THE LEGAL FRONT
By JUSTICE ART D. BRION (RET.)
Mayor Isko hit the ground running in his first 2 months in office. He started by clearing and cleaning Divisoria of its filth and disorder on his first day, and he has not stopped since then in improving Manila and in announcing his plans.
Among others, he also cleaned up Quiapo; inquired and visited bars selling liquor to ensure they comply with city ordinances; inspected student dormitories to see if they are fairly decent; granted allowances to the student of the universities under the city’s care; and did a lot of things that have attracted public attention.
Of course, the public took notice because Mayor Isko is media savvy and always has media people around. He is also out to please in the way that the actor and the politician in him demands. All these have given rise to the query: are his activities merely for show or are they driven by his desire to really improve the city and show residents that this can be done?
It is too early to tell after only 2 energized months in office. We don’t know yet his reserves of energy and the actual visions and ambitions pushing him.
Serving the city and making his achievements known, though, are not incompatible goals. He may want to improve the city as he was born and raised here and had known what it was to be poor. We cannot also begrudge him the publicity he craves and gets; publicity has been part of his natural environment as an actor and as a politician.
Rather than raise questions, I accept things as they come. As a Manileno and a Filipino, I pray for two things that I hope Mayor Isko would do.
I pray that he would continue and will not slacken in these tasks, and would extend these evenly and consistently to all of Manila. It is time to rejuvenate our city and bring back its old glory.
I also pray that he would look beyond the superficial political value of his accomplishments, and aim for their long term effects on Manila, its people, and the nation. His is the potential to positively affect people’s ways and mindsets.
To reiterate what I said about President Digong, Mayor Isko’s efforts would result in cosmetic changes if the people of Manila would not see these as part of a higher vision that they must join. If the people are not there, then Divisoria and Quiapo shall once again be dirty and chaotic the moment Mayor Isko leaves office as he someday must.
Manilans must therefore begin to identify with and be proud of their clean and orderly city and learn to join hands in using the strength of their will as a community to push and entice others to share these sentiments. They must begin to so act – on their own and as a solid community – to keep their city clean and orderly. And they must feel shame if they fail.
The same goes true in the administration of City Hall affairs, another area that the Mayor Isko has focused on. The same-day rule in transacting with the city can only happen if our city officials and employees will feel proud of a sterling performance and be ashamed if they fail.
All these are not impossibilities as President Digong had previously achieved these same feats in Davao City; the city was a model progressive community – in terms of order, cleanliness and efficiency – when he was mayor. It has maintained this character till now because this may be the new normal: they appear to have changed their standards, their mindsets, and their ways.
Incidentally, Ateneo de Davao Law School is now the 2nd ranking law school nationwide based on its performance in the Bar exams in the last 5 years. It bowed only to UP and even beat its sister school, the Ateneo de Manila Law School which ranks 3rd. Could the Davaoenos’ attitude towards their city have rubbed off on the way that law professors teach and law students study? Should Mayor Isko give Manila’s university belt added focus?
If the President could lead in changing the ways and the attitudes in Davao City from what these had been during its free-wheeling Alsa Masa days, why can’t the feat be repeated nationwide?
If the people of Manila are sitting up and taking notice of Mayor Isko’s attempt to rehabilitate their shabby city, then people’s attitudes and beliefs – even their attitudes towards corruption – may not be beyond change.
Our people may simply be waiting for signals from their leaders on where to go, what to do, and they will follow. Thus, matters – even on corruption – are not irremediable. All our leaders must perhaps do is to give the signals and lead as exemplars in beating the path towards new directions.
I would be presumptuous if I even suggest to President Digong how he should act to maximize our countryment’s positive traits and to disavow their negative ones. My training is in the law, not in governance where the law is just a tool; advising the President on governance is beyond my level of competence.
I can help, however, by pointing out the strong Filipino traits that the President can harness for effective and lasting governance. The first of these traits, of course, is the sense of “hiya.” Let us bring back this inner compulsion towards the path people should follow.
We Filipinos also have an enhanced sense of, and pride in our, community. Both traits are ingrained, but can lie buried and undetected, in every Filipino. These traits must surface and be stoked to their fullest at every opportunity. I should know as it took me years as an immigrant to miss the Philippines and to appreciate that we Filipinos are very proud of our nation and our people.
The last traits I would suggest are our respect for our elders, for authority and for our traditions. Together, these are our version of the western world’s rule of law. Our leaders should not fail to cite them when encouraging our countrymen to follow the law.