eK! is electronic Kabalen, a web-exclusive Kapampangan journal of ideas

wilfrido david
wilfrido david IT IS a sad reality that when one works for the government in an appointive position you are constantly exposed to various opportunities too tempting to ignore so much so that if you let it pass, you will end up being the loser. That means you will be living under your means as a government employee and that seems to be a viable option that is often not taken or ignored. The prevailing sentiment, judging from the daily news that is broadcast in the media.

Fingerpointing, mudslinging, washing dirty linen in public that eventually winds up in civil suits and countersuits are, undeniably, counterproductive and make the government look like one huge circus or a carnival, where you will find barkers, acrobats, tightrope walkers, aerialists, sideshow freaks, magicians, fire-eaters, jugglers, and clowns. It also features different kinds of rides: the roller coaster, the Ferris wheel, and the merry-go-round. All these, basically, comprise what we see in various government bureaucracies. Let us run through the government structure and see where these professional talents fit in:

Barkers are the self-appointed promoters of the sitting administration. They can only see good in everything the president does, have done, and his future plans. These are mostly people whose tenure depends on the president's say-so. If they get lucky enough, they could bag a bountiful government undersecretaryship, usually the first rung on the corporate ladder.

Acrobats, I would say, belong in the public highways commission, where they can easily do some delicate tumbling, roll overs, cartwheeling, and build human pyramids with contractors and suppliers. We owe the (padded) superhighways, the potholes, and cracked pavements to this elite group.

Tightrope walkers are found in the customs bureau. They take a calculated risk when doctoring the books. They have to balance the books to make it appear that the government is getting its due "share" in revenue. Necessarily, they have to commingle with all kinds of smugglers, whether in cars, electronics, or drugs. They retain a small group in the airports and shipping depots who never fail to smile at balikbayans and hail them to their respective checkout booths, you know, for fast-service.

Fire-eaters proliferate in the motor vehicles department. They literally risk their jobs by dealing with carnappers and smugglers. Magicians also earn their livelihood here without even being officially employed in this hell-of-a-place to get your driver's license if you don't want to go through the standard operating procedure—magic performed by fixers, drastically reducing waiting time but at great cost to your pocketbook. Well, live and let live.

Jugglers dominate the Pagcor and the PCSO. They can juggle the funds, but in the process and towards the end, falter and lose their timing and balance. Pagcor money has been used as private coffers in electioneering and some such foolhardy enterprises that eventually boomerang on the perpetrators.

Freaks are also found in congress and the senate, where, quite naturally, clowns abound. Some congressmen just report for the roll call, sit around in their business suits or barongs, walk around exchanging (un)pleasantries with their colleagues, and patiently wait for their pork barrel to go through. Some are natural stand-up comedians like Miriam D. Santiago, some are there to defend the former GMA administration against tirades of the current dispensation, and then not much else.

The sideshow freaks are the barangay captains who act like little presidents, complete with their barangay tanods and alalays. Our cultural values manifest, in subtle ways, that we are always partial to those with whom we are familiar or closer—if this is not a mini-version of big government, I don't know what is. I do not mean to discredit the barangay system for it does settle arguments, family conflicts, and resolve minor community problems in its own sweet way. Never mind the fact that barangay officials play blind when it comes to jueteng. If you see it and say it's not there, does that not make you some kind of a freak?

When you deal with the DFA, NBI, GSIS, SSS, or the BIR, you are in for a ride. You are at their mercy. Although "hidden fees" have finally been dispensed with because of computers and the Internet, the human factor rules the way how services are rendered. You are made to ride the merry-go-round when you are directed to go from office to office or building to building to accomplish your purpose. You take the roller coaster when the office cannot make a promise as to the outcome of your "predicament" or situation. Otherwise, take the Ferris wheel where your hopes to be granted what you want go up and down. At the end of the day, what matters is you are not taken for a ride where you reach a point of no return, like those victimized by an illegal recruiter or lured by promises of high pay that do not materialize because they went past the recuirtment process. Ride on, there's also nothing we can do about the rise of transportation fares!

The PCSO, or Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, used to represent the people-service side of government. It stood for humanitarian acts towards alleviating short-term plights of those in need and it was charity at its best, sincere, immediate and unconditional. Today, in keeping with the times, PCSO could well mean Presidential Campaign Systematic Overdraft, or Presidential Campaign Savings Office, or you could conjure your own on what PCSO really stands for! The PCSO, essentially, is only one of convenient sources of revenue that the administration resorts to in times of contingency, that is, one among the other milking cows which are, to be more specific, the SSS, GSIS, Pagcor, and the BIR, and what-else-have-you. It's like taking candy away from a baby, as easy as pie, one is tempted to say, in the light of the ongoing senate blue ribbon committee investigations.

Poor President Noynoy, he gets blamed everytime the past administration scandals are brought to the fore or revived. The "victims" or "culprits," however you may choose to view them, have a ready palusot everytime they feel implied to—that the president is after them in order to divert attention from his own below-par performance, as what the polls indicate.

"What goes around, comes around" is a popular saying which rings true when you literally "reap what you sow." When you commit a crime, you feel you got away with it as you maintain your Swiss bank accounts or real estate investments abroad, and then suddenly realize that you are about to lose it if you cannot satisfactorily explain your meteoric rise to Forbes First 100 Billionaires magazine. Would it not be easier to explain if you were like Manny Pacquiao, acquiring and accumulating wealth through his physical skills, his own blood, sweat and tears? How else could PNoy fulfill his promise that "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap." I am not a defender of the current administration per se, but if PNoy ends his presidency untainted with scandals involving self-enrichment in office, he would be leaving behind a legacy that the former administration never in the least tried to or even bothered with doing.

Sometimes being Kapampangan leaves too much room to being proud about roots and heritage. President Diosdado Macapagal, although not bereft of an immaculately clean record, was a hard act to follow. Father Panlilio was too honest for his own good and stepped on a lot of already-sore toes. His style of governance was a mix of church-and-state, oftentimes contradicting his values as governor. His well-heeled opponents, with the blessings of our own then PGMA, finally took over and he is now mulling over his next step. But is Pampanga faring any better with an obviously hackneyed view of PNoy's being at the helm? Did GMA do justice to her father by leading the same way as he did, that is, leadership with pride? It is for us Kapampangans to say, even as you try hard to be fair and just.

In a way, GMA had fulfilled some of her presidential promises to make life better for the masses. Sadly, that turned out overwhelmingly true only for some selected friends and, unfortunately, at the expense of the common citizens who pay their taxes but still wallow in utter poverty.

Being Filipino and being proud of it is one thing, and being Kampampangan and wanting to be proud to be one is another. We fervently pray that PNoy can make a difference.

In the meantime, my uncle Pidoy in the Philippines wrote me about him trying to fire his housemaid. He discovered that she was inflating the price on things he tells her to buy at the corner sari- sari store. Fortunately, the storeowner's helper whistleblowed on her. But that was not the end of it. She is invoking her inalienable rights as an employee and that she cannot be fired until proven guilty! She knows that sari-sari stores do not issue receipts, so that nothing can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Her boyfriend told her that this is a clear case for the senate blue ribbon committee and instructed her to resort to the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating herself. You learn something new from watching TV everyday, especially if you are tuned to TFC or ANC. I advised my uncle not to send her to the store anymore and tell her to stop seeing her boyfriend.

Until proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and that is in the absence of TV coverage and the abiding politics of our time, the fear of being found out while indulging in graft and corruption is merely a hindrance, which overcomes itself anyway if you really work at it.

Good fortune to you all.

[About the author. Wilfrido David is a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico since 1985. He is an avid news consumer, habitually tuned to global TV via satellite. In turn, he occasionally comes up with spiced up essays and anecdotes liberally sprinkled with his wry humor, at times irreverent, oftentimes as corny as corn-on-the-cob, but nontheless thought provoking. He thinks of himself as a "junior senior," a mature gentleman with very active brain cells but a waning testosterone count. He is an American citizen by necessity, not by choice, as he so aptly put it. He is as Kapampangan as sisig, no more, no less.]

-Posted: 10:10 PM 10/10/11 | More of this author on eK!