Friday, August 9, 2013

True story

There was this restaurant run by a group of friends. Once only a quaint, hole-in-the-wall affair, it slowly grew to become one of the city's most famous restaurants frequented by both locals and tourists. They didn't only serve food, they made sure that every plate that left their kitchen was a work of art. The owners worked hard to set their little cafe apart from the rest.

While they weren't exactly a bar that people go to to get drunk, one day the owners thought that it was time for the restaurant to offer alcoholic beverages beyond wine and beer. So they applied for a liquor license.

They had everything they needed to merit a liquor license. But if you think that having all the requirements that our government needs to grant the license is enough, then you're wrong.

The owners applied for the license and refused to bribe anyone to get it - it was common knowledge that it's how you get things done up there. They had all that's legally required to get one, and they've paid all the legal fees that need to be paid. So they refused to pay "grease money," "padulas," to get the license. And they waited.

One day they got their liquor license - eight years after they first applied for it. That's how long it takes if you follow the rules. That's how long you would have to wait for government to deliver what's due to you if you stay within the bounds of the law.

Really? Eight years? My son asked. Does it really usually take that long? No, of course not, I replied. If you've got everything in place, then it should only take days, a couple of weeks perhaps, for the government to do their inspection, make sure all your other permits are in place and above board. But unfortunately, that's not how things work.

True story.

And that's why corruption is rampant in all levels of government. The bureaucratic red tape all but totally prevents the delivery of services that we're forced to play according to the rules of corrupt public servants. They become our masters, in fact, slaves because they believe their positions are those of power, and not social responsibility. And that's the reason why any call by the people or any attempt by a well-meaning government official to introduce changes that would eliminate red tape, it is met with stiff opposition by those in power. Red tape empowers corrupt public officials.

And corruption is why good roads are dug up and rebuilt for no apparent reason other than fattening the bank accounts of both corrupt public officials and unscrupulous businessmen. It is the reason why gardens are destroyed to make way for ugly, tacky, tasteless concrete structures and steel gates and fences. It is the reason homes were destroyed and lives were lost when a mountain from Irisan of garbage came rushing down the hillsides towards Asin Road. And it is also the reason why the moneyed can get away with the murder of hundreds of trees and the rape of our environment at the expense of our children's future.

So, I told my son, if you're one of those who slip in a 500-peso bill inside your diver's license to get away with illegal parking or driving without a seatbelt on, you're as guilty as the rotten policeman who receives the 500-peso bill. If you're one of those who gave "pangmeryenda" to the guy behind the desk so that you will be prioritized over those who cannot afford to do the same, or are too principled to do so, you're as guilty. If you're the business establishment owner who paid every single signatory on that permit a bribe to run your business, you're as guilty as the every single one of them who signed that piece of paper in return. Or if you're the one who sits idly by, not caring all these things, who even scoffs at the ones who go out in the streets to try to effect changes in our society, then you are indeed as guilty.

Guilty of what? Ruining our lives today and ensuring an even worse future for generations to come.

True story.


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