The week of Aug. 12 saw two things: the President expressing his wish to resign yet again for the nth time and an alleged fiscal who berated a traffic enforcer when she knew full well she was in the wrong. The video of the latter went viral in a matter of hours.
I’m hardly concerned about people wanting to quit their elected post. Under this administration, that’s logical and a very honorable thing to do—should they do it. Failure after failure can push any individual in the doldrums, and the President, regardless of his self-importance, is no exception.
However, I am genuinely concerned about the public’s growing propensity for rage. For yet unknown reasons, we’ve become an angry people. We jump and fume at the slightest aggravation. We flare up even when at times when the whys and wherefores escape us.
Something must’ve triggered this phenomenon. Yes, it has become a phenomenon. Anyone with eyes to see has witnessed this both online and offline. What abusive colonizers had been able to set off in the span of many years in the form of revolutions, the Duterte administration is able to ignite in just two years.
Let’s take, for example, that fiscal I just mentioned. Clearly in the wrong. Apprehended for illegally parking her vehicle. After being called out by traffic enforcers, she lashed out almost immediately, demanding that they explain to her the five-minute parking rule.
The enforcers demanded for the fiscal’s license. She refused. The verbal row took some time to tone down. The enforcers said she should take up any grievance at the office. Dropping her credentials helped little in appeasing the situation.
The next day, the fiscal and her husband were seen making a public apology. But it was too late. The traffic enforcers are filing charges and there seems to be no way out of it.
Another incident hit the news on the morning of Aug. 16. A motorist allegedly struck a traffic constable of the MMDA. Again, charges were filed against the motorist.
Some people are wont to easily dismiss these incidents as another roadside altercation, with rich and powerful people brandishing their seeming wealth and titles to get off the hook. Just another case of power rubbing against power.
Let’s take a few steps back and see if there is some context to this show of unwarranted rage.
To begin, some police officers and traffic enforcers are not exactly the paragons of professional behavior themselves. Stories of corruption and conduct unbecoming are rife, and have become staple news for anyone who spends considerable hours online.
Several stories, which went viral on social media, come to mind, the most infamous being that police officer who slapped a bus driver even as the latter handed his license to the police. Some videos of disrespectful traffic enforcers have also gone viral.
The horrendous daily congestion on our highways and streets only makes matters worse. These daily nuisances, coupled with spiking gasoline prices, could drive anyone behind the wheel up the wall.
Accounts of traffic enforcers either demanding a bribe or disrespecting the public are not new. Ask any taxi or Grab driver and they will tell you what manner of abuse they have to deal with on a daily basis at the hands of these officers.
While I’m sure the MMDA and the PNP are doing all that they can to discipline its errant traffic constables, any changes in their demeanor on the road are yet too small to be noticed. More ought to be done.
Before I forget, there’s also this matter of public curiosity that compels people to use their phone cameras should they encounter traffic enforcers. The MMDA should ask itself why.
To be fair, to be a traffic enforcer is not exactly a dream job for most Filipinos. It’s a back-breaking, debilitating effort to enforce road policies and laws on a public clamoring for visible changes in our streets. Both have reasons to lose their tempers, enough for clashes to happen every single day.
These traffic enforcers have very little training, if at all; they’re paid a pittance for the 10 hours they spend on the street—rain or shine. Each day they risk life and limb to see to it that motorists get to where they’re going. They get insulted, rebuked, and harangued for everything including the polish on their shoes—mostly for the lack of it.
These officers get hauled over the coal for the slightest show of either indifference or impertinence. We forget that behind the job description, they are human. They, too, get tired.
Respect begets respect. And of all the things one individual can demand from another, respect is the one that should and must be earned.
Besides, not all traffic violations should be presumed deliberate as to merit a show of impudence from an officer. Motorists should likewise avoid lumping all traffic enforcers in the “undisciplined” basket. Any show of insolence is unacceptable in any language. Private or public.
Likewise, our traffic agencies cannot have motorists guessing which is lawful and which is not. Thus, each city’s traffic rules and policies ought to be disseminated, updated, and yes, written in clear readable language.
I grew up at a time when deference and warm regard for another were qualities to be proud of. More so if you’re in public. Then, one’s hospitality and kindness are expected, more so if you’re an officer of the law.
Some say martial law changed all that.
This country, once famous for its world-class hospitality and joyful demeanor, is slowly turning into an angry nation. We lash out at the slightest apparition of error, the minutest provocation. We are incensed easily by either stupidity or hubris.
We consider it a personal affront to our titles to be treated wrongly. We judge, without mercy, those who disagree with us.
Alas, we have become what we hate. G