A judgment, not a challenge!
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - September 3, 2014 - 12:00am

At 4:30 a.m., the very least one could hope for is to start the day on a positive note. But there are days like yesterday when opening the radio can turn out to be a big mistake as in learning from the news that a junior cabinet member has accepted to take “the challenge.”

Initially I thought it was the gone viral and gone out of control “Ice Bucket Challenge,” but it was not. The challenge as it turns out is not some fad or fun thing but something related to our sad state of affairs. It’s not even a challenge as much as it is a real “demand” made by many ordinary citizens; for government officials and members of the Executive Department to walk through the pain, the everyday reality of citizens who commute daily either on the Mass Transit System we call MRT, LRT or Metro PNR.

The demand is for these power tripping, overly privileged officials of the Executive Branch who ride government issued vehicles with pre-paid fuel driven by government paid drivers, to actually give up the perk for two full weeks, morning and evening during the rush hour. The demand is for them to get in touch and be touched by gropers and pickpockets as they stand in line for hours and then call upon their relatives in Heaven as well as their personal patron saint to watch over them as they once again gamble life and limb on the MRT a.k.a Massively Retarded Trains that are intentionally being allowed to fall apart in order to justify “Emergency Purchase” or Emergency No-bidding engagements with favored suppliers.

But in a display of extreme insensitivity, callousness, or poor judgment certain people have turned the public’s daily suffering and discontent and called it “a challenge” as if it were meant to be a game of “one-upmanship.” Sorry people, IT”S NOT A GAME. Not when women and children and the elderly have to stand under the searing sun or drenching rain for hours just to get into MRT stations. It’s not a game when people end up arguing, pushing or fighting amongst themselves because they can’t turn on the officials in the Executive Department who casually make light of the constant disruption and damages happening to public property.

The public demand for government officials to ride the MRT, LRT etc., is the people’s judgment and determination that in the P-Noy administration are people who are detached, ignorant and indifferent to the suffering of commuters and taxpayers.

Proving you are capable of taking the ride for one day proves only one thing: That you actually think Filipinos are shallow enough to be convinced by your one trip. You people in the Executive department, particularly in the cabinet are pathetic because you clearly miss the point: Do something about the MRT and public convenience! Don’t blame the mess on the past administration because you have been passing the buck for 4 years. Own up and man up!

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During my training at the Meralco Power Academy I had an “Aha moment” when someone mentioned that the reason Filipinos pay one of the highest if not the highest price for electricity in the region is because we pay FULL PRICE while in other countries, the price of electricity is subsidized by their governments from the taxes they collect. In the mean time, we recently learned that Filipinos are also paying the highest percentage for income taxes compared to other countries.

So far no one in Congress or some independent group seems to have made a study or review of just how much more Filipinos are being taxed or charged through VAT for every item we purchase and consume. Add to that just how much more Filipinos are paying for in terms of fees and charges every time we go to a government agency, office or bureau for clearances, certificates, licenses and registrations. If our taxes are suppose to fund the government, why do we have to pay for the services? 

I am not being simplistic but rather calling attention to the fact that we live in a country where even good roads are ripped up before the end of a term or before elections so budgets can be used up. We call overseas Filipino workers “Heroes,” but collect fees from them beginning from their NBI clearance all the way to extorting from them at the NAIA and do nothing about the exorbitant placement fees they have to pay their agencies which the national government or the SSS could actually provide through easy loans so OFWs won’t have to go into hock.

I recently heard that the government has spent P100 million in “Student Loans.” The irony is that many of these students are clearly interested in getting a degree, have the academic record to prove they will most likely finish the course with excellence, but are financially or economically disadvantaged that they can’t afford it. But instead of giving them a scholarship to a state university for free, the government gives them a loan. Meanwhile several hundred “rich kids” who’ve spent all their elementary and high school going to private schools competitively push out the poor kids and get to UP at 10% of what they can afford. Nothing is done to correct the problem because in the Philippines the rich people make the rules and make a lot of noise.

Little by little we the Filipino people need to wake up to the fact that our government has gone out of control, is in serious need of accountability and that we need to be vocal about the excessive taxes, excessive and unnecessary expenditures and the need for government to live within its means and not at our expense. When ordinary government officials have nicer cars, drivers provided by government, when they can issue to themselves iPads, laptops and mobile phones, when they can eat at 5-star hotels when they want to because it is in their power to do so, it is very clear that our government needs to be governed by the people. When you spot the abuse, tweet it, share it, and report it.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com





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