POSTSCRIPT / December 21, 2004 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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It's almost the yearend  and no turnaround yet!

DOWNHILL FROM HERE: The slide appears to have begun, and there is no indication that President Arroyo is moving to arrest the downtrend.

New surveys showing her dropping popularity seem to confirm what we have been saying since August: That if GMA fails to show something really dramatic before the year ends, it would be all downhill — for her and the nation — after the holidays.

When the patient is in near-coma, as the country is, shock treatment may be the only effective procedure left. Band-aid will not work.

This is the right time, this being a season of hope, to make another grand attempt to lift the sagging spirit of the nation. But with Christmas just four days away, we still cannot spot the bright light that should dispel the darkness from the Palace.

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SQUANDERED GOODWILL: Her election last May earned Gloria Macapagal Arroyo enough goodwill to start anew despite her lackluster three years of stewardship following the failed administration of Erap Estrada.

Alas, that political capital traditionally heaped on an incoming president has all but dissipated.

For some reasons, President Arroyo cannot seem to get things moving.

The scary problem is that the people, more than third of whom are mired in dehumanizing poverty, have grown tired waiting and may just be unwilling to wait any longer.

Given an off-election alternative for a change, even if a bit violent, they might just grab it.

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POLITICS STILL RULES: Many of those who supported Ms Arroyo because they believed she was the best equipped among the presidential candidates are dismayed watching her going around in circles that are increasingly getting smaller.

There are many obvious good-government measures that the President could have taken, with impact, during the past six months, but she did not take them. What or who is/are holding her back?

As a president serving her final term, her magnificent obsession should be just to govern well, move this country, if not to great heights at least forward, and assure her own niche in history.

Anything or anyone who gets in the way of that clear objective should be cast away.

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GMA HOSTAGED?: Yet we keep seeing President Arroyo making major decisions, pushing legislation, approving business deals and appointing key officials based on accommodation or political utang na loob, and not on what is best for the county.

Is there a powerful group holding the Arroyos hostage? Is the Arroyo presidency helpless?

The prospects are bleak, but let us see if she could still break free and do what is right in the remaining two weeks before the year ends.

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ARROGANCE: Back to the streets, what can be more infuriating than being caught in slow-moving traffic and then being waved aside by motorcycle police escorting a heavily tinted vehicle bearing an unidentified VIP?

If the fathead has to catch an appointment somewhere, he should move out earlier — like the rest of us taxpayers — so he does not have to bully his way through traffic.

We taxpayers bought that idiot his official luxury car, pay for his driver and his gasoline, not to mention his salary and perks, the allowances of his wife and mistresses, plus the wages of his maids, gardeners and bodyguards.

Then the blockhead, a public servant kuno , comes rushing from behind and pushing us off the road?

Arrogance of power is one of the reasons why many citizens have lost their respect for authority.

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RED LIGHTS OFF!: There are other reasons for widespread defiance of the law. For instance, without being aware of it, we have been conditioned to ignoring and later on defying authority by those traffic lights that are left on even when they are no longer needed.

MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando has closed most major intersections in the metropolis, forcing motorists intending to turn left to turn right instead and then make a U-turn.

That way, stopping at crossroads and waiting for the green light has been eliminated. While motorists have to travel a longer distance, at least they keep moving and get the illusion of freer movement.

But after closing intersections, Fernando forgot to remove, or at least turn off, the traffic lights that are no longer needed.

Those useless traffic lights keep changing color in an endless, mindless cycle and nobody bothers with them — except for some out-of-towners who do not understand the controlled confusion and so must stop at intersections to figure out what is going on.

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CONDITIONING: Unnecessary traffic lights not only waste electricity, they condition motorists to ignore red lights and other traffic signs.

The conditioning is insidious. Without our being aware of it, we are being trained to ignore or violate the red light.

The red light infraction may seem to be a small matter, but it is actually the small beginning of bigger violations of law later in life.

At night, we see these abandoned traffic lights changing color periodically even in places where there is no cross traffic, vehicular or pedestrian, for hours.

Traffic lights are not turned off in front of important government offices and the establishments of influential businessmen even deep into the night when no pedestrians are seen walking to or from the darkened buildings.

Electricity is wasted while the rest of the population groans under the exorbitant rates doubled by the PPA (purchased power adjustment) that President Arroyo has promised to phase out.

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MAKATI TRAP: It is not all traffic lights. For instance, at the intersection of Makati Ave. and Burgos St. in Makati poblacion , there is a confusion of regulatory road signs — purposely placed there, I suspect, as a money-making trap.

Going north at that intersection, the confusing signs make you stop. But when you see the two-way arrows, you proceed. Suddenly, a hungry-looking traffic officer steps from behind a post, flags you down and demands to see your license.

The violation? You just entered a one-way street!

But the sign you just passed clearly showed the street to be two-way. The officer has a ready answer: There is a note below the two-way arrows saying that it is two-way only at certain hours — and you have just entered Makati Ave. at the wrong hour!

Why does not Mayor Jojo Binay discard his “Small is Beautiful” policy and make bigger road signs?

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TOMB-LIKE BLOCKS: Still in Makati, some motorists passing J. P. Rizal are asking why Binay (if it was his idea) built what looks like a cemetery for small people at the bank of the Pasig across the street from Rockwell.

Driving along the Pasig outside Rockwell, you spot those small, whitewashed blocks that look like tombs, beside posts with horizontal bars to make a cross. I wonder how Rockwell residents can live with this macabre site near their property.

More questions: How old are those tired Christmas lights with the eternal “B” adorning the streets away from the central business district? The “B” lights look pathetic trying to sparkle with Christmas cheer.

Are those old lights carried in the books as brand-new supply every time Christmas spending is added up?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 21, 2004)

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