SKEPTICS chuckled when President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, in his efforts to set an example that sharply contrasts with the Arroyo presidency, especially on the use of sirens or “wang-wang,” got stuck in Metro Manila’s vicious traffic. A journalist friend said it seems Noy’s rivals during the recent election campaign were right in saying he would be an OJT. As president, P.Noy needs to use the sirens to get through traffic fast, ensure his security against assassins, and make better use of his time. After all, he is not abusing his position.

On the other hand, it also seems many cannot understand what setting an example for uprightness means. The way I viewed that wang-wang-traffic situation, P.Noy conveyed the message that if he, as president, can endure traffic congestion and not use his lofty position to get through fast, why can’t lesser mortals?

I expect many of his millions of avid supporters, including senators and congressmen and other high officials, to eagerly follow his example and create a critical mass of citizens who will dutifully follow simple traffic rules. If tipping point principles are correct in assessing human behavior, this should be a simple start in changing the values of Filipinos, who prefer shortcuts when no one is looking. President Noy getting stuck in traffic should go a long way in conveying the message that the new administration means business in setting things right in our country.

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I hope teachers will get the hint. I am saying this because many simply cross the road, oblivious of the overpass or pedestrian lane nearby, in full view of their students. How can we teach school children the value of following our laws when they see their teachers jaywalking?

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Bound by rules of a traditional political system, President Aquino faces enormous obstacles in getting his anti-corruption programs and reforms in place. For instance, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan needs the support of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in his bid to become the next Senate president so he can be instrumental in getting the Senate to support the President’s legislative agenda.

Although Enrile has already declared in the past that he won’t support Sen. Manny Villar, I expect him to drive a hard bargain in exchange for his pro-Pangilinan vote, like leniency from customs and the LTO when dealing with imported vehicles passing through Port Irene. I am sure Senator Enrile does not want to kill the whole industry in Cagayan Valley that revolves around the entry of imported vehicles.

Care must also be undertaken in efforts to curb smuggling. I agree the smuggling infrastructure set up to benefit the powers-that-be in the past administration should be dismantled. But overzealousness against technical smuggling can also strike fear among even legitimate importers who, like in the past, will simply stop importing and adopt a wait-and-see position.

This will immediately have an adverse impact on customs collection. Consider also that most technical smuggling operations involve cheap but quality rice from Vietnam and Thailand. The present rice production in the Philippines is not enough to feed its growing population. Imagine the resulting political crisis if the price of rice doubles overnight.

But while dealing with corruption cannot just be a question of what’s black and white because there is a lot gray, I am confident President Aquino and his new administration will be able to hurdle these obstacles.

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A friend of mine who worked hard for the Noy-Mar tandem said he has received an offer to help out in Malacañang.

However, he wants to lend a hand outside government, saying the Palace is a snake pit. “I’ve been there,” he said. I recalled the OIC days under former president Corazon Aquino, when another friend of mine was asked to work in Malacañang. She did not last long because of internal and external intrigues that even pushed out Cabinet members.

On the other hand, the Palace managers President Noy has brought with him are fresh faces, with a high degree of idealism.

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