HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone. I’m finally back after an extended hiatus. I wish I could say I’ve been busy celebrating. In fact I was downed by illness over the holidays and I’m still recovering. It’s taking longer than I expected. It makes me realize how old I am.
I was too weak to follow the news, and so I’ve been doing a bit of catch-up. It looks like I didn’t miss much. The candidates-in-waiting appear to have quieted down since I last paid attention. The only noise recently came from the COMELEC when Rowena Guanzon tussled with Andres Bautista. It was first amusing, then irritating, but it sure made good TV. For all that drama, Grace Poe’s case is still under deliberation and there is no final list of candidates to review.
Have you seen the political ads? They run the spectrum from laughable to lamentable, don’t you think? I don’t know why the candidates harp on their image, as if the elections are only ever about celebrity. Message to candidates: it simply isn’t enough, folks! They are selling us a persona, not a platform; and if they mention the issues at all, it is merely to leverage their image. But this incidental inclusion hardly educates the electorate or helps us make a significant choice. I suppose it’s futile, but I’m still hoping that one day, aspirants for office will aim to raise our consciousness and not just manipulate us all.
[To be fair, Mar Roxas doesn’t exactly exalt himself with his “Daang Matuwid” message, but it is too bland and his TV presence too wan for it to hit home. Korina doesn’t help either.]
Meanwhile, the world turns.
The Executive and the SSS refuse to budge on the P2,000 increase for pensioners, claiming such a largesse would spell bankruptcy for the agency. When? In 2027. I wonder. A lot can happen in 11 years. Considering taxpayers pay the SSS Chairman P40,000 per board meeting (and he attends more than one a month), I think we are right to expect creative solutions from him, the CEO, and the other officers. Surely, they can map a way out of insolvency in the allotted time. It seems to me that we are compensating them quite a bit for their defeatist attitude. That extra P2K would mean a great deal for many pensioners.
The LTFRB issued a directive to jeepney operators to lower their fare by 50 centavos effective January 22, but it was reported that jeepney drivers continued to charge the usual P7.50 because their operators had not ordered a rollback. It is interesting that the drivers imputed more authority to their operators than to the agency that governs their operators, since they blithely flouted the LTFRB. Bottom line, they certainly had their way today. And so the commuting public paid the price for the drivers’ obduracy and the LTFRB’s inability to enforce its own mandate. Until when, and what will the government do to recompense them?
And then there is the matter of the “Balikbayan Box Law,” or the “BBL” (as Sen. Recto dubbed it), which raises the tax exemption on balikbayan boxes to P150,000 instead of the stringent P10K limit set by the Bureau of Customs last year. The latter was met with much animus by the OFWs and their families who considered it an added burden insensitively imposed on them. Surprisingly, the BOC received the “BBL” like a long-lost friend and had nothing but glowing remarks for its passage. To think that last year it issued a scad of urgent justifications for its unpopular P10K proposal. What a perplexing volte-face. Puede naman palang taasan ang limit, di ba?
So this is what has happened since I got sick. My catch-up session reinforces my doubt about whether this government truly understands us or is merely paying lip-service to our pleas – for it seems clueless despite its many platitudes and paeans to poor boss Juan. It trades a great deal on our patience.
This is what I know: We could do better. We should hold out for more.
Whoever is allowed by the COMELEC to run for office should give us more than catchy jingles and slick ads with dramatic lighting. It is not enough for pols to plaster the surface with their popularity. We must require the candidates to meet the issues head-on and offer us platforms and not merely slogans. They must elevate the discussion, not debase it. What we need are authentic public servants who comprehend our yearnings, empathize with our plight, and seriously seek to address them. We the people deserve it.
God forbid we abdicate our right to that.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.