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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, December 3, 2019
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

One time big time


An interesting phenomenon occurred a couple of weeks ago when our transportation and law enforcement agencies announced that they would conduct a “one-time big-time” nationwide crackdown against traffic violators, especially overloading and overspeeding vehicles.

The Land Transportation Office press release proudly proclaimed that the activity was meant to “prevent more road crash incidents in the future” as well as comply with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to strictly enforce the country’s traffic laws.

We are never truly certain how the government officials and the public are supposed to interpret the directives and instructions of the president these days, but our dear leader apparently instructed the LTO and the Highway Patrol Group to “strictly enforce the law” and “not to go into corruption.” Fortunately for them and other law-fearing motorists, no creative imagination was necessary to interpret the decree, so our officials who have shown a willingness to oblige our high officials wishes immediately responded with that one-time big-time activity that was naturally announced to the media to give the president and everybody in the country the impression that they are capable of instant action the hard work required to enforce traffic laws and make our roads safer.

The letter specifically cited the October 30 road crash in Apayao where an overloaded elf truck fell into a ravine, killing 19 persons; and the November 6 mishap in Camarines Sur where a bus and a UV express van collided, killing the van’s eight passengers. With so many lives lost to road crashes, government must’ve felt the need to flex its muscles, even for just a couple of days.

Among the agencies that were asked to participate in the one-time big time operations are the: LTO – Law Enforcement Service, Philippine National Police – Highway Patrol Group, Department of Public Works and Highways, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, North Luzon Expressway, and South Luzon Expressway.

We don’t know how effective their operation was but we can be pretty sure that given the general condition of vehicles and drivers in this country, the authorities must’ve apprehended a good number of violators during that limited run of strict enforcement on a nationwide scale. Even if they just focused on only two violations: overloading and overspeeding; those common behaviors have been ignored by law enforcers for far too long that they’ve become bad habits. Hopefully the one-time big-time operations apprehended, penalized and impounded enough vehicles and drivers for them to learn their lesson and mend their ways.

The LTO undersecretary responsible for this promo probably felt an urgent need to justify his existence during one of our President’s rants that can jump from topic to topic that resulted in the hasty organization of a one-time big-time operation for maximum exposure. But if you come to think of it, most of the time these maximum exposure stunts are the ones with the most minimum impact.

While a one-time big-time operation is better than nothing, it is not a long-term solution to the problem. Public officials responsible for the country’s transportation system are the last people who should think they can get away with that gambler mentality that a lucky one-time big-time bet can change your life forever. What do they actually plan to achieve with a one-time big-time operation? Hit the lottery, strike lighting, or catch a big fish?

One-time big-time is for gamblers and people wanting to make an instant impression for their own ends. When it comes to deep-seated problems like traffic violations and road safety, what our country needs is someone in charge with the mentality of a relative aggressive but cautious and patient investor who puts the right amount of money into a fund consistently over a long period of time. This kind of person knows that while making the right investments consistently may sometimes encounter setbacks or losses, they generally end up recouping their investments and making a handsome profit in the long run.

Consistent action and enforcement may be more effective than one-time big-time sideshows, but for those with shortsighted goals, impressing their boss with apparent but bombastic action is more important than those tiny and invisible acts that take time, lots of attention and nurturing before they add up and snowball into something truly and sustainably impressive.

If our officials and law enforcers had been focusing their energies on doing their jobs properly every day, enforcing the simple rules and laws, not just overloading and overspeeding, but jaywalking, counter flowing, illegal parking, and illegal U-turns; we wouldn’t need these useless one-time big-time shows by public officials who want their patrons to give them a pat on the back for doing their job.

Instead, we are supposed to be impressed when they give us an occasional one-time big-time show of force that ultimately does nothing but apprehend a few violators a couple of times a year.

Should we be content with one-time big-time if our officials can’t be professional and decent public servants all of the time?*  

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