Elsewhere I proposed that more problems can
be addressed by abolishing, instead of creating more, government agencies. I
also mentioned that the government of the future—emphasis on the future—can allow
the people themselves to make collective decisions, bypassing elective
officials who supposedly represent them. This in effect makes Congress, among
other institutional contraptions, redundant, and therefore better off
Even now, the need for trimming government
is obvious. Examples:
- Reports about members of the
House of Representatives suggesting that their choice for Speaker will be
prompted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s body language mean, in my opinion, that
they do not have a gut of their own. A visceral extension of presidential clout,
Congress—like an appendix whose usefulness medical science has yet to
determine—is a costly prop, an embarrassment from which the democratic ideal
would wish excised.
- The separate court cases of
Jinggoy Estrada and Junjun Binay have been on trial for ages. But the judges
ruled on them only after the voters dashed their lingering hope for a lift in
their political careers. Public workers like these judges are freeloaders; they
thrive in a culture that free rides on private initiative and community action.
- The poor often do not need help
to survive. In the countryside, they break their backs raising crops, putting
in long hours of work in farmlands which may not belong to them but to
landlords. In urban areas, the better off workers get by on rock-bottom wage
rates; the worse off informal settlers eke out daily living from the dump, some
of them building homes under bridges. In coastal towns, fishermen brave stormy
days and nights to provide for their families. All the poor need from
government is a fair enforcement of laws where farmers are freed from price
manipulations conspired by traders, where the urban poor are protected from
unjust evictions and human rights breaches, and where the fisher folk are
allowed to freely fish within a territory owned by a sovereign of which they
are constituents, without being threatened with physical harm by foreign aggressors.
If the government cannot provide them that minimum amount of fairness, what use
do the poor have for that government?
In many cases government has wasted so much
resource at its disposal that could have prevented it from spending more for
current and future need, such as creating government agencies or investing in
weaponry. Lack of institutional memory and knowledge management in government
compounds its tenacious ills, topped by corruption, which keeps it from
responding to problems in a timely, effective and efficient manner.
The proposal to create a Department of
Water Services, for example, highlights the current effort to recover lost
opportunities. The conditions in 1995 when the National Water Crisis Act was
passed remained as dire as they are now; yet the law aimed precisely to prevent
the occurrence of water crises that we experience today. Tons upon tons of
researches have been conducted to support related aims. Other laws obviously
need revisiting, such as the Water Code of 1976. The Rainwater Harvesting Act
of 1989 prescribed a 3-year water-for-every-barangay program, but we know
nothing of feel-good stories that came out of it.
One of the key findings from water-related
studies, and which people sometimes either ignore or forget, is that dams that feed
irrigation systems and water supply systems, costing billions of pesos, are
only as good as the watershed that supports them, which often costs nothing.
But greed destroys the ecosystem and fixing watersheds is costly; it
reconfigures the value attribution of resource bases, as taxpayers eventually pay
for rehabilitation of watersheds that have been destroyed by commercial loggers
and miners, and who recently have been joined in by real estate developers. It
is probably more than coincidental that election funders of consequence usually
come from their ranks.
Farther afield and stepping back in time, then
Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile did not only rape the forests
of Samar, he also converted the military under his control into a private army,
terrorizing the local folks who resisted the unmolested destruction of forested
areas in the island by San Jose Timber Corporation, which he owned.
On another point, the Werfast gun licensing
case involving former Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima
shows why corruption gets in the way of modernizing the police and, in a
similar situation, the military. Stated differently, our military build-up
could have been started years ago as part of a long-term strategy, except that
our leaders had been too busy making money, some of them going to the extent of
selling ordnance to rebel groups.
Too many misses, either by design or neglect,
which kept us from achieving common goals leave us exasperated, wondering how
long we can wait for something really good and lasting to come out of