ONE FRIDAY NIGHT, after an exhausting workweek, I was in a video shop in Laoag looking for a good movie to watch when I chanced at City Councilor Joseph Tamayo who was also on a scout for good films. The good councilor suggested to me “Law-abiding Citizen,” a film that stars Jamie Foxx.
The movie intrigued me instantly because I consider myself a citizen who has high regard for the rule of law, and more so in Laoag, the city of my affections. A traffic enforcer flagged me one time because my motorcycle had an open pipe. I am not a fan of anything noisy, my friends know how much I value silence, but when I bought the second-hand vehicle, it was set-up with an open pipe, and I was not aware that it was not welcome in my city given the number of motorcycles with open pipes around her streets. But informed that I was in violation of an Anti-Nuisance Ordinance, I respectfully presented my driver’s license, gladly accepted my violation ticket, and sincerely thanked the traffic enforcer for conscientiously doing his job. I went to the city hall and paid my three-hundred-peso fine the next day.
My friends would later on laugh at me. “You should have told the enforcer that you’re from the media, and he would have given you a chance,” they said. Sadly, they didn’t get the point. I write for a community newspaper and so I am in a better position to know existing legislation. It was a shame that I was ignorant, and the least that I could do was to pay my dues, and help inform the public of the law.
Tamayo, I know, is of the same stock. He was once flagged by Land Transportation Office personnel due to a violation: the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s majority leader was not wearing a helmet. He likewise accepted his ticket and went through the process, like any law-abiding citizen should.
As a survivor of two motorcycle accidents, I know how important the wearing of helmet is. Sans the protection a reliable head gear, either I would not be alive now or permanent damaged would have marked my shining, shimmering, widening forehead. And so I wear that monstrosity, no matter how inconvenient, every time I ride my motorcycle, and I encourage others to do the same.
I am a law-abiding citizen, and our washerwoman, who knows that I would rather keep garbage in my pocket rather than throw them in Laoag’s patently clean streets, would attest.
But what does one do when faced with a law that is patently strange, such as the one recently sponsored by Tamayo, Franklin Dante Respicio, Donald Nicolas, and David Frez? City Ordinance No. 2010-03 penalizes, among others, the wearing of tsinelas while riding a motorcycle in any street in the city.
This piece of legislation does not reflect the true sentiment of the people these gentlemen were voted to represent. I do not say that laws must always be populist, for real leaders, dear karikna, must not be afraid to make difficult decisions, and this is the best time to make unpopular legislation because the elections are over two years away, definitely not the time to fear losing votes, given our people’s short memory. But I believe the Sangguniang Panlungsod, who unanimously approved the ordinance, are wasting their political capital on this particular measure.
The public, as expected, met this ordinance with much resistance—from farmers who do not own shoes to sons sent by their frantic mothers to buy three pieces of tomato at the market.
I join my city mates in asking: Is there credible research proving that the wearing of shoes lessens the incidence of motorcycle accidents? Do these councilors still know the plight of the common man, or have they become all too comfortable in their ivory towers? The ordinance is said to be based on a little known Administrative Order from the DOTC LTO (A.O. AHS 2008-015) which the city council decided to codify, so it is legal, but is it reasonable? I must admit that the ordinance, as a whole, is really meant to promote safety and order, and to help avert crimes. It is sad then that a valuable piece of legislation is trivialized due to a provision only shoemakers are happy of. I am yet to know any other place where the motorcycle-riding public are forbidden to wear slippers. Not even Marikina, the shoe capital of the Philippines, thought of this. Yes, we are first, but this is a first I doubt we can be proud of. By the way, not even the LTO is seriously implementing the no-slippers rule.
But I bet our city traffic enforcers will be dutiful in implementing the ordinance. Fifty percent of the proceeds from penalties (PhP500 first offense, Php700 second offense, Php1000 third offense plus revocation of driver’s license) go to their allowances. I am sure that our underpaid traffic guys—including my high school classmate Roger Domingo—would be extra alert, strict, and unforgiving. But please do not get mad at the poor fellows. No foul words and raised eyebrows, please. The guys ought to do their job, which is, of course, to implement traffic laws, no matter how ridiculous.
The standing joke in Laoag is that, at least, when a motorcycle rider meets an accident, he/she is japorms.
The proponents, despite public opposition, are reportedly standing by the contestable provision by saying, “Anyway, it is already a law. Dura lex sed lex.” This smacks of indifference. Surely, it is within their powers to amend the same law. Surely, dear karikna, accepting a mistake and rectifying it is not a sign of weakness, but a mark of true gentlemen.
Meanwhile, our law enforcers are thrown into a situation where they have become the Fashion Police (with apologies to real fashion gurus and fashion divas like Ericke Tan and my cousin Myrene Ramos). Instead of attending to real crimes committed by real criminals, their hands will now be full in checking what people wear and do not wear, and in apprehending fashion victims. More shoes! I wonder what my idol Madam Imeda Marcos has to say on this issue, I hope Batac does not follow through.
The ordinance further includes among “protective devices” goggles and leather boots; and protective clothing such as “heavy pants, heavy jackets, leather gloves, and rain suit.” Wow, heavy! While no penalties have yet been set on the non-wearing of these, a silent, forgiving, and forgetful citizenry could wake up one day looking like cowboys right in the heart of the city. And the honorable (and fashionable) councilors, aboard their fancy cars, would be laughing out loud.
So what should a law-abiding citizen do at this point? Definitely not what the nemesis of Jamie Foxx’s character did when his state’s justice system did not work: sow terror by killing lawyers, criminals, and public officials. I will wear the prescribed clothing and devices, and will encourage city mates to do the same, in respect of the law, but I will, in the same spirit of citizenship, continue to initiate resistance against this sorry joke masquerading as a city ordinance.