Expecting different results from doing the same thing

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AL S. VITANGCOL 3RD

AL S. VITANGCOL 3RD

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

This witty quote on insanity had been attributed (or misattributed?) to the genius Albert Einstein. However, some ascribes it to writer Rita Mae Brown in her novel “Sudden Death.” The Hazelden Foundation puts it in another way, “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”

Presumably, this is what the various government bodies are up to. They are planning to implement the same plans and programs, which already failed before, and they expect them to succeed this time. This is insanity! Where is the change?

MMDA’s odd-even scheme
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is planning to scrap the number coding system under its Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program and, in its stead, implement a straight odd-even scheme. This means that those motor vehicles with plate numbers ending in even numbers cannot use the roads three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The others, those ending in odd numbers, will not be allowed to travel the rest of the week.


There is nothing new here. This was originally conceived by the MMDA and implemented way back in 1995 with the aim of reducing traffic congestion. There was an initial success in the first few months of its implementation but eventually it collapsed.

It encouraged people, especially the upper middle class and the rich, to acquire more cars in order to circumvent the odd-even scheme. The result is that there were more cars on the road than ever. Will this scheme work this time? Definitely not. More people are economically better off now than they were 20 years ago. Those who were still schooling in 1995 are the big money earners of today. What will prevent them from buying another car?

I talked to some friends last weekend. They are all planning to buy a second, or even a third car, if and when MMDA re-implements the odd-even scheme. Can they choose their plate numbers? The Land Transportation Office (LTO) ensured the public that new car buyers will not be allowed to choose their plate numbers, except those who are availing of special plates. There you are. Whenever there are exceptions, there are circumventions.

The proposed re-implementation of the odd-even scheme will not decongest the traffic situation. It will merely boost car sales, as evidenced by past automotive dealers’ records. Thos who cannot avail of special car plates will simply procure slightly used motor vehicles, which already have car plates. Hence, they can choose the automobiles with their desired car plate ending numbers.

Indeed, this is a classic example of recycling a program, which was unsuccessful before, hoping that it will succeed this time. The Hazelden Foundation’s definition of insanity is appropriate for MMDA – “repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”

SSS pension hike
The proposed Social Security System (SSS) pension hike, amounting to P2,000 per month, was recently approved at the committee level of the House of Representatives. It can be recalled that the SSS in itself recommended the disapproval of the pension increase during the past Administration.

Do you expect the SSS to change the way it does things overnight (considering that the same old hands are in still control)? The SSS, through its Vice President Gregory Ongkeko, warned that a P500 increase in pension would result in a 1.5 percent increase in members’ contributions. This is penalizing the SSS members for the SSS executives’ incompetence.

There is no urgent need to increase members’ contributions to the fund. What is urgently needed is a drastic change in the operational procedures of the SSS relative to its collections. For the information of the readers, the collection efficiency of the SSS is at a dismal low. The moment they improve their collection efficiency and their coverage base then an increase in members’ contributions will no longer be necessary.

Employers who are paying their share in SSS premiums have to go through a lot to effect the same. First, they prepare the forms. Second, they pay the premium through any accredited bank. Third, they have to submit the same forms, already validated by the banks, to a branch of SSS. Fourth, they have to go online and generate some more forms for submission to SSS. Lastly, they have to submit a USB drive (containing all the forms previously processed) to the SSS. In the event that there are discrepancies in the forms and those that are in their system, the employer has to go through the same steps again.

Alas, there are employers who are so fed up with the system that they opt not to collect members’ contributions anymore but instead required their employees to declare themselves self-employed. So much for increasing collection efficiency. Just change the executives and management of SSS.

Why can’t the SSS adopt the procedures of Philippine Health Insurance System (Philhealth)? For Philhealth, the employer simply has to pay their contribution in the bank and then report it online. That’s it. As simple as that.

SSS has not improved its operational capabilities. SSS will continue doing the same things over and over again, but this time expecting that it will succeed. This is insanity.

COMELEC and Smartmatic
Ms. Victoria Collier, in her Sept. 5, 2016 news analysis in Thruthout, revealed the “shocking” truth about election rigging in the United States. She wrote that, “it has long been an open secret that game-changing races have been decided not by voters, but by insiders; from the presidential race of 1960, appropriated for John Kennedy by Democratic muscle in Chicago, to the two victories secured for George W. Bush by GOP fixers in Florida and hackers in Ohio. Among other suspect elections in recent years are key Congressional races hijacked by combinations of voter suppression, gerrymandering, dark money and the ugly little secret of American elections: rigged voting machines.”

She continued, “[b]ecause over many decades, our public elections have been privatized and outsourced to a handful of corporations and dozens of private service vendors. This is bad enough without their key players also having deep ties to political parties and religious extremists. Some have even been convicted of crimes, including bribery, bid rigging, kickback schemes, lying to voting officials and computer fraud.”

According to Ms. Collier, cyber security experts and “white hat” hackers, who have gained access to the voting machines over the years, reported that every component of these electronic voting systems are ridiculously vulnerable to various fraud. Technical reports and studies, published books, films and videos, and even congressional whistleblower testimonies have exposed the depth of the said crisis.

She lamented that the standard defense from electronic voting proponents is that “no one has ever proven the elections are rigged.” Ms. Collier claimed that that is the entire problem because nobody can prove it. The design of these “black box” election systems prevents the detection of insider fraud – it’s the perfect electoral crime.

Here in our country, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) had been in “partnership” with Smartmatic, Inc. in the conduct of our automated elections since 1998. Information technology (IT) experts claimed that electronic voting systems could be hacked. Technical experts alleged that elections had been rigged, courtesy of the electronic voting machines.

In more instances than one, a number of political candidates came out in the open and revealed the “fraud” perpetrated by some COMELEC officials in connivance with Smartmatic personnel. However, in spite of all these allegations of electoral fraud, the COMELEC is still insensitive to the calls of change.

The COMELEC is insistent that the machines supplied by Smartmatic are error-free, much more hack-free. They are keen on doing the same things – over and over again – with the hope that each election outcome will be different. COMELEC will be using the same Smartmatic-supplied machines, time and again, and expecting that the next time around it will be credible enough and the results will be acceptable, not only to the public, but to their IT experts cum critics and election watchdogs.

I say, this is insanity.

Ms. Collier cautioned, “Here is what we must remember: It’s not the responsibility of voters or candidates to prove a non-transparent vote count was fixed. It’s the job of legislators and election officials to provide transparency and uphold basic standards of democracy, and it’s their failure to do so that’s truly shocking.”

Indeed it is. It’s the job of our legislators and COMELEC officials to provide transparency in our elections and uphold the basic standards of democracy, and it’s their failure to do so that’s truly shocking.

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