CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

For most people especially for women, the mere mention of rats can solicit fear and panic. Not even the movie Ben or Ratatouille has managed to diminish our revulsion for rats. But I recently discovered an altogether different sort of “rat” that has become extremely popular in Philippine government, but for all the wrong reasons. The “RAT” I refer to is neither cute, furry or four legged. The RAT is actually a law crafted by some members of Congress either as frustrated management executives or in their vain misguided notion of how to improve the Philippine Government.

The RAT that government employees and officials refer to is the government rationalization law that requires departments, agencies etc., to organize respective teams that will initiate or develop a rationalization plan intended to streamline and match employees with work and service requirements subsequently resulting in a more efficient work environment and reduced personnel or staff. Ideally, the RAT plan will cut the fat in terms of personnel, expenditures and develop a lean and mean team.

The unspoken presumption of rationalization is that the people assigned or tasked to be in the team would be true professionals with no biases or agendas and have the expertise to appreciate the agency, department or organization needs and services. It also presupposes that the person or people making or implementing the RAT plan won’t use it to justify total annihilation of their enemies in the organization, or use it to strengthen only their units to the disadvantage of all others! Finally, the RAT plan is obviously based on the presumption that the government has an excess of competent and qualified experts that would insure continuity of service and hopefully a standard of excellence.

But as the saying goes, “The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” and if members of the cabinet in this administration do not monitor and regulate the speed of the RAT plan, they will leave behind a government that looks more like a skeleton force of leftovers than the government they took over from. In three separate instances I accidentally heard and learned about the RAT plan and how it has begun to thin out the government of veterans and experienced personnel in various fields. In the first instance, the person who casually mentioned the RAT plan said that it was a good idea if it were in the hands of good and fair people, but in her office it was used to get back at the “competition,” or those unsupportive of a particular person and their division or office.

The second person who mentioned the RAT plan in their department spoke of how long time experts and experienced people jumped at the very generous offers to abandon ship and were offered the equivalent of one month salary for every year of service or something like that. It seems more than half of the agency signed up to get off the boat and retire, or get the money, wait out a year and reapply knowing the agency would be hard pressed if not desperate to rehire the veterans, since getting new blood is almost impossible due to the none competitive salaries that government offers.

The third person who commented about the RAT plan in the field of education and training spoke of how the bailout depleted them and made it difficult to replace en masse since it was hard to find senior level and senior caliber faculty and trainers. This to me was one of the most disturbing discoveries. Because of the rationalization law many senior researchers, scientists, scholars, technicians and technical people were the first to be rendered unnecessary or redundant. But what happens when an emergency or disaster or pestilence strikes? Where will we get the manpower and expertise to deal with them?

I don’t know if they are silently rejoicing their “pay-off” or dejected by being “rationalized” under the RAT plan, but very few people have openly talked about the impact of the RAT plan in government. The civil servants carry on as if it was a done deal that cannot be undone. I only realized it because of my ability to listen or should I say eavesdrop. I hope I’m over reacting but judging from what I’ve learned there will be problems such as certain agencies and bureaus looking and operating like ghost towns. The second problem will be the down time and necessary learning curve that replacements and new hires will have to undergo as they take over the abandoned posts. A scientist who has opted to move on smiled mischievously as if wishing the government good luck. A technician on the other hand reassured me that people like them will still be around but now as “entrepreneurs” providing services for a much better and higher fee outside government without having to punch a Bundy clock.

Yes, the RAT plan will certainly redefine government services under the P-Noy administration. They shake, scare or shame us to pay our taxes, “sell off” our medical institutions to the highest bidders while remaining as highly paid board of directors, then require the bureaus and agencies to be self sufficient or self sustaining and this of course is why you have to pay hundreds or thousands in places such as TESDA, in extension service offices of the Department of Agriculture, and why you have to buy your own medicines, needles and sutures etc. when you end up in some regional or national government hospital.

In complete contradiction to the concept of rationalization, the current administration is only interested in multi-billion peso government sponsored projects instead of cheap, fast and practical solutions or privately funded — FREE — unsolicited projects because as explained to me by a fly on the wall, when you do FAT projects there are many ways to skin a cat, or did he say many ways to skim the fat? It’s all too rational for me!

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