29 August 2008

My Own 10 for 2010

Photo courtesy of don sevilla and Hope Worldwide
US President George Washington once quipped that the, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."

In light of the rising stock prices, oil prices and even your average vegetable prices, the words of Pres. Washington makes the silent majority wonder if the government is really doing something responsible to protect the interest of the vulnerable groups. For instance, instead of investing in programs that will ensure rice sufficiency for the country, the government imports overpriced and possible GMO-infected rice from other countries.

Efforts to turn a blind eye on the humongous corruption problem committed by those allegedly it owed political favors from cast doubt in the administration’s commitment to achieve equity. It is thus no surprising that we see a former Justice Secretary charged with a lesser crime instead of a non-bailable offense and a former Election Commissioner flaunting his burger recipe to the public instead of being charged in courts for his role in an overpriced telecommunications deal.

The government talks about reforms, but the reforms it suggested are costly and undoable in the short term (2008-2010), such as formation of rice cartels, charter change and universal identification system. For many optimistic citizens, these reforms will also not have that much needed impact compared to the following options:

Re-enforce the death penalty and use it first on corrupt government personnel, including those in the military, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the MILF rogue units. As long as the country employs these unscrupulous government personnel or continue to impose slap-in-the-wrist penalties, corruption in the bureaucracy will continue to persevere. The ASG and MILF lost commands has plied their disgusting trades for years now in the south because they know that once they are caught, they can just wait in military prisons for their comrades to make a daring attempt to free them and, as shown in the past, some of these attempts were quiet successful. These two pitiful groups should suffer first and will make a good example for the child-killers, negligent parents, abusive spouses, speeding drivers, rapists, kidnappers and swindlers to mend their ways.

Utilize the prisoners and use them as laborers. Convicted felons are doing their time in over-populated public jails and enjoying the free if meager food provided by the government using the taxpayer’s money. Instead of lounging around waiting to be fed, these convicted prisoners should be made to work and earn their keep. Make them till idle lands, clean the esteros and drainage pipes or even drop them to the Kalayaan islands to help drill for oil. These are more worthwhile than what they are doing right now. A good example would be the program adopted by the Iwahig Prison and Penal Colony for their inmates.

Force landowners and churches to adhere to the principles of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. These landowners and heads of various religious denominations are confident that they can get away from the being covered by the agrarian reform law because they have families or supporters sitting in Congress that will help facilitate their exemption. Instead of condoning this practice, the government should give itself special powers that will allow its agencies to forcibly take these lands from their owners with a promise to pay it in 20-30-year period. They can just leave 5 hectares for the original owners to manage if their conscience bothers them.

Provide free condoms and promote all forms of Family Planning. The Philippine population is growing each year with no signs in the immediate future that this growth will stop. Growth in population has been the main factor that keeps pressure on the meager resources available in the country. Instead of encouraging this growth, as some sectors would like us to do to adhere to their out-of-date “go out and propagate” teachings, the government would find it is better for everyone if the population growth is kept within manageable levels using both artificial and traditional contraceptives. If the government can afford to send its officials abroad and billet them in expensive hotels and living quarters, there is no reason to think that they do not have enough resources to buy condoms and provide it for free t the public.

Dismantle all squatters in the urban areas and relocate them to the farms in rural areas. Poor families in squatters’ area continue to complain about the subhuman and unhealthy conditions that they have to endure everyday. Hence, just take them out from their miserable conditions, by force if necessary, resettle them in rural farms courtesy of the rich landowners and the church and provide them with basic necessities, like water, electricity, credit lines, health facilities and school buildings. The Government can also enter into a contract with these squatter families wherein it stipulates that if the heads of families or parents will engage in any criminal activity or deprive their children access to basic necessities, their land will be forfeited in favor of the government, their children will be taken from their custody and they will be penalized with death if convicted.

Take out the pork barrel of lawmakers or subject them to stringent auditing rules. Why are the lawmakers so eager to get elected? To serve the public is the most used and standard line, but something unconsciously keeps on telling the public that they are in position of power to get rich by having access to billions of pork funds. They will try to deny this of course, so if the executive branch are too scared to take this item off from the budget annually, then why don’t they just subject it to the most stringent auditing rules known to mankind to ensure that they are not being use to serve a selfish interest. Since there are also less than 250 lawmakers in the country, both in the House and Senate, why not publish everyday for one year the items being endorsed or pushed by each lawmaker for his or her district or area of concern.

Make all government employees who live just 5 km from their offices to walk or use a bicycle. This is another way to unclog the frustrating traffic in the urban areas. Besides, this will allow government employees and executives to check out the surroundings and communities that they were suppose to serve anyway. Also, walking to the workplace is one way to promote healthy government lifestyle instead of just sitting behind the desk doing nothing and waiting for the next paycheck to arrive. If most of our schoolchildren walk to school everyday, there is no reason government employees should not do the same.

Utilized the confiscated colorum vehicles in the provinces. The authorities has already announced that there were about 300 colorum buses and hundred more jeepneys impounded in several areas in Metro Manila. The owners were given some time to comply with the regulations set to operate these vehicles again. The government can do better than that. Do not give the owners any more time to wiggle their way out of this mess that they created in the first place. They took the risk of being caught when they decided to operate these vehicles without the necessary papers. They should not be given another chance. The government should just confiscate them, facilitate the forfeiture proceedings and operate these vehicles in the countryside to unclog the traffic in the urban areas.

Upgrade and open the half-billion-dollar NAIA 3 airport and the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The facilities are there. The taxpayers paid for them already. If there are some things that needed to be fixed or upgraded to ensure safety and efficiency, then do it now. No excuses are needed. Just act and stop trying to get 'pogi' points for the next election because nobody needs eyes to see that the facility is already there.

Exempt all teachers from income tax payment. The teachers in the Philippines are considered one of the most under-paid in the world. It is not surprising anymore to see many of these teachers opting for work abroad. Those who stayed here and serve the students are sacrificing a lot, considering that they also put their lives on the line every three years to serve as election personnel. The government should exempt these unsung heroes from paying their income tax and grant them other monetary benefits and incentives. It would also help if they are given enough protection against loan sharks and syndicates operating inside the DepEd offices.