Everybody got excited when P.Noy announced in his inaugural speech that he is prohibiting the use of sirens in vehicles. He was actually making a statement, sending out a message that as a leader, he would not take advantage of the presidency for personal profit. As soon as the euphoria about the entire inaugural ceremonies (and the street party that followed afterward), the public (fortunately including his cabinet members) was quick to note that there actually exist a law that prohibits the use of sirens or wang-wangs in vehicles.
Presidential Decree No. 96 declares “unlawful the use or attachment of sirens, bells, horns, whistles or similar gadgets that emit exceptionally loud or startling sounds including delights and other signaling or flashing devices on motor devices.” It was actually enacted in 1973.
The decree provided that “such gadgets or devices may be attached to and used only on motor vehicles designated for official use by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Land Transportation Office, Police Departments, Fire Departments and hospital ambulances”. So not even the presidential vehicles are allowed to have these gadgets.
Administrative Order No. 122 made by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on June 30, 2005 re-affirmed this decree. It declared “all government offices to strictly comply” with PD 96 and ordered all “government offices and agencies to strictly adhere to the provisions” of the said decree.
We know very well how these wang-wangs lord over our roads. Not only are they physically irritating with their loud sirens signaling the arrival or the presence of a VIP, they are actually a reminder that those who have them have power over everyone even if they are not on emergency. Which makes me wonder: why is it that when politicians are caught in a heavy traffic, these traffic officers really go out of their way to make sure that these VIPs won’t spend another minute on a stop? But why is it when fire trucks and ambulances are on the road, these vehicles which obviously need the free flow of traffic to save lives, still find themselves trapped in the maze?
We can all laud P.Noy’s take on equality even on the road but let’s as well be mindful that this is just the tip of the very huge iceberg that our new president is facing as he wears the shoes of being the commander of chief of this nation. I just hope that as time goes by he still gets to smile as he sits inside his car, waiting for the traffic light to turn green so he can go to his next appointment on time. The same way he can still remember the advocacy he made during his inaugural speech when he curtailed the voice of the wang wangs that for so long lorded over the streets.