POSTSCRIPT / March 27, 2001 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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PNCC neglects motorists’ safety on Death Toll Road

THE Supreme Court has spoken. By a close vote of 8-6, it ruled out yesterday another special registration of voters in view of the failure of Congress to relax the law forbidding registration within 120 days of the May 14 elections.

Everybody, including the youths who missed the final registration last January, must now abide by the law as interpreted by the high court. Some of us may not agree with the ruling, but that’s it.

We urge the youth to heed the advice of Comelec chairman Alfredo Benipayo to focus their energies to helping protect the integrity of the ballot and seeing to it that only qualified candidates are elected.

* * *

THE coming elections are part of the unfinished business of Edsa II. There are other aspects of the electoral process where the youth can make a difference as important as casting a vote.

After driving away a President deemed unfit to govern, the Edsa II multitudes must follow through and not allow his proxies and cohorts to sneak into Congress to thwart the ends of People Power.

The youth, who formed the bulk of the Edsa II crowd, can join the campaign to block the election of candidates who were party to the corruption and the plunder of the short-lived Estrada administration.

* * *

ON another issue, many people seem to have forgotten that the task of the movie review board is not to approve or ban exhibition, but merely to classify films. It classified “Live Show” as R-18, restricting its viewing to those who are 18 years of age or older.

But it seems that this restriction was not tight enough for the Church and other moralists who want to impose their own values and tell us what not to see.

It’s uncanny, but the 18-year-olds who have just been deprived of their right to vote in May have also been denied their right to see the movie of their choice. While 18-year-olds are old enough to vote and even to die for their country, they are not old enough to see adult movies?

* * *

IT is also interesting that while President Arroyo admits she had not seen “Live Show,” she is vehemently for its total banning. How would she know what she is banning?

The Arroyo administration and the Catholic hierarchy may want to think about the possible effect of the “Live Show” controversy on the influence that Malacañang and the Church may want to exert on voters.

As part of the campaign to bury Erap Estrada and his ticket, the Church is expected to come out soon with pastoral counsel on whom to vote for and whom to trash at the polls.

In this light, it may be bad timing to engage a big sector of the electorate in a bruising debate over censorship and freedom while asking for its support and understanding in putting down the lineup being carried by Erap Estrada.

* * *

THE Church’s insistence on imposing its thinking on such mundane matters as watching a movie will naturally collide with the principle of separation of Church and State as well as the citizens’ enjoyment of constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

Whatever the Church’s arguments are, there will always be those who will assail what they call meddling into purely secular affairs.

To go around this inevitable conflict, why does not the Church set up its own censorship and classification system? Then it can impose its own rules on the faithful alongside the rules and restrictions that government review boards may impose.

* * *

UNDER this dual setup, the State will have its own system, alongside which the Church will also have its censorship and/or classification and a system of reward and punishment.

The Church will have full control over its own rules, will police its followers and adopt a system for compliance. The State will keep its hands off the Church system and vice versa. Hopefully.

Let’s do it this way and see what happens. For one, the Church will know (if it does not know yet) just how faithful are the faithful.

* * *

WHEN we were still in college, there was something like a Legion of Decency that regularly listed movies showing in local theaters with their classifications according to the precepts of the Church.

We do not know if the Church’s classifications served as a moral guide for Catholics. Whatever, having its own rules and classification system, the Church did not have much reason to meddle in the government’s own system.

Isn’t that a less disagreeable way of guarding public morals? We can avoid putting the government and the Church on a collision course.

(By the way, there were some of us wild-eyed students who would scan the Legion of Decency classifications — not to find out what dirty movies to avoid, but what salacious fare to see and enjoy. Something to think about, di po ba?)

* * *

THERE was another fatal accident yesterday on the North Luzon Expressway involving a speeding bus that was hit by a tanker and fell into the Tullahan river in Bulacan. Only a week ago, another major accident claimed 11 lives on the same Death Toll Road.

The infuriating thing about these accidents is that many of them could have been prevented had the Philippine National Construction Corp., manager of the NLE, taken its job more seriously.

As a daily user of this busy highway, I join the thousands of motorists driving on this 90-kilometer road in denouncing the PNCC’s negligence in looking after the comfort and safety of us captive users.

The general impression is that the PNCC is more interested in devising ways of maximizing toll revenues than in maximizing safety. How many more of us have to die before the PNCC will do its job?

* * *

A YEAR ago, we proposed here the conversion of the NLE into a special Traffic Safety and Discipline Zone (SafDiz with a long “a”).

Many motorists and such organizations as the Philippine Motor Association welcomed the proposal. The PMA even volunteered to help the PNCC pursue the idea. But it seems that anything that will not mean more milk from the milking cow is not interesting to the PNCC.

The Safdiz project calls for the reengineering not only of the road but also the attitude of motorists and traffic law enforcers.

It calls for the unrelenting enforcement of road rules 24 hours a day — like they do in Camp John Hay and the Subic Free Port — so as to condition motorists to drop their mad driving habits upon entering the NLE and switch to disciplined tollway driving.

* * *

THE SafDiz idea is feasible because the expressway is a controlled area. Anybody who drives into its fenced jurisdiction will have to submit to the rules or else.

The no-nonsense enforcement would help educate motorists not only on road ethics but consequently also on other aspects of citizenship. It would help condition citizens to obey the law instead of looking for ways to go around it.

After it is tested, refined and found successful, the SafDiz idea could be replicated in other controlled road networks. Some of these are the South Luzon Expressway, the Roxas Blvd.-Coastal Road, and the three mountain roads going up to Baguio.

* * *

AS proposed, the SafDiz project can follow the usual Three Es 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. 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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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 27, 2001)

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