reflecting on walang mahirap kung walang corrupt

Ugandan anti-corruption sign

Image by futureatlas.com via Flickr

CHINO HILLS, California – It is always helpful for everyone to step back once in a while to reflect on the bigger picture that may sometimes get clouded when we get inundated with the mundane and not so mundane necessities of daily life. Being away from the Philippines can provide this perspective and balance which allows me to validate the thoughts, assumptions and even biases that may have crept into my consciousness.

I have some very strong opinions and ideas about certain things particularly when it comes to what needs to be done to move our country forward. While I write this, I have to remind myself that putting ones thoughts down on paper, or in this case, in a blog post, cannot be thought of as an end. Rather, it should be thought of as a vehicle to spur others to action, to let the force of ideas incite, draw out and maybe tickle others’ consciences to do more for society. And this should be made real by walking the talk, so to speak.

In a previous post and in various conversations, I have been very critical and disappointed at the seeming lack of vision from the administration of PNoy. In the past few days, I have thought about this and have come to temper my own high expectations of his Presidency. Just because he may not be doing enough does not necessarily mean that what is being done is wrong. It  also does not necessarily mean that we are going in the wrong direction.

My sense of disappointment stems from my own impatience. This impatience is borne by a sense of urgency for wanting to have many more things done under the current dispensation for whatever PNoy’s shortcomings you still somehow know that his heart is in the right place – that he wants to do right by the Filipino people. This sense of urgency is also driven by the fear of uncertainty – the uncertainty of what a succeeding President might be like.

In a letter to prospective corporate partners and sponsors of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), I wrote the following:

“We will also be seeking to institutionalize basic financial control processes related to the request, review, approval and release of disbursements. This will of course include the submission of documentation for the actual expenses that were incurred. Many non-profit organizations are very lax with their financial control processes due to the lack of accountability. We aim to build this (accountability) into our system. It is my wish that when I leave, the systems and procedures that we will have in place will be strong enough to withstand the ability of any individual or individuals to subvert these processes to the detriment of Philippine Football. At the end of the day, however, a lot will depend on the ability of Philippine football’s stakeholders to select officers who will serve for the love of the game rather than themselves. There is only so much one can do to put financial safeguards in place. But such an effort will be made.”

The necessity of having to write this is meant to provide some level of commitment by the current PFF administration to accountability in light of the allegations of financial impropriety of the previous PFF administration which led to the removal of the federation president and other officials. In a sense, what we are doing constitutes the formation of institutional safeguards to dissuade or otherwise make it more difficult to commit wrongdoing. Having said that, we also realize that there is only so much you can do in this regard if you do not have the right people leading an organization.

Allow me to somehow relate this to what is happening to our country and what the current administration is doing. It has been said many times that we do not need more laws, what we need are the right people to implement these laws and the right people to bring wrongdoers to justice.

Thus, nobody can really argue that the almost singular focus of the PNoy administration on eradicating corruption is a step in the wrong direction. The actions of this administration, by design or by accident, on the surface appear to be a concerted effort to bring the right people to implement laws and replace those who stand in the way of bringing lawbreakers to the bar of justice. From personal experience or otherwise, I can only say more needs to be done. I say this because corruption has become a habit, a norm even, in many institutions. It has been taken as the “cost of doing business”. It is just the way things are.

But it doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t be. Corruption is a cancer that eats into the moral fiber of not just the nation but of each individual citizen. Just like anywhere else, PNoy and his administration cannot do it by themselves. We have to do our part and take a stand. This includes being able to disavow little things which countenance petty corruption.

When we commit traffic violations, let us pay the corresponding penalties and not give in to the temptation to “make lagay” for the sake of expediency. At the same time, let us also be conscious of our rights and challenge those who contrive violations in a bid to make money off of us. Kung hindi natin gagawin ‘to, paano matuto yung mga nangongotong na mali yung ginagawa nila. Of course, the most expedient solution to these would be not to break laws in the first place.

Going back to PNoy’s fight against corruption, it should not only be supported in spirit but also by our own practice.

“Walang mahirap kung walang corrupt” goes the campaign slogan of PNoy. Simple, catchy and obviously effective. We have seen the campaign to bring about the “walang corrupt” part but what about the “walang mahirap” part? Does that mean that the government will return the money saved from ending corrupt practices back to taxpayers in the form of lower taxes? Or does it mean that the government will transfer the savings from ending corruption into programs that provide more subsidies for goods and services? I don’t know because it hasn’t exactly been made clear as to how government aims to use the fight against corruption in the elimination of poverty. Kung baga, bitin.

Don’t get me wrong. If PNoy is able to eliminate corruption, WOW! It can be done and it has to be done.

But, as the campaign tagline implies, the elimination of corruption is not the end but rather a means to an end which is the elimination of poverty. What we don’t have is a comprehensive, realistic and achievable plan for doing this. The need for such a plan is imperative because corruption alone is not the cause of poverty and the elimination of corruption alone will not end poverty. Thus, the campaign tagline will end up being misleading without attacking the other causes of poverty.

As we come close to end of the first year of PNoy’s ascending to the Presidency, I sincerely hope that such a plan is unveiled. Maybe at the SONA? Keeping my fingers crossed.


naia blues – papaalisin niyo ba ako o hindi?

Photo of the Centennial terminal area at the N...

Image via Wikipedia

CHINO HILLS, California – I am sure at some point, someone within the Philippine aviation regulatory agencies had a perfectly plausible reason for the multiple inspection system for air travelers leaving for other countries. This system includes a gamut of checks that can leave one either exhausted, irritated, exasperated or any combination of the above.

It starts off when a security guard inspects your travel document and ticket before you even enter the terminal. Then you move on to the security conveyor belt which checks both your hand-carried and check-in luggage. You move on to the line for the airline where you check-in. Upon entry into the roped-off line, someone from your airline checks your passport and travel documents again. Then you finally reach the ground agent who again examines your travel documents and checks in your luggage. Assuming your baggage does not breach the allowable weight limit, you then move on to the next step. I try to make sure I’m within the limit so I’ve never quite experienced what happens when you go over the baggage limit, but I’m sure that if you do, this will somehow involve having to go to another line.

After having checked in, you line up and pay for the terminal fee. I still have not gotten a satisfactory answer as to why this just doesn’t get tacked on to the price of the ticket. Everybody pays for it anyway. I guess the government doesn’t trust the airlines nor the travel agents to remit the money to the airport authority. After paying, you line up at the entrance to the immigration section where someone again checks your documents and makes sure you have paid the terminal fee. Take note that no one has told you to fill up the departure card up to this point. When you get to the “checker”, he/she will check your documents and see if you’ve filled up the departure card. If you haven’t, you are asked to fill one up and line up again (again, it would have been nice if someone actually told you to do this before you got on this line).

Then you finally get into one of the immigration lines. The immigration officer checks your documents again and does something on their computer (I guess to make sure you are not on some hold departure list). After stamping your passport, you line up again to get into the pre-departure area. This is where you have to take off your shoes and have these and your hand-carried luggage scanned.

Finally, you get to the pre-departure area. No one really tells you what happens next. If you have traveled abroad and even domestically, you know enough to know that you just wait for your flight to be called and line up again to board your flight. In the Philippines, however, we just have to make sure that it is really, really safe to have you on board your plane. So you line up again, have your hand-carried luggage physically opened and manually checked this time. You then take off your shoes and hand these over to the manongs and manangs who have to bear with all the manner of smelly shoes while “inspecting” these. Shoe-less, you are subjected to a pat-down. After going through all these, you finally meet up with your shoes and line up again. This final inspection involves another document inspection. I guess we really, really, really want to make sure.

Unless I’m wrong, the whole process involves at least 7 document checks, 4 luggage checks and 4 security (on the traveler) inspections. And this is if everything goes well. God forbid, you mess up along the way. Despite all this, someone going to San Francisco got to the last check before being told that he had mistakenly lined up on the queue for the flight to Los Angeles. One also wonders how former Congressman Ronald Singson was able to slip through this security blanket with illegal paraphernalia before being caught at Hong Kong’s Chep Lap Kok international airport. Or maybe we shouldn’t.

I presume that the point of all these is to comply with international air travel regulations. Well first, when you leave other countries, you notice that you don’t have to go through this much of a maze before you board your aircraft. Second, while the current system has been in place, the Philippines has managed to be (1) downgraded by the US FAA from a Category 1 to Category 2 citing policies that are below international standards and the lack of qualified safety personnel; (2) cited by the International Civil Aviation Organization for being a “significant safety concern”; and, (3) been blacklisted by the European Union.

Despite knowing all these, you grin and bear it because you know that none of these is the fault of the people doing all these checks and inspections. It is the fault of their “bosses” who because of their VIP status probably have not gone through the typical departure experience and thus, don’t appreciate the hassles that passengers go through just to get out of the country. There is a new administration at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. I hope they do better.

In the meantime, I hope we have not sucked out all the pleasant memories from all of the tourists who have to go through these inane and unnecessarily burdensome procedures. Because if we have, good luck to our tourism officials trying to invite them back.

Hay naku…


when the Azkals rage is stilled – a response

Meet and Greet the Azkals Team

Image by budiputra via Flickr

This is a response to Mr. Manolo Inigo’s column entitled “When the Azkals rage is stilled” which appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Dear Mr. Inigo, thank you very much for ventilating your concerns over the decision to hold the World Cup qualifying game of the Philippine Azkals on July 3rd against Sri Lanka at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. Rest assured that we are mindful of the expenses that will be incurred in the hosting of this game.

We would like, however, to correct the impression that the funds to be used to prepare for the game will be that of our hard-earned taxpayers. The Philippine Football Federation (PFF), which is a private non-profit organization, will be investing in the refurbishment of Rizal Memorial using funds which have generously been provided to us by our private sector partners who like us believe in the potential of the Filipino in eventually competing on the world stage in the sport of football.

We would also like to assure you that the decision to hold the World Cup qualifying game in Manila was not made on a whim. Several other potential host cities and provinces were considered during the selection process.

We are and will continue to be grateful to the city of Bacolod and the province of Negros Occidental for being gracious hosts of the Asian Challenge Cup qualifier at the Panaad Stadium. It is, however, also important to bear in mind that as we strive to gain a foothold in the consciousness of the Philippine sporting public, it is only proper that we consider other deserving locations for hosting events like this.

The Azkals are not ours; they belong to the Filipino people who they continuously strive to ably represent. As such, it is our obligation to share them with as many of our countrymen as possible by holding their matches at various locales. Panaad and other sites in the Philippines will continue to be considered for future fixtures of the Azkals as well as the other national football teams.

We, at the new PFF, are more than aware that the opportunity that we have at hand to promote the development of football in the country may pass us by if we do not consciously and judiciously build on the success of the Azkals. It is with this in mind that we have made the decision to invest in facilities that will allow us to attract other countries to play in the Philippines for “friendlies”. At this stage of our development, it is quite difficult to do so given the state of our facilities. We will within reason and again with the backing of our corporate sponsors continue to invest what we can to upgrade our facilities. It is in line with this that it is just but natural to fund the refurbishment of a facility in the capital of the country.

We are not blind to the hardships that our nation and people face.  In fact, we hope that a successful result in our tie with Sri Lanka can provide a unifying activity for our people to cheer for both team and country.  And, as mentioned, we will strive to provide this venue without totally relying on taxpayer funds.

Corporate sponsorship does demand an adherence to certain governance standards to ensure the continued support of these generous donors. We have begun making changes to the PFF, as an organization, to promote efficiency in the way we do things while at the same time instituting financial controls to ensure transparency and accountability within PFF.  These efforts have also been undertaken with the assistance of our corporate supporters and volunteers who have graciously shared with us not just their financial wherewithal but also their knowledge and expertise, their time and even their personnel.  This is in line with our bid to professionalize the PFF.

The PFF has no choice.  It will only be able to continue to attract corporate sponsorship if these generous organizations believe that their money is being put to good use.  The PFF is a non-profit organization. Our ability to promote and develop the sport will largely depend on our ability to engender trust and confidence among our backers.  It is imperative that we do this because the sustainability of the gains we have made will only be achievable through an honest to goodness grassroots program.

Developing a sustainable grassroots program will take time, effort and money. If the PFF cannot attract long-term support from those who support it now, we will never achieve our aim of finding future Azkals on a consistent basis.

Mr. Inigo, these are building blocks to building a professional and responsible organization.  We will make mistakes along the way but we will learn from these mistakes. You do not have to take what is written here at face value, we invite you to visit us at PFF and see for yourself what we have begun to do. Hopefully by doing so, you will come to realize that we are working this hard to ensure that the Azkals rage will never be stilled.