Who’s better at billiards than Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes?

Published May 1, 2021, 12:03 AM

by Rj Nieto


RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

The legendary Efren “Bata” Reyes isn’t the best billiards player.

Do you know who’s better than him?  The audience, the “miron.

No matter what decision he makes on the pool table, there’s a miron who’ll say Efren should’ve done this and that. To the miron, his own decision-making is far superior to Efren’s, even if the latter spent his entire life honing his craft. The same goes for virtually any sport out there, may it be professional basketball, volleyball, chess, or even the neighborhood sabong (cockfight).

The Duterte government’s situation is not very different from the scenario I described above, as everybody has his own take on what should and shouldn’t be done in response to the pandemic. Of course, we have freedom of speech, so these mirons have the right to say what they want, but it’s never that simple.

I’m afraid that any explanation of the government’s predicament will be an understatement but let me try to illustrate what the old man is contending with right now.

We all know that the Duterte coalition is an assortment of pretty much anyone who was against the Liberal Party, and these various groups vie for a greater share of the power pie every day. Meanwhile, the former administration party continually tries to bring him down with the help of foreign powers who are not fond of Duterte’s independent foreign policy, even if doing so entails subverting the people’s will.

As he juggles the interests of these competing internal factions, he has to clean up the country’s mess that has accumulated over the decades with a very limited budget.

Drugs, laglag-bala, corruption, crime, the economy, education… name it. Oh, and the Marawi siege. And he must fix all these with a government that’s ridden with bureaucratic inertia.

Cleaning up decades’ worth of trash in just six years is already difficult as it is, then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. I can say with absolute certainty that this administration’s challenges face dwarfs whatever its predecessor had to contend with.

Solving the COVID-19 problem appears easy to some only because they see it the issue in a vacuum. But if one takes some time to consider all the other problems that come alongside it, then it becomes a whole different banana.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t criticize the government: Even I criticize administration officials every day. I actually do it for a living through my current events TV show #TPonSMNI and this column. But when I criticize, I do it with the ultimate goal of keeping the government on its toes. I do not criticize just to bring it down to its knees.

Why? Because if the government fails, in case you forgot, we all fail. The government needs to succeed despite all the odds because if it fails, then we die: Some from COVID-19, some from sheer hunger.

With that said, I still encourage everybody to point out the government’s shortcomings, to point out areas where it can improve, and if possible, to suggest realistic solutions to whatever those shortcomings are.

Unfortunately, many of the government’s critics today want the improbable or worse, the impossible. Let’s not be those pesky mirons of Efren “Bata” Reyes; we should rise above that in the same way we want the government to rise beyond petty political squabbles.

We are in a crisis that can crush all the social, political, and economic gains of the previous years, a crisis that can send the Philippines back to the stone age. Yet, it appears that some of us, especially those in the political opposition, are more concerned about regaining power than keeping Filipinos alive. Worse, some Filipinos are more concerned at helping themselves sleep better at night than helping the nation get back on its feet.

I am just human, so despite my best efforts, there are many times where I end up like one of Efren “Bata” Reyes’ mirons. But within me is a continuous and conscious attempt not to be such.

Let’s not forget that these government officials, from the lowly clerk in your local Philhealth outlet to the highest-ranking ones in Manila, are humans too. They can get rattled, frustrated, annoyed, or even baffled by the cacophony of whiny noises from the general public.

Trust me, even I want several high-ranking government officials terminated for their incompetence, but I draw the line where constructive criticism becomes plain whining.

Unfortunately, many others don’t.

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