Nowadays, “influencer” is such a big buzzword in social media. By definition, influencers are people who affect a sale or the viability of a product, but are typically removed from the actual purchase decision. In short, they influence people to buy a product without actually pushing the product to the buyers. It used to be that consultants, analysts, journalists, academics, regulators, and popular celebrities were tagged as business influencers, or “product endorsers”, which was the old term. Nowadays, bloggers, especially those who are affluent, eloquent or good-looking and have a huge following on Instagram, YouTube or Facebook, are tagged as “influencers”.
With all due respects to the current crop of local and international influencers, there’s a group of “influencers” who influence not only almost all the Filipinos in the country, which now number about 110 Million, but they influence tourists and foreign visitors, as well. These influencers do not really influence the buying behavior or the product patronization of the public but worse, they influence the people’s attitude and mentality. These untapped and often ignored influencers are the drivers of tricycles, jeepneys, taxis, UV Express vans, and buses. They are the public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and they are quite an influential bunch.
Don’t laugh. These PUV drivers have been influencing several generations of Filipinos, and their influences have permeated not only in the road habits of our countrymen but in their work attitude and professional ethics as well. Still not convinced? Please allow us to explain the concept to you.
Forget What You Learned in School
There’s a Tagalog saying that goes, “Sa mata ng bata, ang ginagawa ng matanda ay tama.” (In the eyes of the young, what the elders do is right.) So, imagine a young impressionable child getting into or alighting from a jeepney or a bus with one or both of his/her parents or a guardian in an area that’s clearly marked “No Loading or Unloading”. Children are taught in school to obey rules and regulations but they can see just by this example that it’s quite common to ignore traffic signs and that even their parents or guardian violate laws with impunity and get away scot-free.
Let’s us say that there are traffic enforcers around but they ignore the PUV driver’s violation because they’re either on the take or they’re waiting for a bigger payout, like looking for private car owners driving their cars on its “coding” or banned day. To the child, the enforcer’s act of condoning the PUV driver’s wanton violation sends a subliminal message that it is okay to violate the law and that you won’t get caught even if the cops are around. Even if the traffic cops accost the offending jeepney driver, he gets away free by either giving “tong” or grease money or by dropping the name of a protector who’s either a politician or a police officer.
The OFW Generation
Now, imagine this child growing up with little or no supervision from his/her parents or guardian because both of parents are either busy making a living or working abroad as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). The child will grow up surrounded by traffic violators like tricycle drivers who ply the highways where they’re supposed to be banned, or bus drivers who speed through red lights, or taxi drivers who overcharge their passengers, or jeepneys drivers who often drive against the flow of traffic just to get ahead. Without the proper parental guidance, the child will see all of these as rightful everyday occurrences and dismiss these as “ganyan talaga” or “just another fact of life”.
Guess what happens when these children grow up and become motorists or motorcyclists? They will simply imitate what they learned from their life-long “influencers”. It will be a classic case of “monkey see, monkey do”. The worst part is that they will be oblivious to having violated several traffic rules and regulations merely because they grew up thinking that what they saw in their youth was right.
Chaos on the Streets
Imagine a car driver accosting a motorcyclist going the wrong way in a one-way street or driving against the flow of traffic. The motorcycle rider’s response will be quite predictable. It could be (1) meek – “Pasensya na po. Malapit lang naman yung pupuntahan ko.” (I beg your pardon. It’s only a short distance to where I’m heading) (2) incredulous – “Anong violation? Pulis ka ba?” (What violation? Are you a cop?) (3) arrogant – “Anong pakialam mo? May magagawa ka ba?” (What’s it to you? Can you do anything about it?) or (4) hostile – “Bumaba ka diyan sa kotse mo para magkasubukan tayo!” (Get down from your car and let’s settle this!)
Now, imagine this hostile motorcyclist is riding with two passengers – his wife and young son – and all three are not wearing helmets. The rider already has violated several traffic laws under the Land Transportation and Traffic Rules (Republic Act 4136) – driving the wrong way, disregarding traffic signs, and exceeding the maximum number of passengers – and other enforceable laws, including the Helmet Law (Republic Act 10054) and Child Safety on Motorcycles Act of 2015 (RA 10666), as well as criminal violations of reckless endangerment and threat and intimidation. Yet, he’ll have the balls and the wrong attitude to assert his rights as a motorcyclist and start a fight – in front of his son! And if the timing’s right, other riders might stop and help him gang up on the motorist, regardless of who’s right or wrong.
Lost Moral Compass
Guess where these motorcycle riders got their mob mentality? From the PUV drivers, of course! When the government attempts to discipline the PUV drivers – like making buses stay on the bus lane or when jeepneys need to be modernized to comply with the Clean Air Act or when the police reminds the tricycle drivers that they are not allowed on the highway – they resort to mob mentality and go on strike in a cowardly attempt to paralyze the transport sector. Children will mistakenly see this mob hostility as “pakikisama” or camaraderie when it is clearly an act of subversion. When the striking drivers threaten those who did not go on strike, children will see this act not as a violation of the non-strikers’ rights, but as a justifiable act of coercion because the non-striker did not toe the union line.
Now, imagine the young son on the motorcycle witnessing all these violations being done before his eyes with his mother cheering his father for picking a fight with the “offensive” motorist and with other riders joining in to gang up on the car driver. Guess what mentality will be forever etched in the impressionable little boy’s mind? He will think that his father was right in spite of all the laws violated. He will lose his sense of right or wrong. He will lose his moral compass.
From the Streets to the Workplace
Now, continue to imagine this little boy growing up into a man, finishing school and finding a job. He tries his best at first but seeing how his colleagues get away scot-free cheating on their job, he soon unwittingly falls into the same mentality because he sees the same lies, deceit, misplaced pride, theft, graft, corruption committed by PUV drivers – his constant influencers – every single day since childhood. He will continue to think of these violations as “the right thing to do”. Soon, he will cheat his company, cheat his colleagues, fool his clients, lie about his achievements, cheat his partners if he goes into business, and eventually commit a great disservice not only to his profession but to the nation as a whole.
Now, the bad part is that the boy grows up and becomes a public servant. He turns into a corrupt government employee, a policeman, a barangay official or worse, a politician. He will lie, cheat and steal his way to power, fame and wealth all because he knows that he can get away with anything as long as there’s “grease money” that’ll make his problems go away. He will do just like what PUV drivers do when they get caught because their illegal actions have been etched in his mind as “common” and “acceptable” norms of behavior. If you just look at today’s crop of government officials and politicians, you’ll see the bad influence that erring PUV drivers or their own family drivers had on them.
New Generation of Bad Influencers
And that, in a nut shell, is what’s happening to the Philippines. Because of government inaction or the lack of political will to correct rampant graft and corrupt practices that were perpetuated since the Marcos administration, the young children of the’70s, the ‘80s, the ‘90s and the early 2000s – those little boys and girls who were once influenced by the bad drivers of every jeepney, tricycle, taxi, or bus that they’ve ridden – are all grown up. Some of them have become traditional PUV drivers themselves – driving jeepneys, tricycles, taxis, and buses – or new franchises like UV Express vans that stop anywhere they wish and pass anywhere they want to or airport taxi services that overcharge tourists and foreign visitors and give our country an undeserved bad reputation.
Some of these little children have grown up to become Uber or Grab drivers and riders while others found suitable jobs and became private car owners or motorcyclists. But with the system still corrupt, all of these grown-up children who were once influenced by bad PUV drivers are now part of the new generation of traffic violators and purveyors of graft and corruption. And, unfortunately for all of us, including our children’s children, many of them have become a new breed of “influencers”.
Implementation of the 3E’s is Key
You might think that we’ve painted a very dark picture of our country’s future and you may be right. But there’s always light at the end of every tunnel. Even though graft and corruption is still rampant in government, there are people who are actually doing their jobs and serving the public. In Iloilo City, for example, we learned from former Vice Mayor Victor Facultad that the local government is implementing the 3E’s of effective traffic management – Engineering, Education and Enforcement. Traffic is manageable in the city, pollution was minimized or eliminated, and the rivers and waterways are clean enough to have esplanades built to enjoy walking near the water. Other cities can learn from Iloilo’s example on how to manage and correct the deterioration of the environment and the population.
We are hopeful that the Duterte government’s “Build, Build, Build” thrust will cover the “Engineering” aspect of the 3E’s. Perhaps, the next administration will tackle the “Education” aspect and start instilling the correct road safety and courtesy by making Drivers Ed or Safe-T-Riding courses as part of the curriculum of all schools. And then, hopefully the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the local government units (LGUs) will get their act together and work on the “Enforcement” aspect.
Of course, we should not expect everything to be done by the government. We should all do our part and start simply by following traffic laws ourselves. Or else, our country will sink into a bottomless pit with our children’s children all growing up with the wrong morals increasingly perpetuated by their effective “influencers” – bad PUV drivers or our own bad road manners.