Bureaucracy is an overlapping, choking, fund-sucking leviathan


Marlen V. Ronquillo

After assuming power in 1986, Mrs. Aquino abolished more than 30 agencies under the OP, or Office of the President, agencies that had no purpose other than to exist aimlessly, without a mission and an agenda. One was close to her home – the Sacobia River Development Authority, which had mandate over some grassy knolls in Southern Tarlac and a sparsely-populated Aeta settlement.

There was no drop in the efficiency of government after the scrapping of the 36 agencies, which mostly came with the fancy titles “development authority” and “councils” and “ [RS1] commissions.”

Critics said that the abolition of the 36 agencies was an underwhelming move. She should have abolished 50 more and government efficiency would be better for it. Mrs. Aquino left the decision to an ad hoc body, the Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization, which was placed under Louie Villafuerte. That commission was itself scrapped after the lapse of the revolutionary government.

Looking back, the critics were on the mark. She could have abolished 50 more government agencies to make the bureaucracy lean and mean, an efficient working machine.

The restoration of the full institutions of democracy reversed Mrs. Aquino’s agency-cutting. The Senate and the House of Representatives, from the 8thCongress until now, have been busy with agency-creating proposals, with no regard to realities on the ground.

Of course, the agency-creating predisposition of the two chambers created some much-needed institutions, PhilHealth and Tesda among them. In the context where I live, which is a context of ordinary lives and low income communities, there are no two institutions as life-changing as the PhilHealth and Tesda for these very obvious reasons. PhilHealth is a vanguard of redistribution while TESDA is an example of a predistribution initiative with an immense impact on the young who cannot afford the cost of mainstream college education and training.

What is true is this. There are no institutional standards, no established metrics and parameters, that could guide the Senate and the HOR, on the two issues of agency-cutting and agency-creation. When do we scrap? When do we create new agencies? That remains unchartered territory.

The lack of institutional standards have been on clear display in the Senate, which recently has been tackling a proposal from Mr. Pacquiao to create a Philippine Boxing Commission. The press flacks of Mr. Pacquiao have been promoting the move as an initiative that is worth Mr. Pacquiao’s billions, a sure path to making the country the “boxing capital” of Asia if not the world. To add perhaps to what we have earned so far: “ SMS Capital of the World “ and “Most Maniacal FB Posters of the World.” Two dubious titles, at the very least.

Mr. Pacquiao, on the 2nd day of the period of interpellation and on Page 2 of his PBC bill, asked the Chair for closure to force an immediate vote. It was good that Mr. Drilon reminded the billionaire boxer there are rules in legislation. And, in the most gentle of words, Mr. Drilon clearly cleared some cobwebs that seem to have inhabited the mind of Mr. Pacquiao. For one, he informed the former boxer of this fact: Mr. Duterte is the appointing power for all the high posts of public agencies across the board and not all agencies that get appointments from the president have to be placed under the jurisdiction of the OP.

And that you cannot close the period of interpellation on Page 2 of the bill, just because the proponent wants it so.

Because Mr. Pacquiao earned billions of pesos via boxing and his bill is about his turf do not mean that the proposed PBC is a matter of life and death for the country. No. In fact, it is one of the worthless bills ever filed on agency-creation. Not only is boxing governed by the rules of the GAB. The creation of the PBC would set a very, very bad precedent. Should Congress pass the PBC law, what would prevent athletics from demanding its own agency? Or, sepak takraw for that matter. Or tennis. Or cycling.

The sad thing is this. This is a country that worships the rich. Because Mr. Pacquiao is rich, he may get his way and he may get his useless, redundant and superfluous PBC.

Passing the PBC proposal into law would merely add another layer to the leviathan that is the Philippine bureaucracy.

Most of the agency-creating draft laws will not even pass the sanity and relevance test, the PBC proposal in particular. But this does not mean that we should freeze agency-creation altogether.

The proposal to create a Benham Rise Development Authority is a must, given China’s vehement intent on Benham Rise. There was no such thing as an “innocent passage” and China’s thirst for mineral resources is by now a global reality. Just look at its African investments. China would do anything to satisfy its thirst for oil and other resources.

The proposal to create a Mindanao Railway Development Authority – this one should be placed under the OP – is another noteworthy draft law that should be passed with urgency into law. A regional rail network would be a game-changer for Mindanao, given its productive farmlands and the need for the young to move into university towns with ease.

The rest, such as the proposal to create a Department of Water Management something, should be addressed by the lawmakers from both chambers this way – dump them into the archives.


Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. On the contrary the legacy of Cory and her son is corrupt wasteful bloated bureaucracy worse than ever before. Two dozen senators and three hundred congressmen since then each splurging taxpayers money equivalent to the budget of a government department or bureau, also since introduction of the Barangay each spends IRA now equivalent to the annual budget of a small gov’t agency or hospital.

    No wonder the cost of living is so much worse now for the average Filipino before the yellows came to power.

  2. The government is the biggest employer ever. If government were business, commercial so to speak, it won’t last a year. Why? There’s no “Return of Investment” (ROI).

  3. arthur keefe on

    Those with an interest in boxing can create a Boxing Commission or Council or whatever they wish to call it. It can promote, regulate, and develop boxing, but it has no need to be a government agency. This is common in the UK and I presume elsewhere. The government could choose to give it a grant, or not, but it will be owned and managed by its members as a voluntary organisation. Other sports can follow if they wish.

  4. Amnata Pundit on

    The assumption here is that the ordinary housewife/haciendera knew what she was doing, while the boxer who did magnificently in the dog eat dog world of boxing does not. To me this is nothing but class bigotry, a trait that is deeply ingrained in the DNA of all the yellows. Lets talk about Drilon instead. When this bar topnotcher was executive secretary he made Cory sign into law the bill which de-criminalized the practice of the government giving money to private entities, now known as NGOs. Our predecessors made that criminal because they knew exactly what was going to happen if it was allowed. Well, that fateful signature of the ordinary housewife blossomed into the massive looting known as the pork barrel scam of which Janet Napoles is only the tip. So may utak nga si Drilon pero si Manny naman may puso. Si Cory ba my puso? Ay, oo nga pala! Ano ba alam ng mga dilaw pagdating sa puso?

    • corazon means heart….that’s the only thing cory comes close to may puso! hehehehe…..

  5. Now I agree with what you are saying. We should trim the fat so to speak. Our taxes go to the pockets of corrupt politicians and government workers. Then additional agencies drain the treasury as well. Imposition of new taxes then becomes the norm just to feed the needless government agencies and bureaus. Aside from being inefficient and lackluster because they are protected by their security of tenure, government employees and their officials find ways to steal our hard earned money by thinking of more government fees (not counting their under the table deals). Enough is enough, the government should start measures of austerity within their ranks while funding projects that are worthwhile. But the focus is on bonuses and pay raises which the private sector cannot much. Only the multinational companies can afford the perks and high salaries when government officials mention “the private sector” since Filipino SME and sole proprietorship will never match the perks given by the government to their employees.

  6. You got it right Sir. Agency creation or cutting by HOR and Senate seemed indeed not their priority. Whatever happened to the so called reengineering the beaucracy. In our many overlapping agencies, laws, rules and regulations came that famous words of Duterte in prime time campaign ads before that adherence to such laws is ‘almost optional’. Once somebody even brought out a newspaper column opinion (i misplaced the clips) on freezing both legislative houses if their functions are no longer needed.