No exemption in the City of Don’ts
The story is that on the few times the presidential convoy had gone to Davao City, it had to obey the local speed limit rules which range, depending on the location, from 30 kilometers per hour to 60 kph, tops.
His guards can whisk the President off in breakneck speed in other parts of the country—except of course In Manila where his procession of muscle SUVs is no match to the immovable traffic—but in Davao, the car with the No. 1 license plate had to follow speed limits.
Some may not believe this story as true but the next one is challenge-proof: The smoker-in-chief can’t just light up anywhere in the country’s third biggest city.
Davao is one big no-smoking zone and anyone, ruler or pauper, who breaks the rule will be reproached, vocally if not by disdainful stares by citizens.
Even senators, generals, taipans who smoke know the rule when they go to Davao: before you enter, deposit your habit at the door.
They have, however, all the freedom to publicly rattle their smoker’s cough, even in the middle of a speech, but stealing just one quick puff in a public place is a no-no.
And the police have been known to issue tickets to those who violate the law without fear or favor.
The ex-mayor of Davao, daughter of the incumbent, had to pay a fine when the car she was driving was clocked at 50 kph in a 40 kph zone.
The mayor’s personal lawyer, late for an appointment in which he was to represent the mayor himself, had to pay the fine after he was caught overspeeding.
Out-of-towners on government cars, thinking that they are exempt from traffic laws, learned too late that the red plates of their cars do not make them invisible to speed radars.
One general was reportedly given a no-smoking ticket by a PO1 when he smoked in a sidewalk in front of a hotel.
Though the ones related to smoking and speeding get to be retold , there are many stories on how ordinances on other matters are strictly implemented in Davao City.
The ones on taxi drivers, for example. They have to flag down the meter, which in Metro Manila is become more of an option than a rule. They can’t be choosy with passengers or they get the boot.
In Manila , when a taxi driver returns a cellphone a passenger has left behind , he is feted for doing a rare act, short of pinning a Medal of Valor on him, when the same is a ho-hum, no-big-deal thing in Davao, where taxi drivers are expected not only to return but deliver left items to their owners.
While in many parts of the world, a taxi ride begins with the locking down of the fare and the doors, in Davao no such precautionary ritual is needed.
The mayor is even known to drive a taxi at night ( though he rarely does it these days, I am told) as his way of patrolling the streets, and get citizen feedback.
While he may be coy about sharing his nocturnal excursions, many of his passengers, however, have bragged about their nighttime chat with His Honor behind the wheel.
His detractors have tried to portray these as publicity stunts. This accusation however falls on the face for the simple reason that he is no publicity hound, a trait that is counter-intuitive among politicos.
Davao is no epal country. No giant tarpaulins bearing his image cast a large shadow on the city.
The norm it seems these days is for a local government executive to hang a giant streamer announcing the installation of the water faucet below, but that disease has not infected the Davao executive.
In his city, the mayor does not contribute to the visual pollution. There are no “thru the efforts” billboard beside city projects. No outdoor, oversized greeting cards, the ones which say ‘Happy Graduation’ , blot the landscape.
City programs are not branded according to his initials, which is de rigueur in other places
There were attempts to name public infrastructure after his late parents , both eminent public servants in their own right, and he all shot them down.
In many cities, business permits come with tin plates, the same size as a car license plate, which are changed every year, clearly a money-making venture.
In his city, a sticker is just stamped on old plates as proof that the permit has been renewed which speaks volume on how ease in doing business is being pursued.
And speaking of permits, the mayor has been known to dress down city hall bureaucrats who do not issue them on time.
He says businessmen who create jobs and pay taxes should be treated as heroes. There is this story of an emissary of a taipan who wanted to gift him with a gigantic ang pao of sorts , in appreciation for welcoming a big project to the city.
The mayor, barely controlling his anger, did not accept it and politely told the emissary that it should be the city which should be thankful for the investments it had received .
Some would dismiss the above as personalistic, paternalistic management styles which are of no use when one becomes the CEO of the country, where everything is macro and there’s no time for retail politics.
The other criticism is that street level problems should not bother the occupant of Malacanang.
On the contrary, I believe that so-called national problems today are municipal in nature, like traffic, street crimes, poor schools, garbage, flooding which one who had the experience in grappling with is in the best position to tackle on a national scale.
We need leaders who have encountered these in real life and not just in Powerpoint slides.
We have to search for leaders who have done things and not just take crash courses and memorize buzzwords the World Bank, the chamber of commerce, the NGO types love to hear and then package themselves as presidentiables.