Monday, February 18, 2008

Contradiction in terms

This is my column today.

Monday next week, Feb. 25, the 22nd anniversary of Edsa People Power 1, is a “working holiday.”

Since January, many of my colleagues in Human Resource Management have been pestering Malacañang for an official proclamation on Feb. 25 to allow industry time to manage their production and business schedules. We’ve been repeatedly told that the matter was still being deliberated on. Why something that has traditionally been a public holiday in the last many years would still require deliberation on every year baffles the mind. What is there to deliberate on?

Previous Presidential Proclamations on Feb. 25 parroted the same justification for declaring a public holiday on the date: “It is fitting that the people of the Philippines be given full opportunity to honor the memory of the Edsa People Power Revolution with appropriate ceremonies.”

So why not give people the same “opportunity” this year? It’s been the norm in the past, why break away from tradition?

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita offered a non-explanation by saying that the “spirit of Edsa remains alive.” Duh.

Of course we all know the real reason for Malacañang’s change of heart this year: This administration is scared that declaring a holiday would drive the working class and students to join mass actions scheduled on that day. In short, the Palace is not taking any chances.

I doubt that people can be prevented from expressing their real sentiments simply because the day has been conveniently declared a “working holiday,” particularly those that have already been outraged and angered enough by the recent revelations on the extent of corruption happening in the country. And even if work and school do prevent people from marching and shouting in the streets, these will not dissipate the outrage and the anger.

Once again: Ugly feelings don’t die, they just fester underneath and surface later on in far uglier forms. Unless Malacañang comes up with something more sensible and more acceptable, there is simply no delaying the inevitable.

My beef with Malacañang’s declaration of a “working holiday” on Feb. 25 has little to do with depriving people another day of rest and recreation.

I have always maintained that declaring too many public holidays is counterproductive to business, particularly when these holidays are not scheduled and announced ahead of time to allow factories and industries to manage their production schedules. Things are aggravated when these holidays are subject to the whims and caprices of whoever sits in the Palace and dictated by the prevailing political situation.

I know that there are benefits that can be derived from giving people a longer weekend. Unfortunately, more than 90 percent of workers in this country are paid on a daily basis and therefore don’t get paid on holidays. Yes, “no work no pay” is still a dictum that many businesses swear by. Declaring additional holidays deprives families another day’s worth of wages.

Besides, we’re a country that doesn’t seem to know how to commemorate official holidays anyway. We just let people take off a day from work and school and leave it at that, so what’s the point? Given the way things are, we might as well follow the Japan example. The Japanese observe all their regular holidays in one whole stretch towards the end of the year.

Or perhaps we should just allow employers and employees to decide on the specific days in which the holidays can be enjoyed. It defeats the major reason why holidays are supposed to be observed on specific dates, but given the way this current administration has been wantonly tampering with the observance of holidays anyway—as evidence by this preoccupation with holiday economics— it really doesn’t make any difference anymore.
Still, a lot of things need to be said about this predilection for conjuring up new terminology.

What the heck is a “working holiday” anyway? It’s an oxymoron of the highest order that ranks up there with similar inventions such as “exact estimate,” “unbiased opinion,” and yes, “military intelligence” (although it can be argued that the later is not only an oxymoron given recent events involving this country’s military officials and Jun Lozada).

We have regular holidays. These are the days specified by law and promulgated by Congress. We have special holidays, which refer to those covered by proclamations by the President. But there is supposed to be no such thing as a working holiday.

A holiday, technically and legally speaking, is a special day of rest apart from weekends. A contraction of the words “holy” and “day,” it originally represented religious days although the concept eventually evolved to include commemoration of special days tied to a country’s history and culture. But as far as the law is concerned, a holiday is a day of rest. People who go to work on a holiday because of compelling reasons are entitled to a premium on their salary.

Feb. 25 is a working holiday, but workers will not be entitled to any premium on their salary. There is no special celebration either that involves the working class. So for all intents and purposes, a declaration of a working holiday is at best, an empty and meaningless gesture that betrays the current attitude of Malacañang Palace towards events that do not suit its political agenda. They can hem and haw about how commemorating Edsa 1 “is in the heart” and how the country can still observe the historic events of 1986, but the reality is plain and simple: The spirit of Edsa 1 and Edsa Dos occupy their worst nightmares.

* * *

Spewing contradiction in terms and spinning tall tales that are expectedly nonsensical and defies logic is not totally alien to the people of this administration.

The mad scramble to try provide some sense—perhaps even just a little iota of logic—to all the major foul-ups that this administration has wrecked on the nation in recent weeks has reduced people in government to a band of babbling, bumbling baboons. Truly, there is only so much people can do to cover stench. You can try to cover it, call it euphemisms, even sanitize it. At the end of the day, it’s still excrement.

1 comment:

Lester Cavestany said...

I can see how you tried to avoid using the word that refers to cow dung. Perhaps you're not allowed to say it in your column. I hope you can let me to say it in your blog.

Let's not put up with the bullsh*+ that this administration is giving the Filipino people!