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It was with morbid anticipation that we watched on social media last Saturday a video clip that showed Highway Patrol Group officers flag down a Nissan Terra on Friday, November 6th, for allegedly having no license plates and conduction stickers. 

When the polite Cavite HPG personnel requested for the driver’s license and the vehicle’s Official Receipt and Certificate of Registration, none were produced by the occupants. The driver, who did not respond to the policemen, seemed either nonchalant about it all or was so nervous of being apprehended, he just froze. He eventually closed the window of the SUV as the officers were still explaining to them their violations.  

After another minute of the video’s running time, it showed that the driver was attempting to drive away from the officers. It was then that the HPG policeman with the body camera approached and knocked on the driver’s door.  What happened next was a rain of bullets that the suspect directed to the policemen before he himself was taken down. Two dead – one Cavite Highway Patrol Team member  who is a husband and a father of five – and one deranged shooter who apparently had a prior road rage incident linked to him. 

The Internet was alive with shoulda, woulda, couldas yet again as keyboard warriors mourned and scorned the policemen who put their lives on the line that fateful Friday afternoon. Just another day at work. For one of them, it would be his last day alive. 

Motorists and law enforcers have always had a fractious relationship. While most incidents do not result in the loss of life, there have been many that turn into shouting matches and chest-thumping. In this case, it does not matter who is right. What matters is who has the louder voice and who sticks by his version of the story until the end. Whatever the facts may be.

The way we motorists treat policemen and their deputized agents like MMDA traffic enforcers and city peace and order constables, is a reflection on our apparent lack of respect for the law. Emboldened by a padrino culture of having “connections” with people in power, we continue to nurture the idea that somehow, we are above the law. That our so called “connections” can spare us the hassle of apprehension, allow us to shortcut the process of retrieving our confiscated licenses, or worse, give us the sick satisfaction of getting back at the apprehending official for merely not knowing who they were enforcing the law on. 

If the recent anti-police demonstrations in the USA made us realize something, it is that we are having it easy here. In other countries, the police can tackle you into submission for merely being uncooperative. They can arrest you for speaking your mind. Having a bad attitude can land you in jail. The worst of course is they can shoot you for just being, well, you. 

As motorists, we have been granted a privilege to drive as evidenced by the driver’s licenses we carry. A license, however, doesn’t give us the right to demean other motorists. Neither do our licenses give us the right to throw our weight around as if the law does not apply to us. 

It is this lack of respect for the law that has us seeing drivers wantonly disregard traffic signs, and counter-flow on the opposing lane just to get ahead of others. Or cut into a queue at the last minute because they were at the wrong place, at the wrong time. This lack of respect for laws and norms is what makes motorists drive into one way streets because it is easier than going around the block to enter from the right direction. This same disregard for the law is why motorists drive on the shoulder in order to move ahead of a jam, which by doing so, they now have a hand in propagating. 

This undisciplined attitude of motorists is why the old yellow lanes were never taken seriously by them and bus drivers alike. And why there are still hard-headed drivers and motorcyclists who use the walled-out EDSA Carousel lanes even though there are clear signages that they are for buses only.  It is why jeepney and bus drivers just stop anywhere they please to take in and offload passengers. And it is why pedestrians cross anywhere they please as long as it is the shortest route, traffic be damned. 

It is the same willful disregard of the law why some vehicle owners resort to removing their license plates and replacing them with the license plates of their other cars when it is coding day. Or worse, they just remove the license plates altogether and pass off their conduction stickers as temporary plates just to be able to use their cars without apprehension. 

Fortunately for most, they have never experienced being on the other end of a cautious policeman’s pistol who would rather draw on a motorist first, than be blindsided like what happened last week. 

It would not be surprising if the Highway Patrol Group would deploy more personnel to patrol our roads now in response to last week’s shooting incident. It would also be not surprising if they become more strict in enforcing the law and apprehending erring motorists. This is what  they should be doing 24/7 anyway if they want motorists to be more aware of the restrictions to their privilege to drive. 

People obey laws because of the fear of being caught. Just look at the way traffic laws are enforced in Subic. But perhaps for the long-term, the government should find ways to make people obey laws not because of fear, but because they know it is their civic duty to do so. And that by obeying these laws, they are setting an example for others to follow. I can’t wait for that day to finally come. 

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