"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

Ondoy is Government's Inevitable Reckoning

Government officials cannot afford to be negligent and overlook some of the functions or responsibilities of their offices--because the time of inevitable reckoning will come. Thus, the President, cabinet secretaries, governors, mayors, etc. should cause the preparation of detailed and comprehensive lists of their mandated functions and to do things, as well as natural and man-made disasters that can occur in their respective areas of responsibilities.

For example, the President has to ask the DILG Secretary to require governors, mayors, and barangay officials to conduct a detailed survey of areas vulnerable to disasters in each of our 42,000 barangays. The possible disasters include floods in low lying areas, landslides in areas subjected to severe logging, fire, sabotage of oil refineries and terminals like Pandacan depot, sinking of overloaded ships during bad weather, oil spill from oil tankers, epidemic, disruption in oil supply from foreign sources due to wars or international political upheavals, etc. The detailed list of functions and potential disasters are needed for planning purposes, for forced ranking and prioritization in budget allocation, for setting of physical targets and timelines, for checking of preparedness against calamities, and for monitoring government performance vs. goals.

In the preparation, review, and legislation of the annual national budget, both executive and legislative government officials must follow a proper hierarchy of needs in the budgeting and spending of scarce government funds. Utmost priority must be given to provision for the protection of human lives against natural and man-made calamities, then to those designed for the protection of public and private property, thereafter to those for rendering of vital public services for medical and health, education, poverty alleviation, irrigation, roads and bridges, etc., and lastly for expenditures that are not absolutely necessary in the lives of the people, like ornamental rather than functional projects.

The highly wasteful allocation of public funds stemming from failure to follow a hierarchy of needs is dramatically exemplified by the ZTE-NBN deal, which would have pushed through had it not been for whistle blowers. The government had already contracted to spend a whopping $329 million in the ZTE contract, which, even without the alleged gross overprice, was very expensive primarily because the intention was to communicate up to 42,000 barangays nationwide. However, we already have good-enough alternative means of communication--cell phones and municipal mayors in some 1,500 municipalities.

In stark contrast, the government has not bothered to plan and spend for the most basic need—protection of human lives against recurring natural calamities nationwide.

Thus, when the inevitable reckoning from Ondoy came, the government could not hide its negligence and helplessness. The same government which committed earlier to spend on the ZTE contract the staggering sum of $329 million, or P15.5 billion--which was not even about a matter of life and death for Filipinos—is now exposed as having failed to spend even a measly P1.0 million for motor boats or safety equipment in potential life-and-death hazards, such as killer floods from recurring typhoons of varying intensity like Ondoy.

San Miguel, Bulacan

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