MANILA — The new president of the Philippines was 40 minutes late for his first address to the military yesterday as he kept his promise to suffer in the capital’s heavy traffic like ordinary people.
In one of the most loudly applauded portions of his inaugural speech Wednesday, Benigno Aquino III said he had experienced the frustration of being stuck in traffic while powerful people in siren-blaring cars breezed by. He promised “no more wang-wang,’’ the local term for sirens.
So, yesterday, the president told his security escorts not to use sirens to clear the road for his convoy heading to the military headquarters less than four miles from his home.
As a result, he was about 40 minutes late for the address after some painful crawling through Manila’s gridlocked streets.
Filipinos generally deride sirens, regarding them as a symbol of abuse of power and privilege and a display of arrogance by officials as well as the rich and powerful.
Under a loosely enforced law, the president, vice president, Senate president, House speaker, and Supreme Court chief justice are the only civilians allowed to use sirens for their vehicles or convoys.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino would continue to be subject to the same rules of the road as everyone else.
“I should set an example to the Filipino people,’’ Lacierda quoted Aquino as saying.
Aquino appeared to have endeared himself to ordinary Filipinos for suffering Manila’s notorious traffic alongside them.
A reporter for GMA Television who followed his convoy said commuters were pleased that it did not use sirens to clear the traffic.