Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rotarians in government

When you hear the word "government" , what's the first thing -- or word/s, or adjective/s -- that comes to your mind?

Public service? corruption? election? regulation? ...

For me, it's bureaucracy, then taxes.
Thus, I often cringe at the thought of long lines and lost hours, the taxes and fees to pay, when I go to certain government agencies -- DFA to renew my passport, LTO to renew my driver's license or renew my vehicle's registration, SSS to get a new ID or follow up my wife's maternity benefit, COMELEC for a change or transfer of precinct, etc.

So that sometimes, some of us wish that government is as small as a crumpled napkin so that we can flush it down the toilet. But government made sure that it is big enough, rather very big and very expansive enough, that citizens can't help but deal with it, no matter how bureaucratic it may be.

When my sister could not contact his driver for 4 hours after repeated calls (this happened a few months ago), and the driver did not call or text her, nor did he call her house or the office, her first suspicion was that her car was stolen, and the carnappers just dumped the driver somewhere. When I also believed that it was carnapping, the first person that I called up for help was classmate Lito Abogado, a former police official, now in the private sector. It turned out that the driver's cellphone was defective that day, he couldn't receive texts or calls, and he just waited outside the hotel where he was supposed to pick-up my brother in law, for more than 4 hours! So when we found the driver and the car, the first person that I called up was classmate Lito, saying that it was "false alarm".

When my club was looking for a list of public elementary schools in Taguig and their addresses, among the first persons that our club secretary contacted was classmate Grace Pagkatipunan, who works at the Office of the Mayor, Taguig City.

Before I went to Paranaque City Hall this morning to work on a request by my father in law in Iloilo, the first person I called up was classmate Ric Santiago of Paranaque East, to ask if they have any club member/s who work at the city hall. Ric said they have club members who are city councilors, but none as official or staff. He suggested one rotarian, a clubmate of classmate Lilibeth dela Cruz, who is the head of the city government's HR management office. He forgot her name, so I grabbed our district directory, and went to Pque city hall. Not that I want some "influential person" to help me immediately, as much as possible I want to go through the regular process. Only if I think that I get bad service that I would approach some friends or fellow Rotarians for possible help.

The staff at the city assessor's office was polite enough to entertain me. So I have nothing else to do except go back to Makati office. I said why not visit PP Sally Tongson, the chief of Pque city hall's HRM office. Her office is just on the 2nd floor and I was on the ground floor. Sally did not offer me Krispy cream dough nut or starbucks coffee or Italianni's paste, but a very warm smile when she welcomed me in her office. I had a brief chat with her because I knew that she has plenty of official functions to do, but I learned some important info. For instance, would you believe that Pque city hall alone has more than 5,000 employees? Excluded here are policemen, barangay officials and their respective barangay staff, etc.

Finally, our IPDG Butch, is also a government official, being the President of the government's casino and gaming corporation. His boss, the President of the Republic (and the first gentleman?) is mired in endless political and corruption scandals, so he has to keep his head above political and partisan battles, and keep his feet on the ground through his club and our district's various services to humanity.

Rotarians working in government (as regular staff or elected official) seem to be straddling on 2 different worlds. Rotary and other organizations rely on pure volunteerism, from regular dues and payment to community projects dictated by special needs. Whereas governments rely on coercion, from forced collections (aka taxes and fees) to projects that are often dictated by patronage and political horse-trading.

Nonetheless, I am lucky, or we are lucky, to have some friends, some fellow Rotarians, who stay in government, who are able to retain their professionalism and idealism, in an institution whose DNA is already pre-codified with waste and inefficiency. It is important that Rotary clubs where they belong should help them sustain their sanity and professionalism.

Mabuhay kayo mga kapatid!