POSTSCRIPT / May 30, 2000 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Expressway potential for educating citizens

WHY do the police have to employ mapmakers to draw composite faces of suspects? Why does the police artist have to be a cartographer or a mapmaker and why must his masterpiece always be a “cartographic” sketch?

Are cartographers or mapmakers that vital to police work because the human face is a map of the character and the motivations of criminals?

Why don’t we just call those drawings of suspects simply, well, drawings — or sketches, which they are. It is pompous and a waste of valuable space to add that long adjective “cartographic” just to put salsa to a dry drawing.

We suspect, though, that some imaginative reporter must have taken a fancy for the word “cartographic” years ago when everybody was still busy mapping this archipelago and inflicted the term on his lazy editor and then on Philippine journalism.

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ONE of our talented computer programmers may be able to help the police (also the National Bureau of Investigation) in this art of drawing the faces of suspects based on details given by witnesses with photographic memory.

There is this software, for instance, called Cosmo Girl that allows us to make composite faces and figures. You just select the face shape, eyes, hair, lips, et cetera, from a full gallery of choices, press the Enter key and, voila!, the resulting face appears in an instant.

A curious female can even use her own face (borrowed from her photograph or a sketch) to see how she would look with a certain hairdo, a dress style and such details that women sometimes fantasize about.

If a smitten debutante wants to see, for instance, how she would look in a bridal gown, she could compose in minutes her own self all dressed up and made up for her wedding. And print the pretty picture.

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USING a similar software tailor-made for police use, an investigator need not employ a mapmaker or cartographer to create composite faces. It only takes minutes to produce a faithful facsimile of a suspect’s face based on recollections of witnesses.

Let’s put the world-class talents of our youthful computer programmers to good use.

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WE checked over and over the Time magazine movie review of the two-year-old presidency of Erap Estrada, and found that they spelled his name right. So what for are his boys screaming and frothing in the mouth?

We were amused by the remark of one of Erap’s top propagandists about the Time writer being an ingrate for writing that critical piece after riding on the presidential helicopter and, we imagine, partaking of some junk food along the way.

If he knows his business, a media handler of the President would not expect a favorable writeup just because he allowed the writer to hitch on a plane, served him some refreshments or gave him a vantage from which to watch the President in action (two words).

If the Press Office expects or demands that such amenities color the reports of newspapermen covering the President, then Malacañang reporters and parachute journalists better bring their own coffee jugs and soda crackers.

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THE rains and floods left long stretches of the North Luzon Expressway rutted. They have patched most of the holes, but the asphalt slapped on them was either too little or too much. Either way, it’s still a bumpy, treacherous ride.

The shoulders in many sections in Bulacan are not only soft but missing, having been washed away by the recent floods. Pulling over to the shoulder could mean a sudden one-foot drop that would either wreck your car or send you tumbling into a ditch.

For us frequent users, the shoulder is all-important — because we’ve learned that the fast lane is not the leftmost lane, but the shoulder. Anyone who wants to move faster must master the art (yes, we’ve elevated it to the level of art!) of zipping through the shoulder.

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LET’S do the same thing on the North Luzon Expressway. This should be easy to do since the road is in a controlled area.

Once a driver enters the expressway, his whole being should be immediately keyed to the fact that he is entering a strictly policed zone where his usual driving antics will not be tolerated.

This can be done through the usual 3E stages propagated by the Philippine Motor Association:

  1. Engineering:Fix the expressway and everything else on or near it — including traffic signs, rest areas, lane markings, etc. – to make it user-friendly. It is not fair to enforce the rules if the road itself is not ready.
  2. Education:Enforcers must be beefed up, retrained and properly equipped and motivated. Road users will be educated simultaneously, while enforcers are retraining and the engineering phase is ongoing.
  3. Enforcement:On the target launch date — which should come with a big bang for optimum awareness — the serious business of carrying out the plan begins. The entire length of the expressway will be saturated with enforcers 24 hours every day. But as we’re dealing with Filipinos, we probably can just warn violators during the first week, then really crack down on them after that grace period.

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ONE message that must be delivered early on is that if the driver AND his vehicle are not ready for correct expressway driving in the controlled zone, he better not enter the toll gate.

We add the vehicle to the equation because it is high time we enforced the rules banning certain vehicles that do not meet the requirements of safe driving. Any vehicle found deficient (like its having busted lights or a door wide open while running) would be led out at the next exit.

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THE vital key to enforcement is the realization by drivers that the moment they enter the expressway, they must follow all the rules – or else. As they enter, they must discard their bad city driving habits and shift to the expressway mode – or else.

There should be no exceptions, no palakasan, no ningas-cogon interest in applying the rules.

One reason why even normally law-abiding citizens break the rules is that they see violators get away with it, leaving them looking tanga and eating the dust of violators.

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THE operators of the North Luzon Expressway would be doing the nation a big favor by embarking on this proposed project that could dramatically reform the driving habits of thousands of road users and save lives.

This awareness of safety rules among expressway users and their cheerful compliance could help alter even their attitude toward other aspects of citizenship and toward life in general.

Imagine a family driving out on a weekend. Upon entering the expressway, the father driving the family car automatically becomes safety conscious and disciplined, calls out to the kids at the back to double-check their door locks and seat belts, warns them about not throwing out litter, sticks to speed limits, keeps a safe distance, avoids unnecessary lane-changing and passing on the shoulder, solicitously gives way to vehicles obviously in trouble, et cetera.

Word of mouth alone would spread this gospel of safety and discipline on the expressway. Reinforced by mass media, this project could be a model for similar campaigns elsewhere.

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WHILE we’re at it, let us call attention to the horrible state of disrepair of roads at the northern end of the expressway in Mabalacat.

The ruts in barangay Sta. Inez are enough to wreck the toughest of off-road vans. Even the interior roads that some motorists use as alternate routes to and from the Sta. Inez exit are that bad, and getting worse.

The narrow, rutted roads are contributing to the daily traffic congestion in the town that has proclaimed itself as the industrial capital(!) of Pampanga.

We know that President Estrada has not forgiven Pampangueños and their governor for giving him a thrashing in the last election, but these roads are also being used by thousands of taxpayers who are not from the province.

Besides, there is no sense hiding incompetence and lack of concern by assuming an angry, vengeful Asiong Salonga posture.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 30, 2000)

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