Payback time. Who is paying who?
By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
A day after the May 13 elections, “THANK YOU” posters sprouted all over our barangays replacing the campaign posters (congratulations to the candidates, win or lose, who took out their clutter). I have been wondering why we, Igorots, don’t have a term for “thank you.” I surmise it is because we put value on action rather than words. Words are cheap- it is so easy to say “thank you” and still be meaningless. Therefore, saying “thank you”, “iyaman”, “salamat” is not enough, except for those who sold their votes or got personal favors in the past. Starting July 1, it is payback time.
Again, for those who sold their votes, you have been paid already. P1000? P1500? P2000? P500? That’s it. Don’t expect any services of government. I wish that in the future, we would shame those who buy votes and have the courage to refuse their money.
How about those who didn’t sell their votes? The reason we have elected officials is that they are supposed to represent us and our concerns in local, regional and national levels. So we voted for them in the hope that they will lead us well to improve our situation, in the barangay, municipality, offices, schools, etc. “US” meaning their constituents. For provincial officials, their constituents are the people in the municipalities – young and old, women and men, rich and poor, able and other –abled. Each with differing needs and wants. But because we also are residents in specific municipalities, we are also the constituents of municipal officials. And because we are at the same time citizens of the Philippines, we also have a right to national government services. Meaning we have reason to expect much from our elected officials. Foremost expectation is that, after election, they will pay us back.
How? For a start, our elected officials have campaign promises. Of course, most of our officials here in Mountain Province are not new so they should know. There are many mandated bodies in government to ensure participation of the people. For example, at the provincial level, we have the Provincial Development Council, Provincial Peace and Order Council, Provincial Health Board, Provincial School Board, etc. We have counterparts of these bodies in the barangay and you, dear reader, might like to volunteer in your barangay. We also have the barangay day or Peoples’ Day where every umili is invited. By participating in governance, we, the public, will learn about government priorities and processes and the most important thing is that governance becomes transparent, and transparency is the key to curb corruption. Now, I wish that our elected executives will ensure the functionality of these special bodies.
Budget is one crucial factor in the delivery of government services. In the health services alone, we need a lot of money to buy medicines, gadgets, buildings, salaries of health workers. What is the priority of the national, provincial or municipal government? Ung priority ang bibigyan ng maraming budget. What happens if this politician spent a lot of millions last election just to win? Will he or she give priority to health? Anong project ang pinakamalaki ang kickback? Your guess is as good as mine. There is a lot of kalokohan going around so konsciensia na lang. Let us monitor how these officials will perform their duties.
We have this survey among young women and when we ask them to comment on government services, chances are they will say “kurang nan agas” in the clinic. They also want a midwife solely for their barangay. In the past, people did not care about the midwife. She was just there for immunizations and vitamins. But now that we have made people dependent on medicines, they look for the midwife and they expect the midwife to have enough medicines. In Paracelis where barangays are huge and far between, there is even a need for midwifes in the big sitios. I am sure, Mayor-Elect Marcos Ayangwa will give this a priority. Having been the municipal health officer of Paracelis in the past, he knows the need. How about medicines? Medicines will never be enough, especially when we talk of medicines for high blood pressure, diabetes, pain. Who is going to pay for all these medicines? Of course, some financial analysts would say that we have enough money in the Philippines but, as I said, who will prioritize medicines over riprap or road construction? So we should really be choosy in electing officials. But if we elect an official just because he has no job “ta wada abes manganana”, then we get the government services we deserve.
Tayo rin, let us not corrupt our officials. Sometimes the problem is us – we go to our officials and push them to hire us or our son or daughter even if there is no vacancy or the vacant position is not suited to your child’s expertise. Effect of this could be new positions are created to accommodate your request at the expense of other services- so one person or family is happy but the rest of the community is deprived of the service. Let us not also corrupt our government officials by turning them into financers. How muchis a congressman’s salary? According to google, it’s P295,191 a month by the end of this year if the Standardization Law IV is fully implemented. Wow, malaki din pala. But would you think that congressman will use his salary to finance your project or organization? Perhaps partly but then funding projects is not his mandate. A congressman is supposed to represent our concerns in Congress- well, here in Cordillera, among other things, we need good representation to preserve, practice and promote/sustain our wonderful indigenous traditions. We also need a strong voice in Congress to protest the proliferation of junkfood and other unhealthy food even in our remotest barangays and to promote healthy lifestyle. You see, health is a political issue. Now for the salary of a provincial governor, this will be P196,206 at the end of this year if the SSL IV will be fully implemented.. But remember, dear reader, that is their salary, not ours to share. Question- who pays for salaries of government officials and employees?
The best payback is good governance. We Igorots have great values of integrity, industry and humility that we expect our officials to model and harness to see us through the many challenges facing our society today. These challenges are our unhealthy lifestyle including food choices and decreasing breastfeeding, unhealthy food production. All these are leading us into a degraded environment and an increasingly diseased population. Our survival and development is at stake. Are we up to the challenge?***
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” Luke 9:25