Most Filipinos are accustomed to receiving bad news. It’s like a part of life to live with sad endings and also tragedies. Perhaps it has something to do with the Catholic mantra “if someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also” or perhaps some people are simply not the master of their own fate. But, whatever the case, Filipinos in the Philippines seem to be living in a perpetual nightmare. This is evident in the horrendous traffic Filipinos have to endure every day. This is also evident in the way Filipinos tolerate the abuse they get from their public servants since the country was granted “independence” by their colonial masters.
Take the case of Judy Taguiwalo. She was handpicked by President Rodrigo Duterte to head the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Over more than a year of holding that role, she did not receive complaints even from the harshest critics of the current administration. As a matter of fact, Taguiwalo was very much lauded and well-praised by people from all camps. They said she doesn’t just do her job, she does it well too, which is a rarity for a public servant in the Philippines. Despite that, members of the Commission on Appointments, comprised of members of Congress, rejected her appointment.
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A lot of Filipinos were baffled as to why their representatives in Congress are not in tune with their sentiments about Taguiwalo. The people want her in DSWD so why did they reject her? There was no valid reason not to confirm her in the post. Her rainbow haired predecessor was so incompetent and was infamous for callously burying relief goods underground because she failed to distribute them before the expiry date, but was confirmed to her post without a hitch.
Tuguiwalo’s rejection as Secretary of DSWD was disappointing to a lot of people. The worse part was, the members of the Commission on Appointments did not feel obliged to explain their decision. They deliberated behind closed doors and those who said “no” to her remained unnamed. That has to be one of the ruthless things members of Congress had done to the people they supposedly represent. There is no way for the public to know who among the politicians are playing politics. How can the voters tell which one among their representatives betrayed them? How can they avoid voting the wrong candidates in the next election?
There’s talk that members of Congress rejected Judy as DSWD Secretary because they want to use her department’s dole outs in the form of Conditional Cash Transfers (as traditionally done) to buy votes – a scam she didn’t want to be a part of. It seems members of Congress from both the lower and upper house want a piece of the action from the DSWD to fund their next election campaign. Some say that some congressmen prefer that the DSWD course its projects through them instead of delivering these directly to recipients. They must miss their pork barrel funds that much.
Tuguiwalo’s rejection is proof that Duterte can only do so much to effect real change in the Philippines. It seems lawmakers themselves don’t want change. The CA’s rejection of Duterte’s cabinet appointees is also proof that the Philippines is not the dictatorship some of his critics insist it is. The system, although broken, still works for members of Congress. It works for their own interests especially. As a friend pointed out, “everyone else is still the same corrupt, incompetent, treasonous scumbag waiting to enrich him or herself at the expense of the Filipino people who, by and large, are too hungry to care.”I did not realise the DSWD is very important to lawmakers. Neither did a lot of people. These “lawmakers” are supposed to be busy crafting laws, not dipping their fingers in DSWD affairs. But as another astute observer pointed out, the DSWD is the source of election war kitty because of the cash and goods coming out of the department. The “Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) is the biggest vote buying programme”.
What happened to Taguiwalo proved a lot of things about Philippine society. While she touched a lot of people with her sincerity and dedication to her work, I also think that being considered a rarity in government is a tragedy and a reflection of how dysfunctional the society has become. There are only a handful of public servants who can be trusted to do their jobs and sadly, they do not last very long in a corrupt system.
This situation cannot be blamed on the uneducated or members of the lower and middle class in Philippine society alone. A lot of members of the elite promote mediocrity and patronage politics. Their allies in media help build the image and profile of friends who are unfit to lead. This is to entice the gullible members of society. We can see that a lot of these elites support the Aquinos who they see as “saints”. The Aquino family and their allies have influenced politics in the Philippines for more than three decades. Three decades of bad management has been exposed today now that the current administrator does want to sweep problems under the rug.
Will the voters remember what the lawmakers did in the coming election? Will these politicians get punished in the polls and booted out? The irony here is that it is the people who keep electing the corrupt public servants again and again. They may be “pork barrel-obsessed lawmakers” but they were elected by the Filipino people nonetheless and get away with it. In other words, the people are in on the scam without realising it. Unless the people realise their fate is in their hands and that they have power to boot the scumbags out of government, things will not change for the better. That is the real tragedy.
In life, things are not always what they seem.