Food for thought

Published September 29, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Former Vice President Jejomar C. Binay

GOVERNANCE MATTERS

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay

For more than five years, ordinary citizens had to contend with the egregious display of officious behavior by some of our public officials.

From the highest ranks of leadership down to the second and third tiers of the bureaucracy, the space usually occupied by political appointees, officiousness has been the norm, worn as a badge of pride among hardcore administration supporters who managed to snag juicy government posts not because they are qualified but through insular political connections.

One would expect that the painful unravelling of the administration’s unpardonable inefficiency and incompetence during this pandemic would temper such behavior.

Yet for almost two years since the presence of the COVID-19 virus pandemic was officially acknowledged, little has been offered to ease the psychic and material burdens of ordinary citizens. What we have witnessed, especially of late, are increasingly excessive public displays of irritating officiousness.

We used to encounter this behavior during one-on-one engagements with government officials or employees in the course of transacting with government offices. But under the present dispensation, officious behavior is public behavior. It is not only the demeanor that is unsettling and offensive, but the choice of words and the choice of issues as well.

With a few months left before this administration ends its term, this administration seems more and more preoccupied with settling scores than fighting the pandemic. Until now, we have yet to hear words of comfort. And we have yet to witness the unveiling of a concrete, sound, and doable plan to restart the economy under a post-pandemic scenario.

If the proposed 2022 budget is an expression of such a plan, then this administration seems to be convinced that infrastructure and counter-insurgency, two of the most well-funded budget items, will lead the way to economic revival. But these priorities might not be shared by a new administration which might consider improving the state of public health as crucial to recovery.

The 2022 budget proposal unfairly ties the hands of the new administration for at least half a year, unless it will be one that shares the same priorities as the present dispensation.

As we enter the election season, recent surveys measuring satisfaction with government’s performance indicate a shift in the mood of the public.

Satisfaction has been sliding significantly. For some observers, this is as an indication that a once-supportive public has grown tired of the boorishness, the unkept promises, the incompetence, and absence of compassion which the pandemic has highlighted.

Since 2016, the administration has used its high ratings as a license to commit acts that violate the basic tenets of democracy, human rights, and civility. But the writing on the wall is clear. This administration may spend its remaining months in office, and a considerable amount of public funds, putting a positive spin to its management of the pandemic. But the reality cannot be ignored. Millions of Filipinos have been consigned to hunger and poverty not because they are ill-disciplined, but because their government has failed them.

This is food for thought for those who intend to hitch their political fortunes in 2022 on a platform of continuity.

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