“Indolence is corruption”

So said the President in his Yolanda/Haiyan victims commemoration speech in Tacloban City. I agree. He was alluding to the sorry state of accomplishment of government’s shelter and resettlement goals in the area three years after the typhoon.

Filipino folklore has a name for that indolent person- Juan Tamad.

I’ve recently concluded an evaluation of a shelter and settlement aid project. Going around in the areas, I intimated to one of the project staff that in the localities one comes to see the real status of ‘change’ so enthusiastically spoken of at the national level (in Metro Manila) by past and present administrations: none to turtle slow.

Basic infrastructures, for one. Many villages do not have conducive places to hold community or public meetings and assemblies. There are the barangay halls but these can only accommodate no more than ten or twelve and more than that people will have to stand against the walls or peer in from outside through the windows.

Focus discussions with residents were held inside the church or where there was at least a roof to shield us from the raging sun and heat. In one of the churches, my acute awareness of the Crucified Christ behind distracted me. At the back of my mind, I imagined the other half of me facing the altar, profusely asking that our presence and use of the place be excused. I mean, it’s holy ground we simply don’t conduct these activities in there. Members of my team joked I looked like a preacher which is the last thing I’d like to become. But we were told that it was normal for residents to use the church for meetings and trainings. As there were no parish priests in residence, there being just one serving several villages, Mass was held once a month. The rest of the Sundays, people organized prayer meetings and such.

But conducive meeting places matter. ‘No build zones’ was among our discussion topics which required our audience to dig deep into their experience and knowledge in order to provide quality responses. Also, we needed to be able to hear one another speak. Factors such as noise, discomfort, arrangement, and such like impede communication. I wondered about the quality of community assemblies as when local officials communicate ordinances, decisions, etc. Without shelter from the sun, people would just rather stay home. Or, if they go, it’s just to get their bag of free goodies, sign off on the attendance sheet, gossip with people next to them about the latest village happenings, nod on cue at the pronouncements whether or not they heard them, and then go home. This is also why people remain ignorant of laws.

There is huge disparity between them and villages in Metro Manila, at least the larger ones that have taken advantage of available funding and well taxes. In one, the barangay hall is the equivalent of a municipal hall in the provinces. We were allowed the use of it’s conference hall (airconditioned) for the FGDs and, remarkable how physical factors make a difference in the quality of communication between facilitator and audience.

Back to the provincial villages. One would think village chiefs/barangay captains in office for three terms have at least already built meeting halls; that they had thought of ways to finance the project and there are plenty ways they could explore eg. co-financing with private sector or business, or civil society groups and organizations.

Standard of care in law is equated to that of a good father toward his family. A lazy irresponsible father is someone able who seeing that his family is hungry continues to wait for money or food to drop out of the sky. This extremely lazy attitude toward duties deprives the people of opportunities to learn and engage meaningfully in governance. Then again some of that indolence may be because of illiteracy.

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