THE current inability of the Department of Foreign Affairs to keep up with the demand for new or renewed passports is only the latest embarrassing addition to a record of basic incompetence within the Aquino Administration. It is also further warning that “continuing Aquino’s reforms” should be the exact opposite of the broad policy objective the next president should have.
The first sign of trouble, though few remember it now, was very early in President Aquino’s reign, when the MRT system ran out of plastic tickets. At the time, there were still vestiges of adequate process control in the commuter rail service’s management, and so the problem turned out to be only a mildly-amusing glitch – the MRT was forced to use its stock of old tickets, which were emblazoned with the image and name of former President Arroyo, something the then-new Aquino Administration found only slightly less mortifying than arriving at the office and suddenly realizing they’d forgotten to put on their pants.
Bigger and more serious problems
Since then, the problems have only gotten bigger and more serious. The difficulties of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in being able to supply first driver’s license cards and then vehicle plates through this year and most of last year are almost the stuff of legend, at this point. In addition to that, for several months last year the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) was unable to supply Philippine seafarers with the proper, internationally-recognized Seamen’s Book, a passport-like document that serves as a verified record of a seaman’s experience and qualifications, and gives him the ability to travel freely for work purposes.
And now, the DFA is having serious difficulties keeping up with the demand for passport booklets, no small task even under the best of circumstances, given that between five and six thousand Pinoys are leaving everyday to find work abroad, but not one that should be sabotaged by what boils down to an avoidable oversight.
“Avoidable oversight,” however, is a pattern of incompetence that seems to define the “Daang Matuwid” that, by some perverse logic, we’re all being told — and many foreign journalists, ambassadors, foreign chambers and UN officials are telling the world — should be continued by BS Aquino’s successor.
All of these incompetently run agencies have cited variations of “problems with the printer” as explanations for their document shortages, which any fifth-grader would recognize as a lame excuse for not turning in one’s homework. It’s basic office management, and if the government cannot handle that, what more damage can it cause when trying to “manage” policy?
BSA’s crooked “Daang Matuwid” is the road we must avoid
We think that question has already answered itself with the Administration’s discouraging performance in key areas like infrastructure development, disaster response, budget management, among other things. But, exasperatingly, in Mindanao, everything the BS Aquino Administration has touched, from the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to the power supply problem and the socio-economic programs, has experienced something akin to vandalism. BSA’s crooked and dangerously pot-holed “Daang Matuwid” is the road our country must avoid.
Broad aspirations are fine – they sound good on TV – but what the country needs is actual competent management. That can only come from a president who clearly demonstrates an understanding of the basic functions of the government and how to carry them out. An understanding, in other words, of the presidency as a job.