CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 28 May) – People say we lack discipline. It’s true but the citizenry is not entirely to blame for the anarchy and disorder around them.
Filipinos are not naturally disorderly, unruly, or corrupt. In fact, Filipinos are at their best where order and orderliness are the operative norm and where expectations are high. They’re admired for their modesty and courtesy.
Where laws are consistently enforced and lawmen do not take kindly to scofflaw behavior or recklessness, there will you find Filipinos at their best.
Go watch them abroad and see how they’re admired and appreciated for being conscientious, law-abiding, and well behaved.
Every good parent or teacher knows that the key to proper discipline at home or in school is, first, to establish the rules and make them known, then to enforce them promptly and consistently. Otherwise children get spoiled or scatterbrained.
As with family and school, so with the community. To promote public order and discipline, you must make sure laws and regulations are promulgated properly, then enforced promptly and consistently; else many citizens will get disoriented and disregard or disobey them.
Good public administrators know this too well. They know it is their primary duty to make known the laws and regulations for society or community—then to enforce them, no exceptions, no excuses.
Government of Laws
In civilized societies, there is a long tradition of ethical and orderly living; the operative guide is “dura lex, sed lex”—meaning, the law is harsh, but it’s the law, so it must be honored and enforced regardless of consequences.
Where rules are inconsistent, where laws are whimsically enforced, or not particularly strict, “Rule of Law” is weak, negated by too many exceptions. Without uniform enforcement, compliance suffers and public behavior becomes erratic or inconsistent.
This underscores the importance of a “government of laws, not of men.” Human beings can be fickle, irresolute, or corruptible, their behavior changeable. But laws have set meanings, therefore more reliable as reference points for social or political relations.
Public officials are agents of the law. It is their duty to assure law and order. They have no authority to exempt anyone. If they do not enforce a law or ordinance, they violate their oath of office and betray the public trust. Whatever their excuses, they are still remiss in their duty.
So many violations in our communities go unchecked. It has become so bad that we can’t even blame the violators.
Law enforcers have the responsibility for imposing fines or effecting arrests. If they don’t stop violations they make violators believe they are doing nothing wrong. Thus violations just pile up.
Authorities who are lax towards lawbreakers or who tolerate violators project the message that such infractions are inconsequential. In the process, they encourage more violations to be committed.
When that happens, the law loses meaning, law and order is belittled, and social discipline is loosened.
Focus on the Community
In our society, there is so much lawlessness not only because of the laxity of our personal standards and expectations but also because of the immaturity of our social and political institutions—which do not impose serious penalties for anti-social or unethical behavior.
Our citizens would be more dutiful and disciplined if regulations and ordinances are enforced consistently.
Inconsistency dulls the law-abiding sense in citizens, making them lax or careless and take the laws, big and small, for granted—acting as if there are no laws.
Is anyone unhappy about the disorder, anarchy, or lack of discipline in his community? Blame the authorities, big and small, not the people!
[Manny was former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, South East Asian Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Permanent Mission to the United Nations; negotiator, Cory Government’s Peace Panel; and winner, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist award. email@example.com]