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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, April 21, 2017
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Privilege or right?


Pop quiz hotshot.

Your child has a fever and you have no paracetamol at home. You go out to buy some fruity paracetamol syrup from the nearest drug store but the store's lone parking slot is occupied, most likely by its owner. Parking isn't supposed to be allowed but there's no traffic enforcer and even if there is one, you're pretty sure you can convince him to make an exception for you. It's a hot summer day and from a cursory look at the street, you don't know where the nearest available parking slot is. What do you do?

•  Turn on the hazard lights and park anyway.

•  Find a parking spot further on and walk back to the store.

•  Find a different drug store, preferably with parking.

Given such a situation, I'm betting 90 percent of Negrenses would choose A.

There are probably many justifications for parking illegally. First of all, it's an “emergency.” Secondly, most would probably say a quick stop for one item won't hurt. Some would insist that turning on the hazard lights while parking illegally is good enough. They'd probably justify their action by saying the traffic isn't that bad anyway. The rest would say they're in a hurry and it's too hot and the walk too far away for them to be bothered with proper parking.

The example above may be for fever medication, but the expected reaction applies to almost everything we do that involves parking. While there are some of us who may hesitate and actually consider those options, there are others who make the choice to park illegally automatically because of their warped sense of entitlement.

This mentality makes one wonder if the good people of Negros consider parking as a right rather than a privilege.

Anybody who has seen the way people park on this island would agree that most of the drivers and car owners of Negros assume they have the right to park on public roads and/or sidewalks no matter what the local rule on parking may be. Nobody can be bothered to park properly a few blocks away from his or her intended destination and then walk all the way back. Those who feel a little bit of guilt or shame in blocking the road know they can always turn on the hazard lights to zap away those feelings. Everyone, from drivers to traffic enforcers, think that everything is fine and acceptable once those magical lights of entitlement and privilege start blinking.

This sense of parking privilege extends to more than just drivers and car owners. The belief in the right to park also extends to business and home owners as well. Why else would a businessman start a business without bothering to provide proper parking? Where else would the owners of commercial establishments gather the gall to put up signs on public property such as the curb and sidewalks designating those patches of public domain as for their exclusive use just because they have a place of business nearby? Why do people buy cars even if they don't have garages?

It's easy to blame people for this selfish mentality but if you come to think of it, they only think this way because government officials failed to do their job of protecting public domain for decades. People started assuming that their right to park is enshrined in the constitution of Negros Island only after nobody enforced any of the basic and common sense parking rules and regulations for generations.

Government is paying for its apathy to parking only now that worsening traffic has forced its hand to enforce those long ignored basic rules. An entire population of people who believe they are entitled to park on any public road anytime they please has spawned and it is now up to that same government to teach those people that parking on public roads is a privilege and not a right.

As a privilege, it is not the people but the government that decides where and when parking is allowed. While it is your right to complain if the government says parking is not allowed along Lacson Street (sidewalks included) after tolerating the practice for decades, parking there is no longer a privilege because it never belonged to you anyway.

The government's power to grant its people the privilege to park in certain areas may be a foreign concept to many Filipinos who think like squatters but that power has always been there. Seeing the authorities finally wield that power may be strange at first but the sooner we understand that parking is not a right but a privilege, the easier it will be to come to terms with the need to change our mindset. If we want to think of ourselves as a people who have the potential to be first world, we need to get rid of that twisted sense of entitlement when it comes to occupying space and using resources that was never ours in the first place.*

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