"We might just be bloating the bureaucracy."
Pardon me for writing this piece on the plans of Congress to rush three “landmark” laws creating three departments. I know the intentions are noble. But they may be more reactive than absolutely necessary considering the many problems and crises that we have been experiencing on these three fronts of late. The devil will always be on the details.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez have stated that they would prioritize the passage of laws creating a Department of Disaster Resiliency, a Department for Overseas Filipinos, and a Department for Water Resource Management.
I have written in the past about the need for consolidating all the agencies that have to do with water rights, water distribution management, and other ancillary services such as sewage and water pollution concerns. As it is, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has to grapple with myriad concerns, let alone conflicting mandates.
Why should an agency that is supposed to protect the environment also be in charge of giving licenses and development rights to private companies that would exploit our natural resources? Ideally, environmental protection, especially in this era of worsening climate change conditions, should be under an Environmental Protection Agency, preferably under the Office of the President.
In crafting a law that would be in charge of managing our precious water resources, we submit that Congress should also address the bigger picture of natural resource management vis-à-vis the need to protect the environment.
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True, we are prone to many natural disasters, as if the man-made disasters we appoint to the bureaucracy do not do enough damage because of corruption and inefficiency.
Twenty typhoons visit us each year, some of such intense ferocity that kill and destroy much too often. We are along the Pacific Ring of Fire, which means earthquakes occur quite frequently, and we have so many active volcanoes which could erupt with little warning.
There is nothing wrong with creating a Department of Disaster Resiliency, but we hope the details are such that functions do not overlap insofar as other agencies are concerned, and the law would provide smooth coordination among other existing departments such as the DND, DILG, and DOST. More important is that in the implementing rules and regulations, and in the staffing of positions in the new department, meritocracy and the rights of those working under other agencies that will be subsumed are duly respected.
The way patronage politics through several administrations has debased the talent pool in many critical agencies is not only demoralizing to rank and file. Worse, the resulting ineffectiveness and inefficiency negatively affect the fulfillment of their mandates.
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I know that creating a Department for Overseas Filipinos has been announced by the President in his last SONA. The many abuses suffered by our OFWs in foreign countries and the rackets in recruitment may have prompted the administration to propose this reorganization of the DOLE and its attached agencies.
But I know, based on experience, that we have so many dedicated people working in the DOLE-attached agencies, such as the OWWA, that hopefully will not be sidelined or replaced when the law is finally implemented. Again the prospect of patronage politics spoiling the career service system must not be allowed by Malacañang.
In retrospect, it may have been better if Malacañang, at the very start, created a task force of management experts to study and propose a general re-organization and retooling of government. That way, Congress would have been properly guided in these often reactive creation of new departments and agencies to address specific problems that could otherwise have been solved by the right appointments and proper implementation of existing policies.
It might be a case of bloating the bureaucracy, creating surplusage instead of delivering services effectively and efficiently.
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I condole with the family of Hotdog band’s Dennis Garcia, particularly my dear friend Greg, his brother. Less than two years back, they also lost Rene, another legend of original Filipino music. Together they pioneered the so-called Manila Sound of the 70s, the music of our generation.
In the last 20 years, Dennis and Greg have been reliable, in fact, extremely important cooperators in many political marketing efforts.
We will miss Dennis, not only for the music he has wrought, so magnificently revived in the successful opening of the SEA Games in the Philippines last, but likewise for the innovativeness and creativity of his mind.