It’s no fun listening to the news these days. Mostly I get a load of rehashed items on Mamasapano, BBL, MILF, BIFF, OPAPP, PNP, AFP, PNP vs. AFP and vice versa, and the tired controversies: will President BS Aquino III apologize or won’t he? (He didn’t.) Will Senator Antonio Trillanes stop intriguing or won’t he? (Clearly not). I’m overdosing on Sonny Coloma.

It’s frustrating.

Pardon me for harping on this point, but none of this helps us poor Juans cope with life in the Philippines. I notice that as this government ages, it becomes number and deafer and blinder to the plight of the very people it vowed to serve five years ago.

For instance: While we were all focused on the BBL drama, the BIR implemented a new regulation (RR 5-2015) that mandates certain taxpayers to shift to electronic filing of tax returns. Did you hear about this? Do you know whether you’re covered? Well, you’d better find out because the regulation (which was issued on March 17, 2015 and took immediate effect) fines all violators P1,000 per improperly filed return plus civil penalties equal to 25% of the tax due to be paid.

This RR seeks to reduce the hills of paper that grow in the BIR precincts each April. Fair enough. However, this was only published in the Manila Bulletin on March 19, 2015. Did you see it? No? Here, let me do you a favor. Read the RR for yourself:

Revenue Regulation No. 5-2015

You have less than a month to learn it and comply.

How about the Land Transportation Office’s “No Registration-No Travel Policy” which will take effect on April 1? This regulation seeks to free the streets of unregistered vehicles and penalizes those traveling without proper documentation. Well and good. But here’s the catch: If you have a new vehicle but have not been issued your plates, even if you present your certificate of registration and your official receipt, you will still be fined P5,000 “for failure to attach plates.” Really.

DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya states:

“If your dealer tells you that the LTO does not have your license plates beyond the 7-day period, report this to us and tell your dealer to pick them up. You may also personally claim your license plates from the LTO regional office if you wish.”

This is interesting. LTO spokesman Jason Salvador has been busy guesting on radio programs, assuring the public that the LTO no longer has a license plate backlog for new vehicles. According to Salvador, it’s the dealers who fail to claim the plates and who point to the LTO as the culprit for the delay, giving them a bad name.

All right. Why then will the LTO penalize the vehicle owner and not the dealer? And why not compel the dealers to perform their duty instead of having the owners queue at the LTO for their plates “if they wish”? Why make private citizens do the LTO’s and dealers’ jobs when they have their own jobs to think about? Under what category should one file a day lining up at the LTO – vacation or sick leave? It boggles the mind. Perhaps we should ask the DOLE.

Want to know more about this policy? Read it here:


While we’re talking about the DOTC, you’ll be pleased to learn that based on its official update on March 19, all 63 toilets of the MRT-3 system will be rehabilitated by September. The first two toilets will be available next month. All hail! So much for the riding public to anticipate! So much for the toilets, which shouldn’t have taken top slot in this advisory. We want to hear about the trains.

The latest mishap occurred at around 8 pm on March 26 when a train stopped between the Ortigas and Santolan stations. The operators tried nine times to restart the train, to no avail. At the fifth try, the train lost power, wrapping the jampacked cars in suffocating heat. Besides saying “Pasensya na po at huminto po tayo,” the operators issued no advice or assistance to the passengers. The tired, harassed commuters were in the dark (in more sense than one) for about 40 minutes, until the need for air caused them to pry open the doors. Succeeding, they proceeded to climb down the train (which was a good distance above the rails) and walk alongside the tracks until they reached Santolan station. They received scant assistance from MRT personnel. As one passenger reported, it wasn’t his first experience of a train breakdown, but it was the worst.[1]

We are informed by the DOTC that the replacement trains ordered from China are inexplicably delayed but we are assured they are looking into it. (Am I naïve to wonder why we continue dealing with a country that is slowly expropriating us?) But wait, here’s a silver lining. Three bids for 60 traction motors were submitted on March 18 and if all goes well, the contract will be awarded in April. So we can look forward to 60 happily humming motors in… February 2016.

For more bright news from the DOTC, read its latest advisory here:

DOTC updates on other MRT-3 improvement projects

I do not wish to be cynical; much would I prefer to be afflicted with a “wanton excess of optimism” like the OPAPP, as the Senate felicitously put it.  But it is difficult to find justification for these recent executive actions that seem to disregard the grind and struggle we poor Juans face just to get from today to tomorrow.  This government promised to make things better, but it’s clear that their tuwid na daan, though paved with good intentions, has taken us not far from where we began.

As Lent approaches, I am reminded of what our Lord Jesus Christ said about the leaders of His time a few days before His crucifixion: “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4).

There is still time, and I will try to muster the hope that before the Aquino government moves out, it would have learned from the Lord’s wisdom and acted concretely to lighten our loads.

[1] “MRT-3 passengers forced to walk railways or suffer from suffocation” (

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