MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino is now in his 20th day as the most powerful man in the country, but he has yet to buckle to one privilege—the use of the siren or the “wang-wang.”
In an interview with Tina Palma on ANC’s Talkback on Monday, Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander Col. Ramon Dizon said “right now, he’s setting a good example. It’s a trade-off. So far, you can see he’s getting good reactions from the people.”
He said people are now more respectful of traffic rules, now that they have a president who does away with a privilege that had been abused in the past.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) executive director Angelito Vergel De Dios agreed, noting that people now recognize the what the sirens should only be used for.
He noted emergency vehicles or ambulances used to get stuck in traffic because people became indifferent to the oft-abused “wang-wang.”
This time, “emergency vehicles pass through with ease,” De Dios noted.
He claimed that traffic is relatively better since “traffic enforcers are always [now] on alert [of the passing convoy of the president].”
He, however, noted that the MMDA has to make adjustments in order to secure the roads against threats to the life of a travelling president.
“Our first step is to learn where the convoy is going…We have our own ways of knowing. We try to manipulate in a way the traffic lights, the people in the intersection waiting for convoy to pass…,” he said.
Indeed, with a cultural changing set-up as that of Aquino’s, people around him have to devise creative ways to ensure his safety.
De Dios said the MMDA can’t source information from the PSG regarding Aquino’s route.
He said, however, “we have ways of finding out…we make sure that roads are clear without ordinary motorists noticing. We have to learn where the occasions are so we can prepare in advance.”
Dizon admitted the PSG now has to use more time and effort to secure Aquino.
He said, however, there are basic rules that the PSG has not abandoned.
“We study the roads we pass through. We send more people [beforehand], where obstacles can be met…,” he added.
Since the president’s car needs to be 360-degree protected, vehicles around it need to be increased, he said.
During the first few days, the PSG members stepped out of their cars whenever a red light turned on.
“We tried that, but it did not work. What we’re trying to do now is to use the 2 lanes of the highway,” Dizon said. This is to accommodate the PSG vehicles.
He, however, noted there was one instance in the past when a sampaguita vendor tried knocking on the president’s car.
Ever since Aquino’s wang-wang policy had been played up, people are now more cooperative, he said.
“We use loud speakers [and say] ‘nakikiusap po kami, kung pwede tumabi. We do turn our hazard lights on. People have become cooperative. They see motorcycles coming, they slow down,” he added.
Need for wang-wang in the future?
Despite the change in people’s behavior, some are saying that the president should now make use of this privilege despite a commendable job from the PSG.
Dizon, however, said there is still minimal risk in maintaining the policy.
“But eventually, depending on the security estimates that we get, if the risk to life is higher, then we might recommend we should not stop at intersections,” he said.