THE picture of soldiers bearing long firearms while helping traffic enforcers impose road rules brought about many narratives.

One is that long firearms intended for foreign threats are being trained on compatriots. Another is that civilian traffic enforcers must have given up on the problem that soldiers have to boost them. And still another is the thought that any problem that does not have an immediate solution would require military intervention.

But those long firearms should be directed at external threats to the country’s security, not at Filipinos on their way to work, school or home. That is happening now largely because of the gravity of the lack of order on streets with commuters and vehicle owners ignoring traffic rules.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is primarily meant to protect the country from external threats. Soldiers are better armed than the police because they are supposed to be combat-ready to thwart security threats. The function of the Armed Forces is to uphold sovereignty, support the Constitution, defend Philippine territory against all enemies foreign and domestic, and advance aims toward national security.

Traffic is not directly related to sovereignty and defending the country’s territory but one might argue that the refusal to obey road rules could be detrimental to our independence and our freedoms to go about our daily lives without loss of productive hours due to traffic.

That is the reason local officials and citizens, basing on online commentary, welcomed the fielding of soldiers to help ensure that people on the road follow rules.

There are those who welcomed the sight of soldiers on the roads while there are others who saw this as a prelude to military rule. Those against it feared that militarization of the roads is not what the Armed Forces is all about and that these soldiers are best placed in areas where there are security threats.

Others asked if it does not belittle the role that the military profession plays in society. “They are trained to defend the country and the Constitution not to become traffic enforcers. All those years of training and this is how our leader treats them?” This was the question posed online by one identified as Don Bathan Lomarda. Another comment, by Emma Swan, said, “No to that. That is when we lose our freedom. The military’s job is to protect our country from the outside world, not inside.”

Soldiers on the roads are there to follow instructions from their commanders. They know their functions and their primary role in keeping our freedoms and, perhaps, our sanity. What is worrisome is the reaction of some who favor this unique arrangement that allows the Armed Forces to train their guns on the populace when their presence is meant to help put order on our streets.

Solving road congestion is not only about imposing the rules but also about infrastructure, planning and policy, and priorities.