When Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Alberto Lim made the announcement his agency would implement “quick fixes” in the shabby terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after a news item reported that it was voted as the worst airport in Asia and fifth worst in the world, an aftershock of negative public reaction started raining in. One comment is worth quoting here:
“QUICK FIXES MAKES [sic] A FATTER FOX! Quick and no bid fixes, makes [sic] more kickbacks and unaudited projects, meaning low quality and ballooned budgets. If we can compute an easy math, of 1,620 pesos of travel tax multiplied by at least 10,000 passengers a day is 16,200,000.00 pesos, plus the 800 pesos terminal fee multiplied by 10,000 at least is 8,000.000.00 total of 24M daily taxes, I think even a stupid commoner can compute that 1 day income of 24M is enough to buy toilet paper and improve toilets and NAIA facade to last the whole decade. Ginagawa naman tayong stupid ng NAIA! How can one dole out 2,500 PHP for passing thru a garbage HOLE!(?)”
Now, here goes the typical Pinoy Flip mentality and psychology that a “quick fix” can substitute for long-term solutions because it’s more convenient and faster. Underneath this thinking is actually a more sinister and corrupt practice—cheap solutions mean more kickbacks and concessions for people who were tasked to solve the problem. Old news.
It’s actually disturbing to concede it as “old news” and shrug it off as “standard norm” because of our frustration and helplessness in fighting this dysfunction that is now well-rooted in our government and society. Those of us who were unfortunate to be born earlier and had grown old in this kind of system had given up every hope to the point of being cynical. We shouted and ranted to the top of our lungs in disgust whenever we became unwilling victims to these practices in every government agency that we encountered in the span of our lives as a forsaken citizen of this failed state. In the end, most are forced to succumb and conform—desensitized by the evil matrix that now controls their ethos which the majority fondly calls PINOY FLIP PRIDE. Misplaced and misleading, it is a twisted way to mask or perhaps to compensate for the Flip’s cultural malaise and atrophy. By masking it, they override the guilt and dissonance in their thoughts. In fact, this is manifested in the ordinary church-going Flip who thinks that there is a forgiving God who is ready to forgive their sins as long as they pray, confess, attend Sunday mass or religious services, communion, give donations or tithes to their Church. This explains why corrupt government officials and bureaucrats are regular church-goers and prolific donors much to the pleasure and encouragement of the equally-corrupt and greedy Catholic clergy, Christian pastors and cult leaders.
Another example of this retarded mindset came into practice when the government’s response to a so-called “rice shortage” and price increase was to impose a ban on “unlimited rice” promos in restaurants, cafeterias and eateries—as if that would prevent people from eating more rice! They chose to ignore the root cause of the problem because solving it means uncovering their very own incompetence and undermining the lucrative business of rice importation among government cronies and officials which slowly kills our local rice farmers.
Again, instead of looking for concrete solutions to issues like transport, food and oil price hikes, our politicians and bureaucrats go for the easy solution by offering additional subsidies that burden taxpayers more. The list won’t end.
I’m pretty sure most of you have read or heard of this lampoon and its variants:
“Konting bato, konting semento, kalsada na.”
[A little gravel there, a little cement here, makes a narrow road dear.]
Analyze this and you will realize that most government infrastructure projects like roads, highways, bridges, buildings, canals, ditches, et cetera, were substandard because the materials used were of low quality and reduced from standard measurements to save the private contractor and government district engineer some profit because a sizeable amount or percentage of the budget had gone into kickbacks and bribes euphemistically called Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs to politicians, auditors and bureaucrats who were responsible for the fund and with political jurisdiction on the project.
So expect that when driving or riding in Flipland, roads and highways are as narrow as the minds of its people; that after a typhoon or flood one doesn’t need to go to the moon to experience the lunar surface. The average lifespan of roads in Flipland is two to three years which is perfect timing to call for another repair or road construction months before the elections for politicians to gain approval and cash for them to buy votes.
And here goes the more acerbic line:
“Konting diskarte, konting resibo, pera na.”
[A little trick, a little receipt, makes easy money neat.]
Well, this is not so uncommon. One wonders how much of the billions in road user’s tax being collected annually actually go to government coffers? In local government units alone, easy money is made by regulatory fee and tax collectors who issue counterfeit official receipts. Usually, the collections from these taxes and fees are shared discreetly by the collectors and the local chief executives (mayors and governors) i.e. permits, quarry, mining, logging fees… just the tip of the iceberg, really. How much more in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) which are notorious agencies? One can only guess.
Actually, there’s more to add to this endless string of sarcastic gags to vent one’s frustration. One could see and experience it first hand in almost every facet of daily life of Flips.
Now, this points us to another annoying feature of our burdensome bureaucracy—the ubiquitous “fixer” in government agencies and offices. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a “fixer” is thus defined:
“fix·er noun \ˈfik-sər\
: one that fixes: as
a : a person who intervenes to enable someone to circumvent the law or obtain a political favor
b : a person who adjusts matters or disputes by negotiation”
Clearly, the “fixer” we are talking about is the one defined by item (a). The Anti-Red Tape Law of 2007 (R.A. 9485) provides stiff penalties on fixers. Fines go up to PHP 200,000 and prison sentences of up to six years, yet these characters are still almost everywhere in government offices and agencies despite the hype and campaign against them in recent years. Like hungry vultures and hyenas in search of carrion, they hound you offering their “services” for a fee. But what makes them thrive? Well, it goes like this…
Despite the passage of Republic Act 8792 or the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 which mandates all departments, agencies and offices to employ automation in their transactions, Flip government is still tangled in a giant twine ball of bureaucratic mess because of decades of accumulated policies and laws in regulating business transactions that contradict, overlap and duplicate each agency’s role and function. According to a 2010 Doing Business Report by the World Bank, it would take an ordinary Flip 15 procedures and 52 days to start a business, hence, losing so much time and opportunity for earning and establishing his business. Going through that labyrinth of paperwork and redundant procedures is physical and mental torture. No wonder the common Flip would just go for the “fixer” rather than go through that hell of bureaucratic mesh.
Fixers thrive because they are in collusion with government employees and officials who deliberately defer bureaucratic processes to earn from the fix of illegal transaction in circumventing several bureaucratic procedures. It therefore results in a double whammy: the loss of precious government revenue and the proliferation of questionable businesses and operators that skip the legal review process. Add to it the typical Flip’s “get-rich-quick” fixation to an already volatile mix of cultural dysfunction, what you have is a perfect recipe for an economic disaster.
The solution to this quagmire is really simple. If the current President PeeNoy would keep good his campaign promise of employing transparency reforms in the government by streamlining the bureaucracy of redundant, incompetent and unnecessary agencies and officials for a start, instead of appointing more friends, barkadas and supporters to return a political favor, then doing the following steps that require political will won’t be hard for him:
- Veto obsolete, irrelevant and redundant national policies and laws on procedure.
- Ask Congress to repel the same laws.
- Indiscriminately fire and sue officials who are incompetent and corrupt regardless of political color (including his own) instead of hounding only Gloria loyalists.
- Direct all departments and agencies under his cabinet and command to design a simplified universal one-stop shop procedure with a maximum of 5 to 6 steps for all bureaucratic legal transactions down to the LGUs.
- In consonance with Item #4, prioritize the total implementation of the Electronic Commerce Act with the proper adjustments and revisions that suits the latest IT set-up.
- Implement a national standard ID system that could be universally used for police criminal identification, social security, tax, driver’s license, etc.
A simple wish list for his first SONA, but then again, cynicism and doubt are pulling me back when I’m reminded that jueteng still exists.