A lot of problems in the Philippines would be solved by the proper enforcement of laws (not just “law enforcement”). However, that doesn’t mean we should push for certain laws that would help make the country a better place (and repeal or modify outdated ones). Laws that require…

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8. A Uniform for SONA Attendees

We agree with Miriam Defensor-Santiago: Why should the State of the Nation Address (SONA) be about an “obsession with bling“?

The SONA is part of the President’s duties, so it should be just another day at the office. That means even guests should be dressed in business attire, not showing off their gala best in one of the poorest countries in the world.

7. Public School Attendance for the Children of Public Officials

It’s a bit weird that the people responsible for public education in the Philippines won’t be affected by the decisions they make, since many of them send their kids to private schools.

So that’s why these officials should send their own kids to public schools in their home district. The children of a Congressman have to attend school in the lawmaker’s district, even if it’s the poorest one in the Philippines. The next time officials decide to let irregularities creep into funding for the school system, the fruit of their loins will suffer as well.

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6. Use of Public Transportation by Public Officials Once a Week

Many politicians and lawmakers travel in convoys, led by police motorcycles that clear the way. So these people don’t fight through the daily commute, and never experience moving around by train, bus, jeep, tricycle and walking.

Why not require them to take public transportation to work at least once a week? Then the public officials will understand better when people complain about the lack of adequate public transport, and the chaos caused by enterprising vehicle-owners filling the void (more on that later). If they don’t provide support for the next law, these politicians will also feel the effects of their decisions.

5. MA Central Mass Transit Planning Group for the Philippines

Erap’s law banning buses without a terminal inside the city has good intentions. Yet its implementation was inconsiderate for thousands of affected commuters and other cities whose traffic flow was disrupted by buses being turned back.

Why not create a central planning group that will plan and implement mass transit for the entire country? This new group would get funding from the national treasury, work with LGU officials to find the best public transportation solutions for every area, but it can also override local politicians when needed, and have sole responsibility for enforcing its programs.

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A group independent of local politicians can build train lines, plan bus routes, and control the flow of jeepneys and tricycles—for every area in the country—without any interference. It can also create solutions that benefit everyone. Instead of building train lines that don’t connect to each other, the group can build entire systems that consider cities, municipalities, and rural areas as a whole, not independent pieces with their own incompatible solutions.

Such a group would build a large bus terminal inside Manila, to get bus riders into the city, with jeepneys, tricycles and the LRT “distributing” people from this central location. Buses can only travel on certain roads, and can unload passengers only from the terminal.

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4. No More Private-Owned Public Utility Buses

The government needs to step up and take responsibility for large-scale public transport, not leave it in the hands of private operators who are (naturally) interested in profit. Bus operators in particular pay their drivers based on how much fare they collect. The result: drivers who act like mercenaries, flouting traffic laws and not giving a damn for everyone else if it means feeding their kids.

City buses should therefore be operated by the government, through the transport group detailed above. Drivers would be paid a fair salary no matter how many passengers they get, so there’s no more incentive for law-breaking and inconsideration for other vehicles on the road.

You can even pay drivers above the minimum wage and run city buses at a profit. How? By selling advertising space on the buses themselves, much like how the private operators now do.

3. Very Limited Car Use in the City

The last three laws push better mass transit, because it makes limiting car use within the city possible. No doubt, it’s more comfortable driving yourself to work, rather than line up for the train, jeep or bus in this weather. Yet driving a car is unsustainable for large and ultra-dense urban areas like Metro Manila. We’ll either end up with massive traffic jams, or cities with more roads than buildings. Not good either way.

Why can’t we limit car use (not ownership) in the city by making it so expensive, using mass transit becomes preferable for even the well-off? Remember, if everything goes according to plan, there would be a good mass transit system in place to serve anyone going anywhere.

This law won’t limit car ownership to only the ultra-rich, like in Singapore. Instead a high premium will be charged for those who decide to bring their cars to work, through automatic electronic toll systems that are more expensive to pass during rush hour.

It’s the best of both worlds. People can still use their cars if they’re willing to pay for regular use (or for those special occasions when a car is really needed), or opt for the more affordable and efficient mass transit when they go to work.

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2. That Reliable Internet Access be a Right

Not on the same level as a “human right” of course. Catching up with friends on Twitter isn’t as important as say, freedom from torture. Yet reliable internet access should be a “civil right,” something that the government must ensure for the people. This means strict level of service requirements for companies that provide paid internet, and free internet for those who can’t afford it.

It’s great when everyone can go online, through reliable connections. The internet provides useful information for anyone who knows how to look for it, and unlimited communication. People can look for jobs and submit their resumes, while poor families left behind by OFWs can keep in touch. In other words, this law is the National Broadband Network all over again, without the corruption and controversy.

Here’s some anecdotal evidence: a messenger in my wife’s office just had her second kid, and she realized that her husband who works as a janitor would need a better job to support the family. So she went to the neighborhood internet cafe and looked through Jobstreet, and set up a job interview for her spouse at a five-star hotel.

Over the next two years, he worked his way up, until he became the head of the hotel’s cleaning services group. Long story short, she resigned to take care of the kids, because he now makes enough for the entire family to live comfortably. Imagine if the internet was made available to all enterprising Filipinos, no matter where they are in this country?

1. Voters Only Choose Their Barangay Council

Depending on which election year, the average Filipino has to vote for their barangay council, city council, mayor, governor, congressman, and so on. With tens of positions to fill, with several names for each one, choosing the right candidate for all can be confusing even for educated voters.

So the tendency is to go for big names, with lots of brand recall, regardless of merit. Whenever people have to make a decision, they go for the easiest one (and putting in a name you know is easier than abstaining). Now I’m not saying that Nancy Binay is unqualified, but she became Senator because her dad happened to be Vice-President.

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Benjamin de la Peña thinks he has the solution to this problem of voter’s choice overload. He proposes that everyone only vote for their Barangay council members. The Barangay Council would select its own Chairman, who would be part of the District Council that chooses its Congressman and representative for the City Council, and so on.

The Barangay officials would be very accountable to the small communities (the new system calls for Barangays no larger than 500 people each) who voted for them. This means only qualified people would be voted, and that everyone up to the President would be part of this group of qualified leaders.

De la Peña argues that choosing only Barangay Council members, with higher positions filled from this pool of Council members, will not only lessen voter confusion, but prevent the celebrity influence on elections. Grace Poe might win a Barangay seat, but would Barangay, District, and Congress officials vote her all the way up to Senator?

Edit: Some of the comments below say that this 8List is too Metro Manila-centric, citing proposed laws #6 to #3, which focus on improving mass transit. As I’ve mentioned in the comments themselves, over two-thirds of the national population live within cities, urban areas that will become unsustainable without an efficient and affordable way for people to move around (and a limit on car usage). So any program that would fix the growing problem of poor public transportation would benefit a large segment of the country right away, not just Metro Manila.

Again, let me make it clear that the proposed transport planning group as detailed in #5 would come up with solutions not only for Metro Manila, but for the entire country. It would work to not only improve transportation inside cities, but between them and rural areas. I only cited Erap’s new bus law as an example that such a planning group could improve and build on.

Share your suggestions on what other laws can make the country better in the Comments Section.

P.S. Take a look at ways you can give feedback to our government.

Image Credits:
8 swedes-love-fashion.blogspot.com
7 Gulfnews.com, antipinoy.com
6 Flickr.com, newsinfo.inquirer.net
5 investphilippines.org, dmcinet.com
4 manilamosaic.com, juice.ph
3 philstar.com, stuffunemployedpeoplelike.com
2 janeuymatiao.compinoygigs.com
1 newsinfo.inquirer.net

Rico Mossesgeld

Rico is a frustrated writer, web developer, and tech blogger. Check out rico.mossesgeld.com for more details.

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