor favor. It’s a good start in our effort to bring the old glory of Baguio back, something a lot of us have been whining about and pining for. So what’s holding us back from cracking down on those illegally parked along Calderon Street? These cars parked right infront of “No Parking” signs create a bottleneck in the area all hours of the day, and at times resulting in near-misses when cars going towards Session Road are forced to go into counter-flow to pass vehicles illegally double-parked next to illegally parked cars aided by illegal “parking attendants.”

Our law enforcers look the other way when it’s convenient and it’s probably the reason why a lot of motorists, particularly taxi drivers, continue to even speed up instead of slowing down when going through a pedestrian lane (crossing Session Road is a game of Patintero with fatal results if you lose the game specially against a taxi driver in a hurry to get to his fare on the other side of the crossing). Right across a police station a sign warns jaywalkers of being apprehended right where cigarette vendors appear out of nowhere as soon as the light turns red to do their business right in the middle of a major intersection.

It’s tiring to hear our politicians talk of grand plans for Baguio, especially those who are clearly wooing our votes in next year’s elections. Forget about the grandstanding, what the city needs is plain and simple: someone who has the political will and courage to implement the law. No ifs no buts. To those running for top positions in our city government next year - we don’t really need your groundbreaking visions and major plans for the city. We don’t need hallow multi-syllable catch phrases: our candidates spend so much time and energy thinking up witty slogans to catch our attention during elections. What we need is simply someone who’s an enforcer of the law - from major laws about city zoning to seemingly minor ones on jaywalking, littering, etc. That alone isn’t easy, but that alone will save our once great city from its freefall.

Isn’t that why our officials were voted into office? A council to legislate and city executives to execute those legislations? Otherwise, what are they there for?

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