New rules

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 22, 2013 – 12:00am

There are new rules.

No, you and I were not consulted. No one was. But for the few who were astute enough to observe them while they were being written, the new rules are less of a surprise.

Take the weather. The unbelievable amount of rainfall happening in many parts of the world is unprecedented. Photos of the Colorado floods taken from space went viral a few days ago and it showed a huge portion of the state overrun by dangerous rushing waters. Guangjou in China experienced something similar a few weeks back. It looked like the Pacific Ocean which they been claiming to be part of China was suddenly theirs — except that it was right inside their own country!

We don’t even have to look that far. Our weather patterns right here in the Philippine have been going crazy. Extreme weather, which used to happen rarely, is happening now every three to five years. Massive flooding in many parts of the country will be more common. This is one of the new rules. Extreme weather is the new normal. So we better plan our cities, our architecture, agriculture and the rest of our lives around this.

In our own Gotham City that is Metro Manila, things like payday, Midnight Madness sales in malls, Baclaran day, Divisoria day, a rainy day, rush hour, rallies, strikes, the heavy presence of trucks, buses, a few stalled cars, a shootout between cops and criminals can create a standstill in our major thoroughfares. And it can happen in just a few minutes. It seems like we are living at the edge of chaos. There should be new MMDA rules now about scheduling events in EDSA that will ensure mobility is not too curtailed or hampered.

A lot has been happening lately.

Zamboanga woke up two weeks ago to a siege by MNLF terrorists. They have been making life miserable for everyone there. They have also enraged the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, 38 people, including senators and congressmen were charged with plunder and malversation of funds last week. There was also the uproar about Vice President Binay’s so-called “ceasefire” which never came to be.

All these may seem unrelated but the conspiracy theorist in me is suggesting they may be telling us something important. What is going on?

There are new rules quietly playing out and we may not be aware of them. New ways of doing things are being suggested and they are not fully evident yet. And the confusion will continue because people are not ready to sweep the old rules away.

I have listed above some of the problems we have, namely, traffic, the new weather patterns, terrorism, corruption, insensitive and corrupt public officials. There are many more.

I also mentioned some new rules that are already playing out. Here are some more:

1) People now more than ever want and expect things to function as they were meant to.

For example, streets, roads, highways, waterways were made for movement of people and goods. They must be kept that way. Rallying, occupying streets, or building on places like esteros that impede the flow of traffic or floodwaters is now a clear no-no. The relative ease of moving informal settlers to other places and the general public support for this seems to bear this out.

Notice too how many people went to the anti-pork Million Man march in Luneta. It was popularly supported not just for the reason that people care intensely about the issue, but also because the organizers took pains not to inconvenience anyone by holding it in a park instead of a public thoroughfare. That was well appreciated by the public. They even encouraged the picking up of litter and garbage after.

On the other hand, people did not go in big numbers to the EDSA shrine rally last Sept. 11 partly because they did not want to burden fellow citizens by contributing adversely to traffic in EDSA. People want to express themselves but do not want to inflict suffering on others while doing so. It also seems to suggest that people want things done more orderly and with predictability.

2) People want better governance that delivers solutions quickly and effectively.

While we still live with a lot of mediocrity and even downright lousy government service, it is clear that people are demanding better accountability and governance. The days are disappearing when people simply grin and bear the hardship, or sigh passively in frustration at news about inefficiency, scams and corruption by officials. They now want things solved quickly and effectively.

And people are not asking for martial law or any drastic disruption of the democratic process for things to get done. What they want is for the existing democracy to perform up to speed with the times and their growing expectations.

The generally positive response to the charging of the first batch of officials involved in the PDAF scandal shows this. They appreciated the relative speed and determination in filing the cases against powerful people. Hopefully, the next few weeks will further strengthen the confidence people have in our legal system.

On the Zamboanga siege, I sense that more people want the situation ended conclusively — meaning they prefer the rebels caught and brought to justice, or even killed rather than having a “ceasefire” or cessation of hostilities in exchange for free passage for the MNLF. They have caused too much trouble already. People want real solutions that solve problems with finality.

For the same reason, people are also supportive of the peace talks with the MILF and other factions because the roots of the problem are finally being addressed. We have seen ceasefires played out so many times before between warring forces that did not bring a lasting peace. People feel that this deal, through painstaking effort and goodwill from government and MILF has gone farther than any attempt in the past. As of now, it is seen as the best hope for a real peaceful settlement.

There are many reasons why people saw VP Binay’s ceasefire overtures in a suspicious light. Rightly or wrongly, the people saw it as a blatant attempt at engaging in “epal” politics.

They also saw in it an opportunity for the rebels to once again escape the heat of war giving them a chance to possibly regroup to fight another day. People want justice. Unfortunately, the Binay ceasefire, at least in the eyes of many, had all the makings of what previous administrations had done, which ended in failure. Netizens especially were turned off as they watched with disgust at what seemed like old discredited politics rearing its ugly head.

People are tired of ad hoc solutions. People want to see the proper authorities, the chain of command including the military and justice system perform their jobs within the framework of a lasting and just peace.

3) People want participative democracy more than ever.

More and more citizens are now discussing issues and expressing opinions, thanks to the Internet. As of last year, there were already more than 40 million Filipinos on Facebook and Twitter. The politicians had better take time and effort to listen or suffer the consequences.

Winning elections every few years is simply not enough. People want more engagement with their leaders. They want to express approval or disapproval of their leaders’ actions in almost every issue now. And they do so with speed. Note that
Enrile was a hero last year during the Corona trial. Revilla and Jinggoy were popular. But only a few months later, they are all reviled for the pork barrel scam. Opinions can change in a snap. And so can political fortunes.

4) While participative democracy is here, it is also important for everyone to be more informed.

Most information anyone needs is a few clicks away. There is nothing more insufferable than to read tweets, posts and rants coming from pure ignorance of facts and processes and a severe lack of understanding of the proper contexts involved.

The Internet is not a one-way street where we talk and our leaders must listen. We must also listen, even if critically, to get a greater grasp of the depths of our problems and the solutions open to us. The dialogue must be constant, dynamic and meaningful if we are to get anywhere.

I know these so-called new rules have been in existence in other societies for quite awhile already. But it is time for us to now adapt them and make them work for us. It’s time to make our democracy more mature, responsive so we can ensure a more egalitarian, efficient and orderly future.

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