“We were waiting for instructions but nothing came” were the common replies of friends of mine in government in the aftermath of Yolanda. The bureaucracy is a million plus strong and yet the directive was not given. The men and women in uniform were waiting too and none came. And this is the irony of a “leadership” who views governance without problems as boring. The first time I hear this from a leader and I have had five leaders (Marcos, Aquino I, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo) before the present occupant.
Why was the bureaucracy waiting? And the men and women in government are institutional memories that can carry out any instructions having been trained and honed by experiences under previous administrations. But why were there no action, no call? There were no directives because decision makers chose to be in the frontline when their role was to make the crucial and strategic decisions at the command center.
Two department secretaries of the Top 3 line departments with nationwide presence were at the frontline in Day 0. They had no link with their principal for 24 hours since they didn’t bother to bring satellite phones. That is why generals are in the headquarters making decisions and strategies, studying options and scenarios than being in the frontline. But in our case, it is different. And that is why the bureaucracy was paralyzed.
How can the whole bureaucracy be the strength of this administration when decisions are not made and decision making processes, since time immemorial, have been set aside in favor of what is to the leader’s liking.
Lead and people will follow. Do not lead and natural leaders will push the envelope bypassing government. And that is what Yolanda was and will be.
There are bureaucrats who are really good and who knows what to do but some would not stand up because this administration has been very selective in its appreciation of those who have been in the trenches long before the Yellow Tribe marched in. And its so sad to hear them talk and explain themselves and their inactions but knowing them and seeing the best of them perform when I was in government made me wonder less why we are in a rut these days.
Waiting for government, waiting to feel government’s care, waiting for the leader to protect the citizens from unreasonable price escalations are basic criteria taxpayers consider in judging whether government is doing its job. Only the Martilyo Gang got their due with the visit of the chief. A bus flies over the skyway and you have an LFTRB going on a long delayed campaign that should have cancelled the franchise of the death bus. A shooting in NAIA3 and we get more insults from the General Manager who is unable to explain in a coherent manner why there was a breach in security and why there is no CCTV. Long lines to pay travel tax from NAIA1 to 3 and we bore more stupidities. These are all manifestations of the great wait: when will government get their acts together? When service is bad, when prices are flying and photo ops are measurements of concern, something is truly wrong.
Waiting in vain
And so we wait. In true fashion with the Man of Steel (with apologies to the original and dependable one) who waves off critics as “bahala na si Lord sa inyo.” We wait until they get the hang of it. We wait until they learn that their haciendero backgrounds ain’t going to work in a country, majority of its people are hungry and poor. We wait until they realize that humility and compassion are what we need and competence becomes more valid to all in order to govern. We wait when cabinet secretaries are able to find the courage and the boldness to tell the prince, let’s roll our sleeves because we only have two years to finish what we committed in a high voltage game where expectations they themselves set have not been met and roadmaps are just being written midterm.
Just like the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot, we also wait for better politics, a better Congress, a better Malacañang and a better Supreme Court. Just like Waiting for Godot, there are “less forces as to look for more” under this administration. The only difference is that in the play, no promises were made but this administration promised a social contract and elevated everything to a higher plane of “kung walang korap, walang mahirap” only to fall with a loud thud on corruption. “Tuwid na daan,” only for taxpayers to discover that juggling of funds have been made without any basis and they portray themselves as holier than thou.
We wait for Christmas and look forward to family gatherings. Good food, exchange gifts, parties and the like. Yet far from our own tall walls are families still in search of their loved ones, still no roof over their heads, unsure of what tomorrow might bring but a strong belief in One Being who has been their refuge in the destruction and devastation. They wait with certainty that their Being will not abandon them unlike a government that tells all, “kayong bahala sa buhay n’yo” and still in denial that the body count won’t reach 10,000.
We wait for a government that cares and moves. We wait for a government that puts the citizens first than corporate donors. We wait for sanity to return to public service. But beware of the springs of other nations where the citizens rose to question government; when government can no longer protect the very people they swore to serve, the springs of nations rise.
As Beckett cautioned: “The essential doesn’t change.”
A meaningful Christmas to all!