By Elizabeth Angsioco
I wanted to write a light piece. I like dwelling on the positive side of things and solutions instead of problems. I do not get easily disturbed. Recent events, however, have worried me so much that I could not bring myself to doing the light piece I had wanted to write.
In the last weeks, carnappings, murders, road accidents, bombings, and a construction site accident dominated the news. Many lives were lost and many more people were injured. In most cases, ordinary people and their families were the victims.
The bombings in Makati and Maguindanao were acts of terrorism however we look at them. While no one was hurt in the Thursday Maguindanao incident, authorities say that it could have targeted a bus which just passed the area minutes before the explosion. The gruesome EDSA-Makati bus bombing on the other hand, resulted in five people dead and many others injured.
These bombings were aimed at sowing terror. These were direct threats, like telling us, “You can be next.” There was no regard for who would be hit unlike others that targeted enemies or rivals. These were addressed to us all.
My son commutes daily from school and to wherever he goes. Many of my staff use the public transportation system like most of the other people I work with. They could have been in that bus on EDSA.
Road accidents also disturb me. Just from Thursday to early Friday this week, a bus and car collided in Quezon that injured 17 people; three were killed as a truck rammed a tricycle in Pangasinan; a delivery van crashed a parked multi-cab killing seven people; and driver was hurt after his pick-up fell into a creek in Quezon City. Ten killed and 18 injured within 24 hours!
I wonder if there were other accidents that didn’t make it to the news. It is possible that not all were reported, or if they were reported, they were not carried by national news. This means that there could have been more deaths and injuries.
Our roads are unsafe. This is the message we get from all the news about road accidents in different parts of the country. We all use our roads as commuters, motorists or pedestrians. We all are affected.
Days earlier, a woman was killed as she was crossing Commonwealth Avenue, the ‘Killer Highway’ because of the many accidents resulting in deaths that happen there.
My whole family traverses Commonwealth Avenue often. I have witnessed several collisions and accidents there. A few times, I was nearly hit. My other son is a new driver, and he and my daughter and son-in-law also frequently use Commonwealth. I worry.
Even those who own vehicles cannot be complacent. Carnappers do not just take vehicles, they murder. It is as if you have to be thankful if these criminals simply get your car and leave you alive. Insane!
As stated, most of the victims of these crimes and accidents were ordinary people simply going about their lives. The Eton Residences construction site accident killed 10 workers. They were simply trying to make a living. I feel a connection with them because of our work with construction workers’ organizations for policies to protect them.
Many of those who died were family breadwinners, while a number were young people who were trying to start their lives. They were productive citizens. Their families’ loss is the whole country’s loss.
We can only imagine the grief of the families of those who perished and the terror of those who survived. Think about how Irish’s (one fatality) mother must feel knowing that Irish did not usually take buses but did so to pick-up her (mother’s) eyeglasses. Imagine how the driver must feel after seeing broken bodies, dying passengers, blood on his clothing. I hope they will be able to normally go on with their lives.
These days, I detect fear in people. Even social media is replete with messages of concern about what’s happening around us. We tell each other to be careful, not only as a matter of decorum, but as a warning.
To complicate matters, many do not feel secure with the effectiveness of our systems and capacity of our officials to adequately address these problems. In fact, there are accusations against people in government as party to some of these crimes. It’s a SNAFU – systems normal: all fouled up. It’s systems failure.
To be fair, citizens must participate. Accidents can be prevented if we: follow rules, especially traffic laws; drive defensively rather than offensively; observe road courtesy; are extra careful where we park; and do what is asked of us by authorities.
However, government has the bigger responsibility in maintaining peace and order, especially the strict implementation of laws. Why are criminals and terrorists so emboldened? Why do people break even ordinary laws? It is because they think they can get away with it. They know that our systems and authorities are weak. There is little respect for our laws, our authorities. Sadly, this is the mindset, a dangerous mindset.
Authorities cannot be content with piecemeal actions. The situation needs major changes in our systems, manner of doing things, and people’s mindset. Again, political will is crucial.
Addressing terrorism and criminality is not simple but we know that these groups strike at weaknesses. The weaker we are, the more vulnerable we get. Thus, a more effective intelligence, preventive measures, increased capacity to address these must be in place.
Laws must be followed. Construction safety standards need strict monitoring. Traffic violators, whoever they are, should be apprehended consistently. Stringent measures should be implemented in granting drivers’ licenses. Fixers and arrangements with driving schools facilitating release of licenses must be stopped. Vehicles should be road-worthy so accidents due to malfunctions are minimized. Strict vehicle registration and franchising must be done.
The justice system needs to be efficient. Cases should be resolved swiftly and criminals put behind bars.
These are but some things authorities should do to fix our systems, get out of this SNAFU.
I want my family, and yours, safe.
Elizabeth Angsioco is a columnist for the Manila Standard Times. Responsible Citizenship is republished here with permission from Ms. Angsioco