The whole nation’s attention last week was riveted on the 31st ASEAN summit drama.
The Philippines played host to the meeting of heads of state of member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, who were joined by China Premier Li Keqiang, United States President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The summit’s success was indeed a great diplomatic coup for the Duterte administration, but at what cost? What is the significance of our gain, if any? How much is hosting the summit costing Filipino taxpayers?
Nov. 13-15 were declared non-working holidays in Metro Manila. For schools in the capital region, the holidays were extended to the 17th. This declaration triggered heated debates about the adverse impact on production and daily wage no-work-no-pay earners. With Christmas and New Year approaching, workers need every peso they can earn.
For their part, many employers closed their offices to avoid paying extra to employees working on holidays. Work stoppage causes business delays and lowers productivity.
In the education sector, the burning question was how the extended holiday would affect the school schedule. Too many classes have been suspended the past two months, what with the onset of southwest monsoon weather that brings heavy rains and resultant floods. Of course, the Department of Education says the school calendar has enough buffer days to cover sudden declaration of no classes, but schools are scrambling to hold makeup classes to ensure students don’t lose out.
The traffic condition was the most debated topic. The “lockdown” of main thoroughfares created nightmarish traffic. Traffic congestion is bad enough during ordinary days, but the lockdown of certain streets just because ASEAN delegates’ convoys were passing tied up traffic kilometers-long everywhere. The normal one-hour travel time from Quezon City to Greenhills during bad traffic stretched to three hours.
And pity the residents of Baguio to where Metro Manilans chose to while away their time during the Asean summit. Their cars clogged the streets of this mountain resort city for hours, forcing Baguio officials to suspend classes for two days at the last minute.
In Metro Manila, the LRT and MRT could have helped ease the situation for those in great hurry. But the frequent breakdown of these rapid transit modes has made them unreliable. During the Aquino III administration, we often lamented the frequency of the MRT’s breakdowns, sometimes one incident a week. But last All Saints’ Day, passengers had to be offloaded from the MRT thrice in one day. So, isn’t this symptomatic of a deteriorating situation? There is not a peep from the Department of Transportation, no word of regret, no assurance that things would get better. Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade only asked for more prayers.
Wasn’t fixing the worsening traffic problem one of Duterte’s campaign promises?
We pay their salaries
We could dismiss the recent mistakes – like spelling booboos – of government officials as funny if they were not so embarrassing. But it rankles because we are paying their salaries. It makes one ask if there is anyone in charge at home.
Welcoming Asean delegates were tarpaulins that spelled our country’s name wrong: Philppines, short of one i. Maybe the writer was from outer space, not from the Philippines. Whoever gave the go signal for the printing should pay for all these tarpaulins.
But what do you expect? Presidential Communications Operations Office Asst. Sec. Mocha Uson spells writers with a double “t” (writters) and Press Corps as Press Corp. Ignorance can be forgiven, but ignorance plus sheer laziness and arrogance is unforgiveable.
An even more grievous mistake was when the Philippine defense department displayed the logo of Taiwan’s defense ministry, not China’s, at a recent event marking Beijing’s donation of 3,000 rifles worth $3.3 million to Manila.
Hello! Is nobody in charge?
The department later issued an apology for the diplomatic faux pas, which it emphasized was unintentional. The embarrassment went largely unnoticed, but photos of the wrong logo came out on social media.
As grievous and embarrassing is the Philippine News Agency’s blooper in August. The agency is now derisively called the “Pineapple News Agency” after it used the logo of Dole Philippines instead of the logo of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in its news story on pay rules during holidays.
This blunder is not isolated. The PNA, which is under the PCOO, has committed one mistake after another. It unwittingly published an editorial of Chinese news agency Xinhua which called the arbitration ruling over the South China Sea dispute in favor of the Philippines “ill-founded.” Another report mistakenly used a photo of soldiers in Vietnam for a story about the then ongoing siege in Marawi City.
Communications Sec. Martin Andanar claims that despite their blunders, PNA has more readers than ever. His supposed proof: People notice the bloopers because “binabasa na ngayon ang PNA (because they are reading the PNA now).”
How about a statement instead saying these blunders will not happen again? And then follow through on that?
On his first official overseas trip, the new kid on the block, Malacañang spokesperson Harry Roque, posted a photograph of himself with International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde in Vietnam. But he erroneously referred to her as “Agnes Legarda.” We now have a portent of what lies ahead with Roque.
True, these are not life-and-death issues. But if the government offices can carelessly commit mistakes on such small, simple matters, what more with bigger, important things? And will they own up to these mistakes?
Uson tripped up on power trip
The Malacañang Press Corps has issued a strongly worded statement taking Uson to task after she asked Andanar to remove Rappler from the press corps and transfer it to the Social Media Office. The MPC told her off: First, MPC is an independent institution that has always been honest and diligent in reporting news from the Palace. Second, Andanar has no sway over them.
Netizens, meanwhile, called on Uson to first understand what she is asking for.
Sen. Grace Poe also issued a statement saying: “The move to marginalize Rappler in its coverage of the Palace is misplaced and inconsistent with the essence of press freedom and the right of people to be informed. Criticism is necessary if we want an open and transparent government.”