A basic human right: the right to choose a car

A basic human right: the right to choose a car image

Text: Tito F. Hermoso / Photos: | posted February 08, 2011 12:16

The everyman in all of us

Let's be fair

Like everyman, we somehow project ourselves with the icons we want to be and associate with. Sixty years ago, we chose presidents who looked like our fathers or the village elder: straitlaced, decent, as respectable as one's father or a priest. Heroic times demanded heroic leaders. As the generation of the educated spread, our taste in elected leaders shifted to the sons of the earth, though deserving to lead by dint of education. The election of Diosdado Macapagal showed that one need come from the landed-mestizo class to deserve to lead the country. The victory of Ferdinand Marcos over Raul Manglapus showed that the populace can elect an intellectual for the populists, but not an intellectual for the college kid class.

Like youth, votes are wasted on the young

After that, we had our first lady president elected on the street and not by ballot box as a living symbol of heroism. When the power to elect presidents returned to the ballot box, a soldier-administrator barely beat a firebrand genius of a lady. If our electing population in 1992 had today's more severe bias in favor of young voters, who knows, we may have had our 2nd lady president then.

The huge "landscape"

With the trauma of the post '86 recovery years, the strident, sensationalist and innuendo fond new media were able to entertain the populace out their misery. From here sprang a new kind of Filipino leader. He didn't have to be a hero fighting a war. That's just for the movies. He even shouldn't look intellectual, as Filipino everyman has had enough trusting intellectuals as leaders. All he had to do is to be like everyman. Behave like him. Back slap like him. Eat, drink, socialize and have his same faults, etc. In short, the celebrity dream boat that media has taught whole generations to aspire for has become a mirror of everyman. Never mind if he could not lead so long as he appeared to. just like one of the world's greatest leaders, one Ronald Reagan. Remember, he brought down Communism by just being himself; an actor. And the country elected him with a huge "landscape".

We are all everyman

If everyman has, presumably many of us, a dream car - the proverbial jackpot mentality scenario of winning the Lotto - buying a Porsche will surely be among the top of the list. Never mind if everyman who dreams of owning a Porsche hasn't the foggiest idea of what it means and what it can do.

Brand leadership

The first point of all this is that we get the leader we deserve. The majority of us voted - without revealing the secrecy of our Picos-read ballot - for someone of the times. Its as if the population is saying: we don't need heroes. Nor do we need college kid idealists of the Taft or Diliman persuasion. We don't need saints, we don't need actors, we don't need sob-story over achievers. We just want a regular guy. An everyman. Never mind if he was descended from saints or martyrs. His stand on the RH-bill surely keep him out of candidacy for sainthood. Never mind if he stayed away from the limelight, even as his sister hogs it most of the time. Like our laziness to dig deep, we all love brands as safe bets. And Aquino, is indeed, a strong brand.

Honesty of a regular guy

President Aquino is as honest it gets. He is what Filipino everyman wanted. So like us, this time us includes we, we like to drive on the new expressways planned during the actor's presidency and finished during the 2nd lady's presidency. Like everyman, he too pined for a Porsche. He didn't win the lotto, but he won something all his rivals coveted - the hearts and minds of the time, the hearts and minds of the everyman of today.

The masa vs. the people: who is everyman?

As a democracy, we will have those who climb their ivory tower or demand a leg up on their high horse and decry the purchase of a used Porsche turbo as an act of flippancy, irrelevance or callousness. But I believe that the everyman who voted for him would say, "What's wrong with that? I would do the same thing for so long as I didn't steal it from the "People"!"

Equal opportunity employment

Our second point is that being in the employ of the government does not mean being a notch above private employment. Or even below. For one, security of tenure in government is just as tenuous as in private corporations. Salaries are far lower. In an effort to attract competent and incorruptible civil servants, some sectors of government have adopted private sector salary scales - thanks to thinking legislators. And more often than not, the civil servants in these government institutions are just as good as their private counterparts. Employment should well be an equal opportunity thing. And whatever we uphold public employees to should not be any more or less than what private employees are held to.

Absence of one, presence of the other

Honesty and competence are digital notions - you are either honest or not, competent or not. There should be no two tiered distinction of such values between public and private employment. Thus if a government or private employee needs tools to do his job properly, by all means let them have it. And their private lives - transgender, closet handicapped, bachelor for life, centenarian, retarded - is none of the public and the scandalous sensationalist press's business. But this, of course, wishful thinking.

The cost of cost cutting

In the old days, government wanted to pretend to be paragons of austerity. Thus the few government cars bought then were not allowed to be air conditioned, nor tinted. I recall the Metrocom and Police troopers of the day wore uniforms made of scratchy finished Ramitex and Tefilin, which which felt clammy when hot, slimy when humid. How were they supposed to perform their job properly at the checkpoints when they were being denied basic comfort? I remember my Central Bank of the Philippines uniform from that era were made from hideously unbearable fabric that were the left over production of all the textile mills foreclosed by DBP. Like the sweatshops of Industrial Revolution and pre-Labor Union England, the image of austerity was more important than the working comfort of the employee.

The culprit is in the memo

We opine that all the negativity against the President's exercise of a basic and legitimate human right is due to some memo to government agencies, re-issued recently, against the purchase of "luxury" vehicles. But then the definition of what is a luxury vehicle doesn't even address the existential nature of what constitutes a luxury. Back in 1977, air conditioning and tint was taxed as a luxury. If I worked in such sweatshop conditions, it would have taken me less than the 9 years it took to go into the street to start a People Power revolution cum change of government.

The public-private divide vs. PPP

If we really want our government agencies and our President to be as efficient and above board as a private institution's, then we should trust them to their choice of vehicles, give their due basic right of freedom of choice and private time. If the legislature, provincial and municipal elected officials can drive Porsches, we should provide equal opportunity for the President to at least buy his own Porsche as well. If we want to treat our President as a cute and cuddly celebrity toy, then, like Willie R, the former noontime game show TV host who has Audi's and Porsches, we should allow our President to enjoy his Porsche in peace. Gentlemen patrolmen, give him a break, temporarily disable your speed traps.