I put a quote in my column last week borrowed from an Inquirer columnist Jaime Licuaco; “A nation whose policies and rules are based on the assumption that everybody is a cheat and liar [surely cannot last]. Take a close look at [the]bureaucracy and its rules. It is burdened by elaborate and often unnecessary checks and balances so that nothing ever gets done in the process.”
In the Philippines, it is easy to find a regulation that suits your purpose, whatever it may be. There are so many and between them that there is no end of contradictions, and as is said above the implementation of them all work from the basic premise that everybody is a cheat and a liar. As has been seen recently, the people who make the laws are themselves generally cheats and liars, so it is unsurprising that they assume everybody else to have the same innate characteristics. Problem is that they often don’t, at least in the beginning; but if the system assumes that everybody is a scoundrel, then eventually everybody will assume that everybody else is out to screw them because that is how the system says things are. Sad isn’t it, particularly when there are so many examples of selflessness in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda the bayanihan spirit by which people help and support each other and the community strength of Filipinos in times of great need.
There is a massive gulf between the government, the elite and everybody else, but then that has been the way it is for a long time. There is criticism of government in all countries [where criticism is allowed!]. At the moment, the top area of criticism in the United Kingdom is the government’s treatment of immigrants, there are lots of them and not everybody has the same neo liberal view of inclusiveness as those in power. But that type of criticism is about policy matters, it is not so much directed at the integrity of the politicians themselves—although there has been some fuss about expense claims recently. Here in the Philippines, the criticism is that the politicians are self-serving [as they are in many places], and have been regularly and fairly overtly putting the people’s money into their own pockets, conniving with big business at the expense of the citizens, and doing nothing to develop the Philippines because all the development money has been stolen, and in any event they were all thinking so much about what to spend the money on that they never really considered what they should be doing to develop the country. In short, the government does not have the trust of the people.
So things have backfired. Successive administrations which have been convincing everybody through their rules and procedures that all Filipinos are liars and cheats, have managed to foment great scepticism of government itself ably helped by reports of the swindling going on with discretionary funding, and the accusations and counter accusations of the politicians themselves and the endless misinformation that comes from those whose reports should be able to be relied upon. Who and what can we now trust? Is foreign aid money going to be stolen again by the politicians, are the relief food packs sent from advanced economies really being repackaged by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in order to check the expiry dates of food, and whether or not relief clothing is good enough for the dispossessed people of Leyte, are politicians really putting their names on foreign aid donations, how many people have actually lost their lives in Yolanda, have US congressmen actually written to President Barrack Obama asking him to speak to President Benigno Aquino 3rd, is the economy really growing at over 7-percent gross domestic product increase a year? And on and on. What are we to believe? When lying becomes the norm, no planning is possible the nation is divided and people will believe only the small number of others who they think they can really trust, there is no national spirit.
“Do not criticise the government, we are doing our best.” If government is indeed really trying hard to efficiently sort things out then such effort should be appreciated, but here doing its best means within the standard regulations and procedures, and it is these together with the endless political point scoring and consequent misinformation campaigns that lead people to believe that the information they are being given is not trustworthy. To only count the number of deaths of people who have been identified? How ridiculous! Do dead people have to show “two valid IDs (identification cards), one of which must be government issued” before they are considered dead? Is there some ulterior political motive behind such a weird approach, are people afraid of being proved wrong?
If the system operated in a more trusting way, then we would get more done. To erect so many hurdles and to insist that every single one is cleared in order to prove that you are not a liar or a cheat before moving on to the next one is a sure way to ensure that nothing actually ever gets done. Loosen up and lets move the Philippines really fast forward!!
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org