A delayed reaction to the thief who stole in the night

Ako lang ba, o kumulo din ba dugo ninyo sa simula ng SONA ng bagong Pangulo?

Let’s itemize the anomalies PNoy started with:

  • in the first half of the year, the government spent more than it earned
  • national deficit has increased to nearly Php 200B (can someone make an accounting of how much the Arroyos spent on their trips and houses?)
  • we were short nearly Php 24B in tax collections
  • we exceeded Php 45B in spending
  • the 2010 budget is Php 1.54T, and just passing the half-year mark, only 6.5% of this budget remains for us to spend
  • we just entered typhoon season and already, Php 1.4B (70%) of the Calamity Fund has been spent (…on what?!)
  • of this 1.4B, 108M was spent in Pampanga
  • of 108M, 105M was spent in a particular district in Pampanga (take a guess)
  • …while Pepeng-ravaged Pangasinan province received only 5M for the damages from Typhoon Cosme, which happened in 2008
  • that particular district in Pampanga received those funds during election season, a full 7 months after Ondoy-Pepeng

With me so far? Let’s continue.

  • MWSS employees received more than Php 211M in 2009
  • payroll amounted to more than Php 51M
  • they were also awarded Php 160M in allowances and benefits (ano ito, Wall Street?)
  • that makes 24% salary, and the rest bonuses
  • members of the MWSS Board of Trustees get Php 14k per meeting attendance
  • that can reach Php 98k each per month, plus grocery incentive
  • they have mid-year bonus, productivity bonus (?!), anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, not to mention Financial Assistance, their Christmas bonuses and an additional Christmas package (while many Filipinos don’t even get a simple paycheck!)
  • that amounts to Php 500k per year per board member, excluding cars and loans
  • they get this while their retirees are fighting for the pension funds

I’ll stop there, although PNoy mentioned many more (not the least the surplus rice bought with taxpayer money that was left to rot while people were starving! What shame and what waste!)

Sabi nga naman ni PNoy na mashoshock tayo sa mga revelation niya sa SONA. But shocked as I was, I thought, well, what did we expect? That the corruption scandals against Gloria that we had already known about were the only anomalies? Who are we kidding. Personally I am elated that there is a government body looking into the misappropriation of public funds, not only to justify the “protest vote” that won PNoy the presidency in the first place, but because, very simply, to solve a problem you have to be able to identify it. It’s not just “corruption.” That’s an abstract idea. What are the forms of corruption and how are the corrupt corrupting?

I will echo what PNoy said in expressing my hope that if those who have abused the system have any shame left, please, resign. If you’re not caught now you’ll be caught later. The era of impunity is at a close.

The second half of the SONA cooled my blood a bit, although I suffered a few spikes in blood pressure with mentions of the shoddy state of our nation. Where are our taxes going, seriously. Thirty-two boats for an archipelago of 7,000 islands? What am I missing here.

But I particularly appreciated the new contracts being negotiated – if true – would rake in millions of dollars for our overly emaciated budget without spending a peso. We need to better learn how to take advantage of what we have and make money off it. Marunong na tayo noon e, implementation lang ang kailangan. After all, only Pinoys can turn Fun Chum basura into bags that sell for 25 pounds sterling in a London market. (I also recently saw lacquered bowls made of clippings from a Pinoy daily bashing FG being sold at a chi-chi “Oriental gifts” store in Amsterdam for 50 euro a set!) The same goes with resources at our disposal that we have not tapped for lack of ingenuity, or lack of investors.

The day before the SONA I had a discussion with a former colleague who, despite being English, is more Asian than I am, and is planning on retiring somewhere in Asia. I asked him why not the Philippines, you love it there. He says past business experiences in the Philippineswere not good. Why, I ask. “The people are great, the labor is reasonable for both parties, life is good. It’s the corruption I can’t stand. Maybe Hong Kong.”

A Belgian friend on the other hand, congratulated me (being Filipino) on the Aquino win when I saw him a few weeks ago. He was rooting for PNoy to win. He told me it’s because he wants to open business there, and is now making more concrete plans with his partners in Manila. I was happy to hear this.

A Filipina living in Holland told me she only sent money to her family. Are you building a house? She has plans but isn’t acting on them yet. Do you want to go home? “I really do,” she tells me, “Pero anong gagawin ko doon? Gusto ko magtayo ng business, pero masgugustuhin ko sa abroad. Ayokong maipit sa Pilipinas.”

We have to get our OFWs to invest at home. Otherwise, the dollars coming in that keeps our economy afloat – it’s not sustainable. It’s a temporary measure for our OFWs until they can bring all their families abroad. We need to make them want to come back home.

I hope the new Press Office opens its doors soon and will deliver on their two-way communication promise. I hope the Witness Protection Program improves, and that the Whistleblower’s Bill is passed. There was no mention of the Freedom of Information Act on the SONA, even if PNoy had mentioned some time ago, after the impasse at Congress, that it was one of his priorities. All these, plus a heightened awareness by the citizenry will keep the windows open, fresh air, sun shining in, and more investment money pouring in. While we need financial aid, we shouldn’t rely on them. Aid breeds corruption and dependence, and we lose the incentive to find sustainable solutions on our own. Nation building is a task for us, and we get nowhere by moping, complaining and playing the blame game. The next time you do that (or are tempted to do that), stop and ask yourself: Have I done something that could have prevented this situation I am whining about? And then ask yourself, Am I whining within reason? Chances are you’re not. You wouldn’t be whining if you’re being reasonable. you’d be proposing alternative solutions instead.

I end with something PNoy said in his SONA:

Tungkulin po ng bawat Pilipino na tutukan ang mga pinunong tayo rin naman ang nagluklok sa puwesto. Humakbang mula sa pakikialam tungo sa pakikilahok. Dahil ang nakikialam, walang-hanggan ang reklamo. Ang nakikilahok, nakikibahagi sa solusyon.