I was driving a motorcycle from San Narciso to Olongapo in more or less 60KPH speed when out of nowhere, a traffic officer was suddenly waving his right arm while looking at me and smiling as if I was his long lost friend who just arrived from abroad. So I slowed down and stopped the motorcycle somewhere about 10 meters away from him . . . to make him walk a little bit, at least.
I knew the drill, so before he even got near me, I was already preparing my license and the motor cycle’s papers.
“License please!” he asked me with the same smile he had when he was calling me. Silently, with a smile inmy face as well, I handed him over my license.
“How about the registration!” he followed up. By this time mere smile was not enough, I got no choice but to reply. “Sorry, this motor cycle is new . . . just a month old. So it has no registration yet. Look, It has ran for only 580 km. Absolutely brand new! And this is not mine. This is my friend’s.” I confidently answered.
I thought I was already winning when he fired me his last bullet, “So please just show me your Conduction Permit.”
“What is that?” I fired back. Honestly, that was the first time I ever heard the phrase. Suddenly I knew I was cornered, I had a violation. Worse yet, he just exposed my ignorance.
“Every motor cycle, upon purchase, should have a “Conduction Permit” so you can use it legally while still waiting for the Certificate of Registration,” he eagerly lectured me.
“I don’t have it,” I said, “I didn’t know. So what will happen now?”
“I’ll issue a violation ticket to you. I’ll get your license, and you will have to pay P2,700 to the nearest LTO office before you can get it back. And the owner of the motorcycle will pay P4,600 before she can get his registration.”
I was speechless. Wow, I will no let the owner of this motorcycle (which happen to be a close friend) pay some penalty for my violation, I thought for a moment. But P7,300 is too big a cost specially during Christmas season. Where will I get the money? Suddenly my mind flew so high, leaving me without my permission.
“There was violation sir,” I heard his voice, bringing me back to reality. “President Noynoy is straight! So we need to be straight as well, Sorry!”
His words suddenly struck a chord in me. I remember, I am also a person who is being hated by many for being “straight” in my responsibilities at work. After recovering from speechlessness, I voiced out again. This time I spoke with him with a different tone: I spoke with authority and said, “Like you I also implement rules and regulations. And some people hate me for that. I agree with you, I have a violation, so whatever you think is necessary, just do it. If I will have to pay whatever amount, I’ll just pay it. It’s ok! I’ll accept it”
I didn’t expect what happened next; almost instantly, he changed his decision but remained his genuine smile while I was stunned in unbelief! “Ok, I’ll give you a break. I will not issue a ticket. I will not get your license. You will not pay more than P7,000. But please go to the nearest Land Transportation Office right now and secure a Conduction Permit. That will cost you P320 only.” Without additional words, he threw me his last smile as he handed me my license and the papers. In seconds, he’s gone again, back to nowhere.
I was dead serious when I said those words looking at him straight in the eyes gesturing to him to just go on and do the right thing, making him feel that I was under his authority and that I am submitting. Suddenly, I’m in a different plane.
Thinking about what happened I saw the power of the law: No matter how I explained myself, I still have a violation. Regardless of the logical justification, I’m still not excused.
On the other hand, I experienced the impact of grace. I was given grace when I didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t qualified. I did nothing to get off the hook; but eventually I was cleared. That was totally free of charge, no strings attached, for the officer won’t get anything from me. I was simply graced.
What was my response then? Did I go to the nearest LTO office to secure Conduction Permit? Or did I just ignore his advice knowing surely well that should I return, he would no longer be there and so I would not be caught again?
The latter part was so tempting to me specially that it matched my personality. As a natural risk taker, the very challenge of not being caught again in my way back home simply whets my appetite for risks. But the effect of that grace dissolved that stimulant that was feeding my natural inclination. Once again, I realized how far the effect of grace—what we think to be a sort of weakness—can really be more powerful than the effect of law. Well, I don’t speak for other people. But that’s the effect on me — so powerful, so compelling, so life-changing . . . yet so graceful.
When I reached the nearest LTO office to secure the Conduction Permit, I learned that the traffic officer who caught me got the whole thing wrongly explained. The total amount that I should have paid would only be P2,000 and not P7,300. However, there is one thing the graceful officer didn’t tell me that I learned after securing the Conduction Permit: that the motor cycle would have been impounded as well if he gave me a ticket. That should have been part of the penalty for not securing a Conduction Permit.
Some people may have thought of me as a lousy law-abider. Some might respect my decision . . . without understanding why. Some may not totally comprehend the underlying principle at work behind my action. Some may even accuse the forgiving officer.
But for me it was clear. It was not the amount of money. For I paid only P320 for the conduction permit. It was not the fear of being caught again because that fear is against my natural desire for risk. If it’s not the money nor the fear, what is it then?
Honestly it was my conscience actively at work. After encountering face to face the power of grace, will I just go away and continue the very practice that has exposed my inadequacy? Should I just waste the trust he gave me?
Facing a crucial junction between my own learned values and my natural tentendency, I quickly made a decision: I chose my values rather than my temperament. Somehow, that graceful act of the officer brought a sense of shame in my part, convincing me to have a change of heart.