MANILA -- Malacañang officials on Friday were delighted by the positive change in the mentality of some public officials in response to the President's reminder on the use of siren in his inaugural speech on Wednesday.
In one of the most loudly applauded portions of his inaugural speech, President Benigno Aquino III said he had experienced the frustration of being stuck in traffic while powerful people in siren-blaring cars breezed by. He promised "no more wang-wang," the local term for sirens.
Since he assumed office on Wednesday, Aquino and his security escorts have not used siren while traveling from one place to another.
Several lawmakers applauded the gesture and urged others officials to follow Aquino's lead.
"The President's example of good government is infectious," Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a text message Friday.
Marikina City Representative Marcelino Teodoro said the President should not just be the one setting as good example but the lawmakers as well.
"Legislators should be the role models of Filipinos," he said in a statement, admiring Aquino in stricter implementation of law on the use of siren.
"If the President submits to non-use of wang-wang and other special privileges in traffic situations, who are we to go beyond it? We are lawmakers and not law breakers. We must all accept the call of the highest official of the land to avoid untoward abuse of authority," he added. "No one is above the law. If a legislator cannot observe simple traffic rules, how much more can one create laws?" Teodoro said.
Gabriela Representative Luzviminda Ilagan, for her part, called on all members of the House of Representatives to abide by the command of the chief executive.
"I have never used wang-wang," she pointed out.
"Also, the No. 8 plate should be used judiciously. My personal car in Davao City does not have that plate while my Manila vehicle uses that plate only on official trips," she added.
The non-use of siren eliminates the impression that congressmen are special people and that the No. 8 plate becomes a passport to arrogant behavior and even abuse, she noted.
"Only during emergencies should the 'wang-wang' be used and the number 8 car plates should not be seen in nightclubs and similar establishments."
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, meanwhile, said he will not have a problem on not using siren because he is not used to such practice.
As consequence of not using siren, President Aquino was 40 minutes late for his first address to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Friday after some painful crawling through Manila's gridlocked streets.
The installation of Lieutenant General Ricardo David and Retired Lieutenant General Voltaire Gazmin as new Armed Forces chief and Defense chief, respectively, was scheduled at 10 a.m. Aquino arrived more than 30 minutes late.
"I apologize for being late," Aquino later told reporters. He said his security detail will soon "perfect" his convoy's movements so he won't be late again.
With his decision not to use siren and blinkers, he travels just like an ordinary citizen, stopping at every traffic light.
Filipinos generally deride sirens, regarding them as a symbol of abuse of power and privilege and a display of arrogance by officials as well as the rich and powerful.
Under a loosely enforced law, the President, Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker and Supreme Court Chief Justice are the only civilians allowed to use sirens for their vehicles or convoys.
Aquino appeared to have endeared himself to ordinary Filipinos for suffering Manila's notorious traffic alongside them.
Whenever the convoy stopped, presidential security officers opened the doors of their vehicles, ready to jump out in case of a threat to the president.
The new president's example will encourage police to enforce the siren law more strictly, Philippine National Police spokesman Leonardo Espina said.
He said some officers had been threatened with dismissal by officials and wealthy businessmen for stopping convoys that were illegally using "wang-wangs" and flashing lights.
On Friday, Aquino used his personal sports utility vehicle, which he opted to use as his presidential vehicle.
According to Lacierda, the No. 1 plate on the presidential car was already transferred to his personal car, a white Toyota Land Cruiser SUV.
He meanwhile assured that the SUV of the President is bullet proof but not as high resistant to bullet than the presidential limousine. (Jill Beltran/AP/Sunnex)