Being good citizens

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Over the past few days, I have read stories of people getting in trouble for disrespecting our authorities. These stories aren’t shocking events; unfortunately, they happen all too often. The latest versions to make the news were of a candidate for the local elections — a lawyer at that — who slapped an election officer for taking down illegal posters, and two motorists who punched a traffic enforcer after he intervened in an argument they were having with someone else.

Maybe it’s the summer heat that’s causing tempers to flare, but that doesn’t excuse flouting our laws and refusing to be respectful to authorities. (I say that as someone with a formidable temper of my own.) And as the election season heats up and temperatures continue to rise, it would do well for us to remember that cool heads will prevail.

As an officer of the court and a practitioner of law, I cannot overemphasize the importance of respecting our laws. Laws must be followed not just to maintain peace and order, but for our country to develop. On this point, I am reminded of a book I read written by a fellow UP Law alumnus, Atty. Alex Lacson. In 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country, Atty. Lacson discusses what ordinary citizens can do to contribute to nation-building.

I was reminded of Atty. Lacson’s book because the first item on that list is: “Follow traffic rules. Follow the law.” Everything else follows.

For the curious (and those who cannot reach for a copy of his book right now), the rest of the list goes:

(2) Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt;

(3) Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy Filipino;

(4) When you talk to others, especially foreigners, speak positively about us and our country;

(5) Respect your traffic officer, policeman and soldier;

(6) Do not litter. Dispose of your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve;

(7) Support your church;

(8) During elections, do your solemn duty;

(9) Pay your employees well;

(10) Pay your taxes;

(11) Adopt a scholar or a poor child, and

(12) Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the law and love our country.

It’s a simple list, and most would think, “I can do that.” But saying is different from doing, as we all know. Probably the hardest one for me, personally, is trying to be a good parent. (Not the least, because it’s a job that evolves as your children grow up.) We often hear that, “Ang maling ginagawa ng mga matatanda, nagiging tama sa mata ng bata (The bad things adults do end up looking right in the eyes of children).” (Pressure, right?)

It’s something to keep in mind, especially for those in my generation and older.

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