"We should strategically use the conditions wrought by the pandemic to institute meaningful change."
Despite all the problems that the pandemic has caused our lives, government institutions and the people themselves should look at it as an opportunity to review our lifestyles, even traditions, and be more practical henceforth.
One of the items that caught my attention is the decision of Metro Manila mayors and the DILG to prohibit cemetery visits this coming Undas. I submit that even beyond 2020, the government with the Roman Catholic Church cooperating, should end the tradition of visiting the dead in cemeteries on November 1 and 2.
I have written about these holidays several times in past columns. The Roman Catholic bishops should de-list November 1 and 2 as All Saints’ and All Souls’ days, or the government should for its part consider both as ordinary work days.
Instead, let us pay our respects for our dearly departed on their birthdays or their death anniversaries, even both. That way, we do away with all the problems of air and traffic congestion, physical distancing, cleaning up debris left by irresponsible cemetery visitors, and many more. And the concomitant expenses shouldered by police and local governments.
Even the commemorations of the dead will be more intimate, more private. I am sure our dearly departed will appreciate our remembering them on their special days more, than during the noisy commemorations of the days of the dead.
I have always batted for reducing the number of our holidays, and the bunching of their commemoration on the nearest Friday or Monday instead of the actual date. That way, work inertia is unbroken, and even the enjoyment of holiday respites longer.
I recall how the celebrated Ford CEO Lee Iacocca explained why customers preferred to buy cars assembled (by humans) on Mondays or Fridays are found more problematic than those assembled on the three other days in between. The explanation made sense: on Mondays, workers were laggard because of the previous Sunday rest day and the ball games shown on TV; and on Fridays, they were looking forward to the weekend.
That was then. Nowadays, assembly lines are manned by robots, and quality controls are standardized by computers. Automobiles are designed with less moving parts and less mechanical movements.
In fact, if I had my druthers, even if this would not pass Congress, I would have two long holidays each year: One for an extended Holy Week (or summer break) beginning Palm Sunday and ending the Monday after Easter for a total of nine (9) days. Then another from December 23 all the way to January 2, for a total of 11 continuous days.
We should charge all the holidays for the first six months to the summer break, and all holidays for the latter six to the Christmas break. The only exception would be June 12, our National Day, for which I would allot two days, the 12thand the 13th. But it should be a truly grand commemoration, complete with meaningful parades and speeches by our leaders to inspire greater patriotism and national discipline among our people, especially government workers.
I can dream, can’t I?
Speaking of dreams, Sen. Ping Lacson the other day rued the fact that we have far too many officials in government, mostly appointive, who often literally compete for office space within agencies, aside from being under-utilized, even completely useless.
In my dreams, the government should be completely overhauled. Not only in terms of reducing the number of appointive officials, but more so the number of elected ones.
In the past, most departments had a secretary appointed by the President, assisted by two undersecretaries and three or four assistant secretaries. Most departments had an undersecretary for operations and another for administration and finance. Now there are departments with as many as nine undersecretaries, including such a quaint position as USec for Special Concerns, a.k.a, USec for Nothing.
On top of these of course, the agencies or bureaus under these cabinet officials have an army of bureau directors, or general managers in the case of attached GOCCs.
In Pres. Cory’s time, a cabinet position was created for the brilliant Luis Villafuerte, former Marcos’ Minister of Trade, later Camarines Sur governor and congressman --- that of a Presidential Office for Government Re-organization. But his very sensible suggestions were not followed, just archived.
And yet, senior citizens would agree with me that the government functioned infinitely better and was cost-efficient before President Marcos bloated the bureaucracy, followed by succeeding presidents who used the power to organize the bureaucracy as license to appoint so many more officials.
The pandemic presents us with opportunities to change so many present givens, from lifestyles to traditions to societal and governance systems.
But here’s another sensible dream that I hope the next president will incorporate into his agenda: reduce the number of elective positions.
Elect senators by region (that is if we retain the present system). There are 17 administrative regions, including CAR, NCR, 4-A and BARMM. Multiply each by two senators. That way, every region will be equally represented, unlike now where easily half the Senate comes from NCR, even if they claim affinity to other regions.
Abolish the provincial boards, the city and municipal councils. Replace these twice-a-week legislative (kuno) bodies by the mayors comprising the province similar to a corporate board of directors; the city and municipal councils by the barangay chairmen, or a specified number elected by their peers in towns or cities with a multiplicity of barangays.
More than the calculable savings to us taxpayers, they would be more responsive because of direct governance and policy-making. We have historical precedents: This was how our rajahs and datus ruled their tribes – by a privy council composed of clan patriarchs.
We should strategically use the conditions wrought by the pandemic as opportunities to institute meaningful change.