Only in the Philippines will you see a government truck with a huge dripping-wet rag swinging from a beam that tries to hit early-morning jaywalkers. Such is a new program in place from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). First we giggled at the pink public sidewalk urinals to encourage men to stop peeing on the walls of random buildings like dogs since they now have a designated place of relief. Next we laughed at the “shirtless man” ordinance that attempted to ticket the hundreds of thousands of men who walk the streets wearing nothing other than shorts and flip-flop sandals all day long. (Personally I think pot-bellied shirtless men should be shot on sight simply for bad taste!) Now we have the latest in a long line of hilarious attempts to force anti-jaywalking discipline on the hapless poor masses that roam Metro Manila by hitting them with a wet rag. I've also heard that paintball guns where even considered. Somehow I think that shooting paintballs might start a civil war, should a wayward pellet strike a shiny new Ford Expedition and the driver fires back with a 9mm.
What happens is that early in the morning, commuters have to catch jeepneys that take them to their respective offices. The jeepney drivers believe themselves to be “king of the road” and rarely, if ever, follow those no loading/unloading zone laws. (Actually when I think about it, I don't think jeepeney drivers follow any of the rules of the road.) In addition, falling into an orderly line and waiting your turn is a rare phenomenon here in the Philippines. Therefore, what happens is that girls and guys on their way to work will spill out into the streets in an attempt to be first in line to be picked up by a jeep. It results in anarchy, and the local authorities do little or nothing to curtail the jaywalkers or the jeepney drivers by giving tickets. Instead they just stand by and watch the madness. A further result is that the orderly flow of car traffic grinds to nearly a complete stop and pretty much remains congested for the rest of the day. So the head of the MMDA decided to put a stop to the jaywalkers by this “band-aid” of a solution via slapping them with wet towels to keep them on the sidewalk. Now I went outside to witness this nonsense, and it was just as I suspected. As the truck with the wet rag would come lumbering down the street, the people would see it, and then run back onto the sidewalk. As soon as it passed, they would merely rush back to the middle of the street where they were previously standing. Ah yes…that’s the way I want my tax money spent!
As a result, human rights watch-dogs are up in arms screaming about violation of the rights of the commuters. The local mayors and the MMDA chief are bickering and threatening to arrest the agents of one another if either party interferes. Of course, the President of the Philippines doesn’t want any part of this. Thanks a bunch guys...you are making it so much "easier" for me to convince people to retire here and sell condos!
Any idiot can see the solution here: Enforce the existing jaywalking laws, and give tickets to the jeepney drivers for illegal loading/unloading. Once a few people get some nasty fines, the rest of the people will get the hint. How hard is that? Most other developed nations follow this plan and everything works out just fine. But as they say, “only in the Philippines…”
January 20th, 2005
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