MA ISABEL ONGPIN One more take on the car siren (wang wang) issue: why does it resonate so widely and deeply, particularly in our urban areas, more so, in Metro Manila? Because car sirens have been used and abused all too frequently. It is a hard life in a developing country with a huge population overhang that cannot receive basic services or have proper jobs. People are out in the streets trying to fend for themselves. Just navigating the roads is an ordeal for their limitations of maintenance, rationality and discipline. It is not just the streets, but also the vehicles and their drivers, the passengers and pedestrians, and those who use the street as bazaars or habitation sites or crime scenes. Then comes the natural and man-made disasters that regularly demonstrate their destruction in public thoroughfares. If we must endure and we do, we expect everyone to be in the same boat. But that is hardly the case, come the car sirens, the flashing lights and the motorcycle escorts to show all and sundry that some of us do not have to endure, must be exempted, are special. This tale graphically told by the unwelcome sound of a siren in full cry does not sit well with the general public. We are not a monarchy, we are not supposed to be an oligarchy, we are meant to be a democracy that works for all. But it does not, as exemplified by such a petty device as a car siren and its ilk. There are many things along the line of our daily life, especially public life, which need to be rectified. One is for public officials to take on the servant leader style of behaviour rather than the tyrant leader or despotic government officer comportment. In other words, live the life of your constituents to the best and most reasonable extent possible. Obey the law, follow regulations, be civil, and be polite to all. Be one of your people rather than a person set apart for special treatment and homage. The use of special car plate numbers, excessive honorifics, and lavish and extravagant treatment should be a no no. In public schools responsible public officials should know by observation and experience the discomforts in place and alleviate them. Are there enough bathroom facilities, are they well kept, open to all? Is the environment healthful, attractive, and conducive to study? Are there enough accurate textbooks, are school supplies beyond the average students reach? It is all very well to have winning politicians families distribute pencils and notebooks, computers even, and whatever else. But it must be done in an institutionalised manner, part of the education programme paid for by taxpayers and therefore due them, and not as the manifestations of patronage, the largesse of politicians, charity. Every citizens child has a right to a good education including adequate facilities, school supplies and if necessary, a feeding programme. These must be institutionalised not given as the crumbs from the table of rulers. Governments also say they will be friendly to business enterprises, seeing as any economic activity could help the standard of living. But what is the real situation beyond the lip service? Dreadful bureaucratic obstacles if not worse. Take more everyday examples, small businesses which are homegrown economic activities that if treated properly by regulating agencies and revenue collecting agencies could enhance the lives of a wide sector of the population. The regulatory agencies based in local government city halls or in national agencies are virtual obstacle courses with myriad demands and turf-protective tyrants who make the seekers of licenses and clearances go through time-consuming and unreasonable hoops. Usually, this becomes a money-extracting government office business. The more you register your business, the more you pay your taxes, the more you follow their rules, the more they put their evil eye on you and harass and find fault with your affairs with the menace of penalties and imprisonment. Maybe you can guess why. It is a revenue collection activity all right, but the proceeds do not go to the government. Meanwhile, top tax evaders are ignored, nay, lionised, if paid attention to. Down here on the streets, in the schools, among the small businesses, is where democracy is barely visible or felt vis--vis the government. Down here is where car sirens were used and abused, where government officials are seen only from a distance up looking elsewhere, down here is where you begin to know why coming down on the wang wang and what it is perceived to mean, is the top tune of the day. Manila Times