OpinionWhere does it start?
Where does it start?
November 17, 2014
November 17, 2014

According to a news report published by the Philippine Star last April, around 28,000 traffic violations are recorded daily by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. The common fines range from a minimum of P1000 for violations such as not wearing a seatbelt to as much as P10,000 for driving a vehicle not registered with the Land Transportation Office.

The thought of fines and a trip to a government office to retrieve your license is scary in itself, yet ti most of us, the real horror story lies in the men standing outside your vehicle. Receiving a ticket for a traffic violation is fine, especially if you are actually guilty of an offense, but some traffic enforcers have grown corrupt and use their power to extort money out of unwitting drivers for phantom violations. This isn’t even a secret anymore—everyone knows about these tales of corruption with the help of social media and that’s what makes getting flagged down by these traffic enforcers even more frightening. On Philippine roads, corruption can be experienced first hand.

As a matter of fact, those 28,000 daily traffic violations, if ticketed the minimum penalty of P1,000, would earn the government more than P10 billion annually. To put it into perspective, that is the same amount that Janet Lim-Napoles was accused of plundering through the infamous pork barrel scam and it can pay for an estimated 200,000 terms at DLSU. With this kind of money coming in, one would think that Philippine roads would have less potholes and more flyovers, yet development still lags behind. Whether the money is just sitting in a government office, used for other projects or in an individual’s bank account is a question that we might never know the answer to.

Today’s headlines are filled with stories of corruption, yet to us battle-hardened Filipinos, it has lost its novelty and become mundane. Corruption has infested the top and bottom of the government and everything in between. Today, the scandal involving the undeclared wealth and overpricing of projects by Philippine Vice President and former Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay has taken center stage in the news, just a few months after several senators were accused of pocketing government funds. Over the last three decades, two of this country’s presidents have been taken out of office due to corruption scandals and many more government officials in lower ranks have been said to have used their power to further personal interest.

It doesn’t end with this country’s elected officials and their appointed officers–it trickles down to even the lowest of ranks from traffic enforcers and cops asking for bribes to clerks working with fixers in government offices. Leaders are told to “Lead by example” and many followers have taken this quote to heart and emulated the bad habits of some of this country’s leaders. A run-in with a traffic officer will probably include an attempt to unlawfully “settle your offense” right then and there. This is the sad situation of the Philippines today.

If majority of our leaders took a firm stand against corruption, then those under them would follow suit. Musician and theologian Albert Schweitzer, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953, once said that “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

There’s a popular idiom that goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” in reference to how hard it is to change older people. It might be impossible to change those in power now and these politicians accused of corruption won’t instantly turn over a new leaf. However, every young person who enters the ‘real world’ after graduation is a glimmer of hope and a chance for things in this country to change. As students of one of the top universities in the country, we are all looked at as potential leaders. All eyes are on us and many will follow the lead that our actions depict, so it is essential to think before we act.

The system in this country allows for so much corruption, but to steal and plunder is a choice. When faced with these situations and temptations, remember that the unpopular choice is most likely the right one. The situation in the country today is not the fault of this generation, but if we do not act upon it and leave the country in the same state when we die, then we have failed to maximize our potential.

Leaders set the tone for those who follow them and that shows how important good governance and leadership is, even in the situations that we are put in today as students. However, when we are thrust into the real world after graduation, we will begin once again at the bottom of the food chain, yet that should not affect our values, no matter what environment we will be in. Whether you are an elected official of a country, a traffic enforcer, or a student leader, there is always a choice.

The next time you’re stopped by a conniving traffic enforcer, curse the system that allows this  madness and not the man in front of you who is just a byproduct of it. These people emulate their leaders and what they see from them, so those on top should always set the right example.  If leaders set the right tone, everyone and everything else will follow.  The solution here comes from the top, but it begins with everyone’s choice to plunder or not. 

Ronaldo Manzano