This week’s submission was originally intended to be titled “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” but after thinking it over, I changed my mind. “Problem” is such a value-laden term, don’t you agree? It implies something that needs a solution—sure, Maria Isabel Lopez might have upset a few traffic cones and upset a few traffic officials in the process, but to insinuate that she needs to be “solved,” well, that would be over-reacting. Let’s put things in perspective: cancer needs to be solved; the Philippines’s foreign debt needs to be solved, but a Binibining Pilipinas-Universe ’82? Really, we should start treating our former beauty queens with more respect, hence the change of title.
Last Saturday, on the eve of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which it was the Philippines’ turn to host, Maria did the unthinkable. She was in her car driving along EDSA on her way south but as you know, in preparation for the summit, the Metro Manila Development Authority had designated several lanes of EDSA as so-called “ASEAN lanes” exclusively for the use of the delegates and select officials. Naturally, traffic along the country’s biggest and most iconic thoroughfare, already horrendous, became even horrendous-er. People just had to put up with it, but as she approached the underpass near Shaw boulevard, Maria’s patience snapped. Apparently, she got out of her car, removed a number of traffic cones, got back in and drove into the exclusive lane.
This is where she got careless. And arrogant. And stupid. It takes an enormous pair to do what she did, to deliberately, consciously and unrepentantly flout traffic laws, but not only did Maria deliberately, consciously and unrepentantly switch lanes to one reserved for VIPs—God, how I hate those initials!—she used her phone to video her misdemeanor and then posted it on social media. “MMDA thinks I’m an official ASEAN delegate,” she posted on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, “If you can’t beat em, join them.” She then used the hashtags #nosticker, #leadership, #belikemaria, #pasaway, and #selfpreservation for her followers to, well, follow. Shares of her post quickly reached the thousands and comments flew; a lot were critical but some were admiring of her derring-do.
Try as I might, I cannot find it in me to get onboard the bandwagon of condemnation. This may be due to impunity fatigue. Within 48 hours, Maria was summoned by the MMDA to explain her actions and then it filed a complaint against her before the Land Transportation Office. The Authority asked the LTO to revoke Maria’s license and to impose fines on her for, first, disregard of traffic signs; second, reckless driving; and third, distracted driving. (Under Republic Act No. 10913, it is a crime to use one’s cell phone while driving except for emergencies.) That is swift action by government officials. Contrast their zealousness, however, with their stonewalling of cases of suspected extrajudicial killings committed during Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs. Not only have investigators been dragging their feet, the administration itself is insisting that there are NO extrajudicial killings. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, but when talk turns to traffic violations by, let’s face it, a pageant winner has-been, suddenly the government fears that her actions could “endanger the public”?
Maria Isabel Lopez could do herself a favor simply by shutting up. Already, she has apologized on social media for her driving under the influence of her own hubris, attributing her actions on her hurry to answer the “call of nature.” On that score I cannot tell if she was in a rush to do a no. 1 or if she was in a mad dash to be true to her nature; the answer to the first would be an adult diaper, but if it was the second, I don’t think there’s a cure for that one. In the
end, all of us have to be true to ourselves.
What she should do is take her lumps, drink her medicine like the good little bad girl she has been, and drive on. Oh wait, she can’t do that if her license is revoked. Uber—yes, the app will be her best friend starting this week. Ride out the storm, lay low, then show the appropriate contrition when petitioning for the restoration of her driving privileges. There is little else she can do anyway. If she had bothered to ask for legal advice before embarking on her little stunt, she would have been advised to turn her traffic insubordination into a political statement of a citizen fed up with how the administration would rather vastly inconvenience the people to impress, among others, an island-grabbing bully and a p***y-grabbing blowhard who can’t even hold his wife’s hand in public.
See, people, it’s all in the metaphor. G