Of Votes and Speeches

Exactly six years ago, it was Noynoy Aquino’s inauguration as the new President of the Republic. I had goosebumps then when Charice sang the national anthem. And I was teary-eyed as the Madrigal Singers sang Bayan Ko especially when I saw the crowd in their symbolic “L” hand gestures.

Six years down the road, another inauguration, another fresh start for the nation. While most of the people are now looking forward to the realization of President Duterte’s idealistic yet encouraging promises, very few are looking back at the Aquino administration’s achievements.

Political analysts and the common people were all amazed by President Duterte’s inaugural speech. But can anyone still recall right on top of their head at least three key things that PNoy promised back in 2010? Not easy, right? So, at the end of the President’s term, it is not really the specific promises in the inaugural speech that we tend to use to measure his/her achievements. Rather, it is the transformations that bring the country one step forward or backward that remain in our thoughts.

Asking if PNoy did well as a President equates to asking ourselves if we voted wisely in 2010. After all, it was the majority among us who believed in his capabilities to transform the country.

We now satiate ourselves at the rate that illegal drug eradication seems to be happening, recognizing President Duterte’s influence even before he officially reigns. But do we still remember how thankful we were when PNoy eliminated the “wang-wang” (VIPs being given priority lanes on any road) from our streets right on his first day of office? It may not seem very relevant these days, but imagine yourself caught in stand-still traffic and one luxury car being escorted by police motorcycles would go counter-flow and leave you in disgust and frustration.

Many will always remember PNoy for his failures in SAF44, road congestion, unreliable mass transportation, and lack of major infrastructure projects. Hopefully, there will also be many who will remember how PNoy moved our economy to become the second strongest in Asia, increased our dollar reserves, recovered more than 75 billion pesos from the Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth, modernized the Armed Forces, and as a result, earned very promising economic outlook among global financial institutions and analysts. Indeed, Asia’s sleeping tiger has awakened!

All inn all, I guess PNoy’s biggest accomplishment was winning back the trust of the people in the government.

There is no perfect government. And there is no perfect administration. Nonetheless, the past six years have been much better than the previous 12 years before it. I guess the Filipino people have learned how to vote wisely.


Photoshop Politics

(I wrote this article in 2008 when I couldn’t contain my ire with the Arroyo regime.)

When I delivered a commencement speech to a batch of graduating sixth-graders a year ago, I emphasized the fact that there are more shakers than movers in this country. We barely grow as a nation because, as I said in Filipino, “maraming bumabatikos habang kakaunti ang kumikilos.”

Now I can’t help but to rant and rave as the inefficiencies and fiscal irresponsibility of the government become more apparent than ever. We had the controversial NBN ZTE, overpriced Macapagal Boulevard, fertilizer scam, Glorietta 2 bombing, Manila Peninsula siege, Oakwood mutiny and everything else that could not fit within broadsheet pages. Our children seem to have seen more bombs than books.

The rich and the poor are not equidistant from resources, opportunities, and the power to influence. The lack of insight resulted to severely congested roads, overcrowded trains, Band-Aid assistance to the poor through short-term subsidies, and economic growth we could not be proud of.

The government is busy with peace talks and in advocating Charter Change while the Filipinos just want to seek a safe home and to fill their grumbling stomach.

photo of people on street

Photo by Oscar Chan on Pexels.com

Our current situation is very reminiscent of the movie “Tears of the Sun.” No wonder we’re winning international film competitions — our daily existence is movie-quality in Hollywood.

Image editing softwares have gone through impressive innovations that their features are now a powerful tool in politics. Scams are being masked, public service is being cropped, government’s transparency is doubtful, decisions on controversies are rotated and political allies are favored like lasso selection. And for anything else that cannot be explained, there is the magic wand — in one blink of an eye, the witnesses are gone. I wonder if there will soon be a healing brush.

In the world of MacBooks and WiMax, the government’s performance is comparable to Commodore 64 with 56k modem. Unfortunately, the people’s memory about lessons from politics are just like RAMs — easily erased at the slightest power outage.

We had enough of Photoshop politics and Dreamweaver democracy. Don’t we deserve the Philippines Version 2.0?

Some of us cannot see the future of the Filipinos. I can. Despite redundant editing, it is still blurred. And no amount of digital editing can fake it. We need a new programmer.

Get More from Four

Time is gold. Each of us knows this all too well. Let me make it more striking by appending the clause investing it wisely is diamond. We know how precious diamonds are these days.

I am not going to talk about gold or diamonds anyway. I am here to talk about how the government can serve its people better by investing its time more wisely.

What I would like to advocate is the adoption of the four-day workweek by government offices. Otherwise known as the compressed workweek, this working arrangement alters the usual 8-to-5 job to a 7-to-6 job and compresses the office days to only four instead of five. The number of work hours in each week remains the same however — and so is the compensation.

How does this become beneficial? First, it will help the national government in its cost-cutting measures. Transportation costs such as fuel and maintenance will be brought down as the use of most government vehicles will be reduced by one day weekly.

Overhead office expenditures especially or utilities will also decrease significantly. Take for example the case of air conditioning units. If these appliance units operate from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., it sums up to 45 hours of electric consumption every week in the present working time arrangement. On the other hand, once the four-day workweek is implemented, this particular consumption will be reduced to 36 hours in a week provided that aircon units still operate within the same timeframe (8:00-5:00) when they are most practical to be used. This also applies to all other office equipment like computers and lamps.

In fact, the House of Representatives adopted the compressed workweek in June 2003 and reported having saved 50 million pesos from it. It was experimentally implemented from April 1 to May 31, 2002 in all GSIS offices as prescribed by the President’s Administrative Order Number 32 and the outcome was also positive. I do not know, however, why they did not make the implementation continuous. Imagine how much the government will save if most, if not all, of its offices implement this.

But let me clarify that when I say government offices, I do not mean all government offices. What I’m referring to are the government offices whose functions are not time-critical. I do not  therefore mean to include such special government branches such as police outposts and fire departments, among others.

Aside from the government itself, the employees working for the government will also profit from this. Obviously, they will have an opportunity to spend more time with their families. Three-day weekends are long enough to enjoy quality time with their loved ones; they might as well engage into part-time jobs or other worthwhile activities.

Now that you know how the four-day workweek will benefit both the government and its employees, you may wonder why the general public should support this.

One reason why we should endorse this is that it will allow us to transact business with the government in a more convenient time for us. Government offices will be open from 7:00 a.m. up to 6:00 p.m. That will give us more flexibility in choosing the time to go to these offices. And because they will be opened earlier and closed later than most private companies, even corporate employees who work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. will be able to drop by any government office without being absent from their jobs.

Moveover, the four-day workweek will also ease up our road traffic since majority of government vehicles will only be used for four days every week. Those that will be used during the regular working days will less likely be on the road during the normal rush hours.

I am ending this message with a reminder that the greatness of a government depends on the quality of services it renders to its people. By adopting the four-day workweek, the government will be able to get more things done with less effort and in a shorter period of time.

This is a persuasive speech piece that I wrote and delivered as a requirement in my Speech Communications class back in 2003, unearthed from my heaps of old files. Thanks to Prof. Cleofe Ciar for that wonderful class!