In the inaugural speech of Philippine President Noynoy Aquino, I and my colleagues were pleasantly surprised hearing him start with an item considered to be a pet peeve among multitudes of Filipinos – the use of sirens and blinkers. In fact, the reference to sirens as “wang-wang” puts it in the proper context where use is actually abuse. The “wang-wang” has been a symbol of how many of our government officials as well as those who perceive themselves as entitled have abused our traffic systems to get their way at the expense of others that they seem to believe have much lesser values of time compared to theirs.
Many who have been forced to surrender their sirens and blinkers state various reasons for doing so, including being professionals who needed to be in certain places at certain times. Among these are medical doctors and lawyers who have always claimed to be in a hurry, in the process of addressing emergencies of both the real and the imagined kind. While there are other opposing views on this, I firmly believe that the same people totally missed the point regarding the new president’s stand against “wang-wang” and his current personal crusade against beating the red light, counter-flowing, and the use of sirens by his own presidential convoy.
The statement should be pretty clear that only emergency vehicles may use sirens especially because they are responding to matters of life and death. These include ambulances, fire trucks and official police vehicles that should have distinct sounds according to international standards. The distinction is important for people to be able to recognize what type of vehicle is attempting to come through. But more importantly, the statement is also to show everyone, whatever his place in society may be, that the days of abuse are past and that this administration will do its part to bring back decency in our roads starting with the drive against “wang-wangs.” It is also actually an excellent case for leading by example, and one that hopefully can be sustained by P-Noy and adopted by his officials. For our part, we should make our own contributions and practice more discipline when we drive, commute or even walk along the street. It is not an exercise in futility but rather an exercise in humility and productivity – a demonstration of our commitment to change and help this country become great again.