A year of national malaise?
A year after President Duterte assumed office, why is there a seeming feeling of malaise among many Filipinos?
Congress has overwhelmingly backed the President’s announced plan to extend martial law in Mindanao until the yearend, and the fighting continues in Marawi City. Many Maranao women in the evacuation centers are disappointed, eager as they are to go home, but they also fear for their and their children’s safety.
Compounding the declaration of martial law in Mindanao (which was upheld by the Supreme Court) and the devastation of Marawi are the continuing killing of suspected drug users and pushers by vigilantes, and the kidnapping of a Korean businessman and his murder right inside the Philippine National Police headquarters. The additional killing of suspected users and pushers in police operations against the trade in illegal drugs, supposedly because they resisted arrest, has made “nanlaban” a byword even among grade school students.
Add these to the list: the long-winded hearings “in aid of legislation” in the Senate and in the House; China’s encroachments in the West Philippine Sea; the arrest and imprisonment of a senator; off-and-on peace talks between the government and communist insurgents; the nonrelease of sick and elderly political prisoners; earthquakes; the degradation of the environment; the monster traffic….
And while the President has focused most of his first year on fighting illegal drugs and on visits to China, other Asian countries, and Russia (which was cut short by the attack on Marawi) in pursuit of his “independent” foreign policy, the oil companies have been rolling back fuel prices by a few centavos and increasing them after two or three weeks four times more. As everyone knows, high prices of petroleum products directly affect the prices of basic commodities and the general public, especially the low-income classes. No Philippine president has ever confronted the multinational oil companies. Not even the tough-talking Mr. Duterte, much less the members of Congress.
As for the unending misery posed by traffic congestion, if the President himself would take the lead, supported by the government machinery and its officials (one agency alone cannot do the job), as well as the people, to “kill” the monster, it would ease the daily agony of the working class and students, and greatly reduce this feeling of malaise.
Consider the cost to the environment when vehicles get stuck for hours in traffic, emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, adding to global warming and harming the health of millions of Filipinos. Experts have long estimated that billions of pesos are lost to the worsening traffic conditions in Metro Manila, which was also listed as having the worst traffic situation in the world. This is not surprising because even inner streets, not just Edsa, are congested with vehicles. At night, these streets turn into a big garage. Even Sundays are no longer spared from the monster traffic.
Aggravating the crisis are the uncoordinated road repairs, such as the “reblocking” and diggings by the Department of Public Works and Highways, local government units, and water companies. Roads in good condition seem to be “repaired” every year like a birthday celebration, while damaged roads are ignored for many years, and further damaged by trucks loaded with garbage, quarried rocks, construction materials, and the like.
President Duterte’s tough talk, bolstered by his high approval rating, could be better applied to neutralizing the monster traffic through a no-nonsense executive order listing doable solutions from proven experts, applied with his vaunted political will. Then he can begin to ease the seeming malaise afflicting a great number of Filipinos.
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Joey C. Papa is president of Bangon Kalikasan Movement.
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