No noon break

How many hours or days are you made to wait by your government? Your entire day?

In a way, there’s good in doing errands. I get to know. I arrived at the branch to a kilometer-long line. It looked like there were a million of us not to mention hundreds of senior citizens. Two teller counters were open, the other two unmanned. If the two tellers worked straight hours they would’ve serviced the last person in line at midnight. But as it happens only call centers do midnight these days.

On the wall, a poster screamed

Dear government, truth is people waiting in line in order to transact with you are those who haven’t, thank you very much.

I looked up. Hello officers in crisp uniforms who looked like they had just lunched on crispy pata observing benignly from the floors above! One wonders how these government men and women can stare at inefficiency at work in their own office space yet not feel dutiful compulsion to address the situation at once, or at least rightly suffer panic attack seeing the people who are paying their salaries and benefits are made to wait unnecessarily. And still they feel entitled. In that time, I would’ve loved to make spaghetti for their lunch and go dump it all – pasta, meatballs and sauce – on their heads. Just to drive home the point that it’s their heads in need of feeding, best at noon. But we don’t do that of course.

I briefly recalled the ongoing road widening again around the City. Locals are cynical about these projects because as soon as the new lanes open these are utilized as parking areas again. And everybody’s back to square one. Again.

Is self interest the driving force behind these road projects? Partly. The other half of the equation is plain stupidity. If the problem is parking space which rapidly urbanizing cities inevitably have to deal with, why don’t City Hall come up with a master plan in which idle land is developed into a viable parking space? Continuing to sit it’s dumb ass on the problem even while private vehicle owners continue to enforce their individual will on public space is not rational decision making.

Back to the line. There were seats up front and when I finally got on one I deliberately sat on the edge of the chair and kept my back straight. From the corner of my eyes, I saw the man and woman on either side of me peering. Perhaps they wondered whether I’m real because everyone else including the two were slouched in their seats, a couple of heads hanging down the back of the chairs, already in dreamland. Precisely. If I followed the crowd I too would’ve at one point assumed a posture like this:

See what stupidity can do to you besides- strip you off your dignity.

Most of the time, the reason schools and roads are not built according to standards, or business transactions with government taking forever is because government front liners are too lazy if not lacking in common sense. When you as the head of office see that simple transactions made in your office take hours on end what do you suppose you do? Section 7 of Republic Act 9485 has it on a silver platter for you

Accountability of the Heads of Offices and Agencies. – The head of the office or agency shall be primarily responsible for the implementation of this Act and shall be held accountable to the public in rendering fast, efficient, convenient and reliable service.

But with or without that legal provision common sense or your attitude toward customer service alone will dictate that you rethink your no noon time break strategy, because if you use your eyes and connect what you see to the organ between your ears the problem’s not that. It’s the number or ratio of personnel attending to people.

It’s why I loathe it when people give public officials a standing ovation when making promises of what are actually their basic accountabilities: quality infrastructures and services. I promise to build schools, roads, create jobs, facilitate equal pay for equal work, ease up transaction time with government. Please. Don’t shit in our heads too.

The reason Filipino citizens like Kris Aquino pay the full amount of taxes is so their government would be able to put in place necessary infrastructure in order to grow into the kind of government the people are satisfied with.

When you remit PHP15M in taxes from income not including taxes on prime property and on goods and services you pay for every day, and you and the rest of the public apart from being made to skip lunch get back a mere five-centavo worth of basic infrastructure and services there’s only one word really- shame.

Citizens like Kris Aquino or Manny Pacquiao consistently work long and hard at their craft in order to excel at it hence satisfy their public who in turn pay them a premium. This is fundamentally the logic behind individual Filipinos’ capacity to give back as much to government.

A truly good government therefore takes care to be informed by that.


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