DISCIPLINE is completely gone from our streets today. Our roads are congested and we have traffic jams. That is a given. We do not have the infrastructure to handle the number of vehicles plying our streets today.
But our commuting experience would be a lot more pleasant if the motorists were just disciplined and would follow rules. Is it that difficult to follow to stay in one’s lane? How about stopping before the pedestrian lane and not on it, or respecting a junction box? What has happened to the Cebuanos?
I went to Law School in 1995 in San Beda College in Manila. I was a very proud Cebuano because at that time we had discipline. The Cebuano motorist was the model motorist. None of the violations I mentioned above were being committed. Throughout my law school years, I would have schoolmates from Manila who would vacation here in Cebu, and they were nothing but impressed at how good the Cebuano motorists were. I even bragged to them about our state-of-the-art traffic system then that had sensors on the road that could detect whether or not there was a car above it so the computerized stop light will decide to give a green light or not. Now all of that discipline is gone, it is extinct.
Our rise to becoming the most disciplined motorist in the country began in 1988, when a young Tommy Osmeña was elected mayor. He spoke well, and many believed in him, that the best and the brightest was with him. I remember we had Sammy Darza, who was in charge of Citom (the traffic management team then) and received a salary of one peso a year. Yes, you read that right, one peso. He personally took a very active role in educating the Cebuanos of traffic rules and regulations. His traffic enforcers were not there primarily to apprehend the erring motorists but to educate the motorists of proper driving etiquette and the meaning of the roadsigns. By the time the 90s came, Cebuano motorists did not need to fight for space, simply because the other motorists would give room. Jay walking was a rare sight, and commuters were talking their rides on the Jeepney stop.
In 1995 Alvin Garcia became mayor, and he was mayor until 2001. With him were the idealist and smart people who were with Tommy Osmeña, there was a continuity. We had well-managed traffic from 1988 to 2001. In 2001, Tommy Osmeña and Alvin Garcia ran against each other for mayor and Tommy won. It was different this time. The good people who brought out discipline to our motorists did not want to work for Tommy. Sammy Darza and Tommy Osmeña did not get along anymore. It was at this time where the quality of our traffic management started to decline.
We are where we are now because the traffic management and enforcement has never been the same as it was from 1988 to 2001. It will just become worse and worse unless something drastic will be done. A pro-active traffic management team is what we need just like in the 90s. The challenge now is even greater as the other cities around Cebu City are also congested.
Traffic management now has to be in a larger scale and through cooperation with the surrounding cities. I just hope that the withdrawal of Mayor Tommy from Mega Cebu will not affect coordination between our neighboring cities with respect to traffic management.
Mayor Tommy Osmeña has announced that he will focus on solving the traffic mess. So far, it is what it is, just an announcement. While in Mandaue City, I have nothing but praises for Mayor Luigi Quisumbing. Traffic enforcers are visible, there are new clear traffic signs and he has started a drive against counterflowing motorists. It’s action, not talk.
Since I hold office in Mandaue, I really have felt the difference. A.S Fortuna is a lot more organized now with an enforcer directing traffic at every corner and the moment you hit Cebu City, which is the corner of Maria Luisa and A.S. Fortuna, there is no traffic enforcer and it is chaos.