Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hey, who's in charge here, anyway?

As I was reading the comments from a reader the other day, it struck me that I don't know who is responsible for what in the Philippines. Not entirely, at least.

The federal government has over 20 cabinet positions for trade, customs, foreign affairs, justice, tourism, education and the like. Finance, for sure. So they are engaged everywhere.

It appears that the federal government has authority to levy income taxes, sales taxes (VAT), and those service-based poison pills that Customs and Immigration charge. I say poison pills because, consistent with the logic of reverse brains, they kill trade and tourism instead of foster it.

But I know local governments assess property taxes. Who gets to spend them? Is that how local governments fund themselves?

In the U.S., property taxes fund schools and local roads, but in the Philippines, the national government funds schools. Localities in the U.S. also claim a portion of sales taxes.

Other duties that confuse me are the roles of the respective police forces. The PNP seems to be everywhere, but they aren't doing anything but driving around. I've never seen a ticket issued for speeding or an arrest of drunks who now and then fight it out on the highway. There is nothing like PNP in the U.S. It is like a national police force.

Our town also has its own police force. The cars are not as nice but the uniforms look the same as the PNP, blue with white pinstripes. So I'm confused on that point. Who is really responsible for law and order around here? Or, more correctly, the lack of law and order?

I see traffic guys trying to get the maddening tricycle, motorcycle and car traffic in order, but they don't wear uniforms, unless you call the day-glo orange vest with fluorescent green stripes a uniform. The way they are lit up, I'd guess maybe a few have been mowed down in the past. But motorcyclists habitually ignore their waving arms and whistles to cut a turn in front of dump trucks or my Honda Civic.  I've never seen a ticket written by these guys, either. 

And why are there no women police officers? Or soldiers. Are they afraid, afraid of being teased, or are they discriminated against?

But I digress.

The PNP operates motorcycle checkpoints that pop up mysteriously now and then, inspecting for helmets and licensing. The checkpoints are rather useless, though, because the word spreads faster than bird flu in a dank hen house, and the drivers just take a different road. About 10 percent of the motorcyclists wears helmets on days when there is no checkpoint. Helmets magically appear when there is a check-point. They are made of cheap plastic that would splatter on impact, rather like brains.

I'd swear communication between motorcyclists is faster than the internet. I've seen them driving while texting. Maybe that is how they do it. They don't enforce bans on texting from motorcycles, I guess. It's more fun in the Philippines.

But let's say my town decided it wanted to become law abiding. Does it have the authority to do that?

Can it start assessing fines to the idiots who park and load in the middle of the National Highway? Or who block driveways, toss trash, or blast loud music until three in the morning on a school night?

Who is in charge of ENFORCEMENT in this country, anyway? The PNP is after murderers and drug peddlers and rebels who want the Philippines to be communistic. They don't care about noise. No macho policeman would perform a prissy, undignified act like suggest an obnoxious twit tune down his amplifier.

Who has the authority to put the ORDER in law and order?

If I were a real journalist (UST says I am not), I would do a survey of the local hospital and find out exactly why people are dropping into emergency all cut and bleeding and dead. My guess is that safety here is really lousy. My mother in law and her daughter were hurt in a motorcycle crash when a Pepsi truck used a tree branch as a marker declaring the truck stopped on the National Highway (loading), and hid a rock under the tree branch. Not a motorcycle friendly rock.

My father-in-law can no longer use a chain saw because he got dumped from his cycle by a dog, wrecking his back forever.

When my wife was giving birth, I saw a young man coming out of the operating room in tears, and with only one leg. The neighbor across the road, less than 30 years old, also only has one leg.

You catching my drift here?

If people have "more fun in the Philippines" are they doing it through death-defying thrill rides on the public highways? Do Filipinos think THEIR loud music is fun for other people who like peace and quiet?

Who in charge can step forward and say "I am responsible for this disorder and these relentlessly unsafe conditions"?

Do mayors ever dream of a clean, orderly city, and set out to make one?

Frankly, I suspect that a main reason why I don't know who is in charge is because no one WANTS to be in charge. That way they avoid any responsibility for anything. The national symbol should be fingers pointing the blame elsewhere.

"That's the way we do it, Joe", Proud Pinoy would say. "Stop trying to impose your imperialist American values on the Philippines. If we want to be irresponsible or slaughter our own, we are proud of it."

No, no. The way to do it is empower people to act and hold them accountable for the results of their acts.


  1. Joe,

    Hungary's bonds are now rated junk. That gypsy infested country is now in economic meltdown. They are about the re-write their laws so they can appease the ECB in giving them a bailout. Tell that to your Hungarian gypsy friend.

    While that is happening, the Philippine economy is doing great. Like I said before, Hungary is irrelevant. The Philippines is on the rise while the west crumbles.

    That is why you are here JOE. You know that this is a great place. You did not retire to Hungary because it is a dump and turning into hell. So relax and enjoy our great country JOE. Noynoy is gonna kick ass and show everyone how its done.

  2. Joe,

    Don't try to enforce order unless you're wearing bullet-proof gear. My grandfather got shot when he told-off some dude who was peeing on a wall.

  3. The west is not going to crumble despite Hungary and the other countries in the region are having difficulty.
    Don't bet against us. Even during the failed communist government(hell)the standard of living was way higher than in the Philippines. The standard of living the everyday life will not change much. The government is learning from it unlike other places.

  4. Mariano, AJ; thanks for the good points. I'm writing a piece about "power" as currency in the Philippines, and indeed we see that in your examples. Anyone with a friend in high places, or a gun, can overrule a law enforcement official. Thus, no enforcement. I'll use this in the article.

  5. Joe,

    If you really want to understand how things work in the Philippines, you'll have to remove your Common Sense Glasses.

  6. anon, I just wear them backwards; it helps.

  7. What do you think of the case of DaVao? Do you think it can be a model for the rest of the country?

  8. Matina, I've never been there, so I can't say. What do you think, and why?


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