Government Leaders as Crisis Managers

The onslaught of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng was proof that we need leaders and officials in government to become crisis managers. The unpredictable happened, but it was not really and totally unknown. Why? First, we know for the past half a century most of us have lived that population will grow much faster than it will reduce. Common understanding tells us it means more people will need earth space to build houses, more people will need food, more people will need clothes, etc. Second, our past decades have seen the brightest of minds we could ever recall, whether they ended up as tragic heroes and heroines or made history as icons, they did give a thought or two that became TRUTHS and serve as guideposts to our modern cum hazardous living. Lastly, this common knowledge and the historical legacy give us reason enough to ACT responsibly and become wise inhabitants of this human planet.

The responsibility of looking after the welfare of the community especially during time of crisis falls on the shoulders of government leaders, specifically those in the executive branch. As planning is an essential element of governance, its breadth and scope ideally include planning for natural crisis such as the super typhoons that hit the country. Yet we hear of people in the calamity areas commenting about late rescue efforts, absence of government leaders, untimely and insufficient relief goods, etc. Whether these are valid or not, the gaps are evident in community mobilization and information, crisis resource distribution and management, formulation of contingency plans, etc.

In retrospect, government leaders as crisis managers will prove a great advantage in our efforts as a people to cooperate, unite and contribute to making real, humane communities we all need.

Typhoons

Typhoon Ondoy left Metro Manila and nearby provinces wasted and waste-full. It was heartbreaking it should sensitize all of us to the murderous extent we have damaged mother earth. Reports say this volume of rainfall has never happened in Manila and the amount that fell in all of Luzon in two days was equivalent to the regular annual volume for the entire nation. Ondoy left 300 deaths in Metro Manila alone and Pepeng caused more or less the same number of casualties in the Cordillera region. Scientists and environmentalists warn that we only have TEN YEARS to try to REVERSE the effects of climate change. It's shocking as much as it's REAL.

Experts advise that in developing countries such as ours, adaptive measures may be adopted to face the adverse effects of climate change. Communities in low-lying areas and have experienced flooding and/or mudslides are now mandated to leave for relocation areas days before the incoming storm. Local government units prepare rescue vehicles and equipment; food rations are packed for those who will be housed in relocation centers. Immediate as well as long-term solutions are now being taken seriously. Residents of houses in areas where they should not have been constructed in the first place are discouraged from returning. The Laguna de Bay area has shown to heve been abused by illegal structures which resricted the flow of water from the bay to tributaries, and on to Manila Bay. This caused the great flooding in the areas of Pasig, Pateros, Marikina and the rest of Rizal. Aggravating cirucumstances cited were the denudation of forests in the Rizal provinces and the improper and careless disposal of wastes from industrial and commercial establishments as much as from individual homes. Evidently, we have gone too far in abusing the environment and it looks like payback time has come. We can only pray that this time we will act together and concertedly meet the challenges of our seasons.

Governance 'Takes Two to Tango’

During and after the deluge brought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the avalanche of complaints and concomitant issues on how the government responded to the disaster took its turn. We tend to blame those in office and forget we, as citizens, have our own share of the responsibility. I was in government service for some nine years and I have seen how the government tried, through the decades, to give opportunities for people to participate as much as what a progressive democracy demands. That corruption has become inbred only proves that we all corroborated to make it so. When the government becomes inept and dysfunctional, we have ourselves to blame, too. Yet we have a mass base which still needs to be helped in seeing and understanding these realities before they could even act. Those of us who could lead should continue to teach self help no matter how painstaking the process is. And, there is no mistaking, it is very difficult.

In my stint with the National Housing Authority and Human Settlements Regulatory Commission, I observed that a good way to make people participate is by making them realize they make their future whether or not they act on it and acting on it will make a viable and reliable future most probable. (I do not mean to lecture and only stay confident because of a Meritorious Service Award I happily got from NHA as Sociologist/Community Relations Specialist). Delivering the message or the government goal in simple language and in one of their usage, listening to what they have to say about it and feeling for the community would help a service provider so much it could bring her mission to START. Communication is basic and crucial; planning with the people assures an agreed-upon and feasible product no matter how meagre finances and other resources are. When two parties agree in all aspects to do something, its success is almost guaranteed. We are Filipinos and we could try to do things right for ourselves and for the rest of our race.

Voting for the First-Time? Things to Think About

Our Presidential elections next year gives me the shivers, like anticipating the onslaught of another typhoon never knowing how much disaster it will bring. Why we have come to this point of uncertainty should really send us thinking about what we did with our votes the past election years. I had high regard for Marcos but was disappointed he had to exit ungraciously. I believe “Tita Cory” did her best and made good in spite of her limitations. She had integrity. FVR and GMA were sophisticated in their own ways. But poverty is still amongst us and it feels like no President could ever be spared from bearing the blame for it. The future looks gloomy if we don’t act on making it good. The best thing about still being here, alive and kicking, is that we can always TRY. Uncertainty is always disturbing but one good way of coping with it is to talk about it. Come to think of it, the subject is interesting. So let’s talk about it!

I don’t remember any period in our national history when young people and the first time voters have been given real significance more than now. To be able to swing the vote to the best choice of candidates is an effort that indicates the making of a united electorate. Mass media is now coupled with high technology, reaching and touching the hardest population sector to please – the youth. Example, ABS-CBN’s “Boto Mo-Patrol Mo” does not only encourage eligible voters to register, it reinforces vigilance so one’s vote would be counted, and stands for one’s vote to make THE DIFFERENCE.

But what do the first time, youthful voters look for in a leader? Here are some elements you may want to think about and some of my thoughts as starters:

A Gentleman or another Lady President?

With Cory and GMA the idea of the woman good only with house chores swung to both sides of the extreme: “the woman is equal to a man” and “the woman can be a man, too.”

In both instances, they reflect how we as a people has transcended traditional perceptions about being a woman; how the Filipina has “actualized” herself as a working individual, as a single parent, as what I call the rice winner, as an overseas adventurer and risk-taker, as a partner to another female, etcetera, etcetera.

Does gender matter when it comes to being the president of a nation?

Is a candidate’s religious affiliation important?

Catholics, Protestants, Muslims. We are a mix of religious beliefs and those beliefs do intersect at some points so we all value life, family, peace within and outside. Our individual beliefs somehow mirror those of our society and if one would be faithful, then this country would be a better place for all. Didn’t the prayers make People Power 1986?
What about educational attainment?

The Erap jokes exaggerated the criticism on former President Estrada’s academic achievement, and it made his limelight brighter. He turned out smart and outwitted even himself. But how and where should a President’s intellectual capacity be demonstrated?

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This article is continued here.

Voting for the First-Time? Things to Think About part 2

What values would you look for in a candidate?

Purity of intent to do good. This quality could be found in any individual, rich or poor, in any profession, anywhere. Aside from the internal control of the value, the lure of empowering one’s self in one’s political position could be overweighed if not eradicated.

Would you like a President who has excellent communication skills?

Nobody comes close to former President Marcos. Next to Ninoy. But somebody has yet to give messages in Filipino, make the ordinary Juan understand, and make him feel involved so he would be motivated to act and help make a better future for himself and the country. We have to seriously consider that our mass base speak the native tongue.
What about having a sense of humor?

Just read the Erap jokes while you keep the chamberlane on. But it will not make you think of Erap as having been a good President.

Should a presidential candidate be rich?

Campaign is expensive and if a candidate could afford to run for presidency, maybe he/she could refund after he wins. Wherefrom? It depends.

What about track record?

If we look at the long list most candidates place in their flyers, we could be overwhelmed. With how much they know, they could go around the system without being detected. But I hope they would just summarize and emphasize the significant contributions to family and community building and whatever else is relevant to the position they are seeking.
Could a President give a cure for or prevent corruption in the government?
I sure hope there’s a chamber of secrets for this and that we could all walk through the wall to find out. It looks like we need magic to destroy the rot. It’s hard since the root cause lies in the individual. Which means everybody has to do it, ideally at the same time.

“ Ninoy-Gerry: Noynoy-Mar”

George Bernard Shaw said: “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.”

But man is capable of learning from experience. This, I believe, is what makes man a very special creation. And history does not repeat itself, unless it is interpreted twice. But I hope not as a tragedy first, and second, as a farce.

As their fathers Ninoy Aquino and Gerry Roxas had visions of how our country could be great,
Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas have their own. I find them both sincere. Mar gives up his plan to run for President in 2010 to give way to Noynoy’s candidacy. The latter is now on retreat which shows how seriously he’s taking on the torch. Noynoy as President and Mar as Vice-President could be the stimulus we’ve been waiting for. Let’s all do our share. Sacrifice should not be the sole obligation of the leaders, but also of those being led.

What About Capital Punishment?

I viewed Larry King Live on CNN about the Manson Murders in the ‘60s. The murder of actress Sharon Tate and her unborn son by a group of psychopaths, Manson followers, is proof that some people could be driven to devilish and gruesome acts against others who are innocent and helpless. Making the relatives suffer a lifetime of pain and loss aggravates the crime. All accused are still behind bars, and not one has been given parole in spite of numerous pleas, even from the woman who lies dying of brain cancer.

Some people may agree that capital punishment would have been a better method to deal with the unpardonable crime. When crime is committed, it is a crime against an agreed-upon way of life of most people; it is a grave threat against what most people have painstakingly built for themselves and their families. When criminals believe in an exactly opposite way of life, believing even that killing innocent people is okay, then they become incorrigible from the normal perspective. Punishment like life imprisonment is imposed. At times, capital punishment is adhered to. Or better and just.

Remember the Maggie de la Riva rape case? Everyone felt the criminals deserved to be punished with death on the electric chair. The whole nation watched silently on the day of the persecution, and nobody wanted the phone from the President’s side to ring and stop it. I just don’t know how much impact this had on the rate and frequency of commission of heinous crimes. But it sure did silence them for a while.

The Ninoy and Cory in Us

I’ve known some outstanding people in my life - people who made things possible in the direst of circumstances, people who showed others how life could be lived fully just by being themselves. I believe that the only way we can be grateful to them is by doing something in our life that will bring greatness to others, too.

They were men of decision. Both twenty, they ran to safety in his hometown in Pangasinan, away from the war-torn city of Manila where they were both studying for a university education. The young lady had her family in far away Cebu in the islands of the Visayas. Soon after, they married and started a family with gun shots all over the archipelago. During the war, he worked with some Americans to secure a food warehouse for the affected citizens and so they could have food at home, too. She played the piano to the folks delight, and they forgot the horrors of war momentarily. There was a time a group of Japanese soldiers listened to her play as they became friendly. After the war they decided to go back to the city. He was the first to do this among his folks, and they thought he was risking too much and would find his family impoverished. But they were determined and believed that things would turn out well. Soon, they were both working as clerks in separate government national offices. Education or at least a college degree was required for promotion, so they decided to go back to school one at a time, while the other worked for the family sustenance. They soon rose up the organizational ladder and became middle management decision-makers. Then the temptations started coming. They had to contend with the emerging favour-for-favour transactions, the use of who-do-you-know inside so you win the bid, the offers for the legal 10% from purchases. They both got tired of bearing with it all, so they decided to avail of the optional retirement package of the government and left at the same time. Both retired, they went into business and bought a farm. You wouldn’t imagine them doing all these with nine children to feed, clothe, and educate. Yet they did it. They had a beautiful life together, sharing nothing and everything. They have served their government well and they meant well. They were a Filipino couple who dreamt of a prosperous life for themselves, their children and their countrymen. One that is happy. One that is noble.

I happen to be fortunate that I am one of their daughters. I thank God for them, the couples like my parents, who trekked the road of life sure of themselves, and in so doing, gave themselves to us. They make the families the country needs.

The Change We Need: From Within

Do you believe that we could unite to fight corruption in our government and social system?

Since I started voting, working, and having my family I often come across people who would take the easy road no matter what the cost. Whether it meant they would have to hurt someone important in their life, or deprive some other people of what is due them, or simply just to have more for themselves. At some points in our lives, we all are guilty of these things to a certain degree. But every time we have to accept our mistake and act on not repeating it. But what happens when we don’t, and things are done to a degree that will erode the very values upon which we build our daily living, hopes, and dreams? Do we need to wait for this time to come? Or are we feeling this threat now?

In our life experiences, we know that change should come from within. We know it for a fact, we know how much it could make us become better persons, we know what happiness this brings. Where, then, does the problem lie? We forget to make an effort, or we pretend to forget.

Face-to-face With My Government

My first job was in 1975 as a Social Services Specialist in a newly reorganized national office. The Civil Service Commission referred me to the agency. They were efficient! Having graduated college from the UST with a major in Sociology, I never knew what kind of a job I could apply to, except that I could be a research encoder just like when I worked part time during senior year. For me, my first work was momentous - it gave me a wider perspective of the world that used to be just my room and our home in Project 6. Much more, or rather much less, than our snacks of cakes and meals of lechon kawali –cum- pinakbet. Bigger issues than what to wear on Sundays or where to hold my 18th birthday. I was thrown out into the world of the urban poor who barely make it to survive everyday. Into the reality that they can only choose to be hard headed because they can’t find the words to rebut and maybe fight for their rights to come to a compromise with a demolition team. And perhaps come to terms with life and its entirety. It was a major learning experience for me.

Later I was sent to a special project in Ilocos Norte. Hundreds of houses in five sitios (districts) were to be relocated initially to provide a security fence and preservation measures for the lake. Incidentally, the then President used to play in the area as a boy, and later as a place where he liked to spend his holidays. In the series of consultation among the local folks, we were first treated politely and asked the great question why. Next, the old fathers came and knelt before us and begged us to stop the project with tears on their faces. In the succeeding attempts, we were stoned in our vehicle on our way to community meetings. What to do? Our team leader had direct access to the President so after a consensus, she told him it had to be upgrading and not relocation, or he loses out team. We won. This time it was an eye-opener as much as a heart-breaker.

In another instance, I was sent with a multi disciplinary team to a big project, an international and much funded one. But truckloads of food for the beneficiaries didn’t turn out enough at times, and when they did they were not the foodstuff originally intended for consumption. There were talks of highway robbery and interception, though we never heard any official inquiry on them. There was a time when the recipients got tired of eating sardines they went out and bartered the stuff with the local people. One embarrassing incident was when a group head accidentally opened his briefcase during an inter agency meeting and revealed bundles of ripe bananas that looked exactly like those in the rations.

Since then I transferred from one agency to another, from government to non-government. I felt I had to find the reason to stay put and maybe make life easier for me. Why does one leave a good paying job? First I thought I wanted to pursue graduate education. Then maybe a better occupation could be waiting. Or I could do something else and be good at it, too. But it always boiled down to frustration at the thought that it would take great effort and a long time to change things that have become pervasive in our culture and have become part of what we are as a people – corruption. How do we fight it?