A matter of discipline
It’s not the best job in the world, but somebody’s got to do it. And it’s Tim Orbos’ turn to try to tame the sprawling jungle otherwise known as Metro Manila, as OIC of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
Metro Manila’s total daytime population is estimated at 14 million. Imagine the garbage generated daily by the millions of households in it, the number of vehicles clogging its roads (over 2.3 million, per reports), and the multitude of problems that come with living in such a congested terrain.
The traffic alone is a daily nightmare for commuters who stew for hours on the road while business leaders seethe at losing at least P3 billion a day in time wasted and energy lost. It’s a situation rife with opportunities for corruption and abuse by MMDA enforcers, as people with a strong sense of entitlement flout the rules, thinking they could always pay their way out of their misdeeds. As CCTV cameras have recorded repeatedly, some MMDA enforcers abet such thinking, mulcting motorists and pedestrians alike and largely getting away with it, what with victims loath to engage the labyrinthine bureaucracy in reporting abuses.
But there’s a glimmer of hope. According to Orbos’ recent announcement, erring MMDA enforcers who drag the agency’s name to the sewers will be made to help clear esteros or creeks while their cases are being heard. In fact, 60 enforcers facing cases ranging from simple negligence to extortion have been temporarily assigned to the Flood Control and Sewerage Management Office, and will assist in waterway cleanups and sewerage unclogging under the Estero Blitz program.
Not only will they be productive while they are on trial, the reassignment will also prevent them from harassing the complainants or influencing the inquiry into their cases, Orbos said. He said he was also seriously contemplating the idea of sending enforcers with pending cases to the Army reservist training camp in Cavite for three months, in the hope that military training would help them rein in their reckless instincts and shape up as enforcers.
The MMDA’s efforts to instill values and discipline among its ranks are commendable and would help institutionalize the reward and punishment system in government service. The prescribed community work would also mean interacting with village officials and knowing firsthand the mindset behind the community’s resistance to MMDA campaigns to clear sidewalks and streets of obstructions, garbage and illegal structures. Hopefully, this could lead to a more productive working relationship and another step toward nation-building.
As has been said, discipline is a vital “soft skill” for success, whether of individuals, institutions, or an entire nation. The stress on discipline has pushed such Philippine cities as Marikina and Olongapo to becoming models of urban development. In Subic, then Mayor Richard Gordon’s slogan “Walang tamad sa Olongapo” became a rallying cry soon after the Americans left the US naval base there. From a honky-tonk hub, Subic became known for its clean streets, enforced traffic rules, and a strong sense of community pride.
In Marikina, then Mayor Bayani Fernando similarly turned a sleepy town into a bustling city where the residents themselves kept the streets clean, followed traffic rules, set up bike lanes, and took pride in their city hall with walls of glass as a literal interpretation of transparency in government.
Overseas, there’s the clean and green city-state of Singapore where the rules may sound extreme, but whose class act has made it one of the world’s most liveable places.
But the MMDA’s drive to cleanse its ranks banks on more than discipline. There is also a call for the public to be vigilant and to help the campaign by reporting or filing complaints against unscrupulous traffic enforcers, using the agency’s social media accounts on Facebook and through its website, mmda.gov.ph, where the complaint portal I Will Act is hosted.
Hopefully, this ambitious campaign would galvanize other government agencies as well, and not merely because of the threat of sanctions.
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