Snafu time

My column today, April 7, 2015.

We know the Lenten Season has expired, and with it all our resolve to be better Christians, because everyone has resumed a fighting stance and everything seems back to usual.  
The newspapers yesterday carried a token picture and a story about Christ’s resurrection, but 99 percent of the news was already about political conflict and the usual litanies of what doesn’t work in this country. 
The House of Representatives announced the resumption of hearings on the Mamasapano massacre amid strong warnings from the so-called Makabayan bloc that they would not drop moves to make the President of the country answerable for the Mamasapano massacre.  Legislators started positioning themselves on both sides of the Bangsamoro Basic Law debate.   Senator Alan Peter Cayetano accused Mindanao Peace advocate and actor Robin Padilla of being a political assassin of the Tingas – his family’s political rival in the fiefdom called the Taguig-Pateros area.  The finger-pointing has returned along with the resumption of the recurring blackouts in Mindanao and other places.  Some educators and yes, certain legislators who need to get media mileage in the runup to 2016, renewed their call to scrap the K+12 program. This is unbelievable but yes, they are still at it despite all the massive preparations to greenlight the program.  Meanwhile, the key cities of Makati and Iligan continued to have the absurd spectacle of having two mayors each. 
Yes, we’re back to normal, which basically means living in a country where leaders behave like children.  
The pissing contest that happened between the Land Transportation Commission and the Metro Manila Development Authority last week was a classic illustration of the kind of  problems we have in this country.  On Holy Wednesday last week, the LTO implemented its “No Plate, No Travel” Policy – it being April 1, 2015.  No, it wasn’t because it was April Fools Day, although the timing certainly looked appropriate; it was simply because that was the date when the LTO’s policy was supposed to have taken effect.  LTO spokesperson Jason Salvador insisted, in various reports, that they were just “implementing the law.”
My problem with catch-all justifications such as “we’re just doing our jobs” or “we’re just following orders” is that they negate the fact that officials, particularly those in leadership positions, are being paid to think and act like rational people and not as mindless robots.  Salvador also conveniently left out a very important context: The implementation of the very law he was defending had already been deferred and postponed many times when the LTO was still having major problems with the production of the new license plates for vehicles.  In short, they arbitrarily postponed implementation in the past when it suited them but immediately went ahead with the strict implementation when they were finally ready - other stakeholders be damned.
MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino was justified in branding LTO’s move last week as “cruel.” Why implement it at a time people embarked on a massive exodus from Manila? I am not sure Tolentino’s claim of “unconstitutionality” was valid although it sounded like music to the ears – a high-ranking government official finally taking up the cudgels for ordinary citizens and going against another government agency!  We really should be challenging more actions of government for the way they encroach on human and civil rights.
Of course we want the LTO to implement laws and to set high benchmarks in terms of operational efficiency.  If their claims of having zeroed out their backlog in the delivery of plates is indeed true, then they deserve commendation.   Lest we forget, the backlog was epic.  The thing is, the LTO is not the only stakeholder in the matter.   It needs to collaborate pro-actively with everyone else including car distributors, policy agencies, and yes, the MMDA, precisely because they don’t even have the manpower to apprehend violators of the “no plate, no travel” policy.  In this context, the implementation of the policy was not workable on many levels.  The MMDA refused to implement it, car distributors blamed everyone else, and as usual, ordinary citizens suffered the effects of the snafu. 
Thus, what could have been a wonderful bit of news (the LTO finally doing something right!) ended up as a snafu simply because many of our leaders just don’t know how to work together with others, or for that matter, to make things really work. By the way, in case you don’t know the word snafu was supposed to have derived its origins as an abbreviation for “situation normal, all things f****d up.”


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