published 26 January 2007, MST
WHEN I hitched a ride with a friend last week, I noticed a calling card conspicuously displayed at the nook between the dashboard and the windshield, very near the right side mirror of her car. The calling card bore the name and picture of an inspector of the Makati Police. “You know this guy?” I asked her. “No, I don’t,” she told me. “My husband does.”
I flipped the card, wondering what was in it to merit a location that’s out of the ordinary. Written on the back portion was:
Bearer, (name), is a FRIEND. Kindly extend your usual cooperation. Thank you.
Until that afternoon, I had thought that verbal name-dropping was the brazen way.
I mean, you commit a traffic violation —it’s 30 minutes past 7 a.m., for instance, and you’re still on the road on your coding day—you get flagged down, and you think of ways to extricate yourself from the major hassle of surrendering your license and then going through all the motions to get it back—usually after a few days.
But what do you do when you’re not the type to slip a 50 into the jacket of your license card case, or mouth the words “baka pwede naman nating pag-usapan ito?” to the traffic enforcer?
What if you also believe you are way beyond the scratching of the head and the mumbling of lame excuses, those being too characteristic of professional drivers?
Your resort, then, is to think of relatives, friends or acquaintances (assuming you have any) whose prominent names might ring a bell with the officer and thus soften him up a little.
In this power-tripping country, you can actually pull it off. Especially if you’ve got the look, attitude and the car model intimidating enough to render credibility to your claim. Even if you’re bluffing.
The inspector’s card, though, was something new to me. I did not think anyone would actually go through the trouble to put in black and white—compose the sentence and have it printed —an invitation to friends to use his name for exemptions or privileges.
What does a person in a position of power have to gain by distributing these cards to his friends? Does he get high from the thought that his card could actually prevent a night in jail or a thousand-peso fine? Does it boost his ego that just the sound of his name could make people more accommodating or lenient to his friends?
Does it make him look pogi with the ladies?
Perhaps Mr. Inspector and all others like him do not realize the implications of their gregariousness.
When they hand out these cards to friends, they are in fact saying that it’s all right to commit violations, petty or not, because mere association with them may just might be able to pull their friends out of trouble. Yes, I’m that big time.
The card also tests the character of the recipient friend. Perhaps only the most upright man, after meeting the inspector at some function and receiving the calling card, would take it home, show it to his wife and say “Honey, I met the most egocentric public official today who thinks everyone is just raring to boast of knowing him.” Only the most principled would keep the card in an album of eccentric items or rare finds, and refrain to use it even when an apparent need arises.
What is more likely is that most recipients, like my friend’s husband, would display it in their cars and feel just a tad more emboldened to put a heavier foot on the gas pedal, claim imaginary rights of way or simply just throw their weight around.
That’s a great new license, after all.
And, the last I looked, cooperation referred to something good—working together to achieve a common goal, with each component performing a specialized task. Something like that.
This definition of “cooperation,” however, leans toward agreeing to play certain games. Those who “cooperate” know just when to step on the brakes to keep from alienating or displeasing certain people. Conversely, it also means going out of one’s way—far beyond duty or common sense—to please an important person. Or friends who bear his card.
Knowing a lot doesn’t spell automatic success in this country. Knowing the right people is a better guarantee. Actually, I take no issue with this. It isn’t anybody’s fault if one is born to a well-connected family, or has made a lot of prominent friends along the way.
What is wrong is getting places solely upon association with those in positions of power, without merits or credentials of one’s own. It’s also not good that some are able to avoid the consequences of their unwise actions when everyone else is subject to rules and punishment in case of violation.
The greater ill is people actually believing they are entitled to the ride.