Wake Up, Philippines!

The right to complain

Posted in Citizens, Complaints, Democracy, Government by Erineus on February 3, 2009

Editorial writers and columnists have been complaining lately about the lack of moral outrage over what’s happening in the country. But last week, something happened that may yet give us hope that the people are beginning to act and to demand better governance and better service from our government officials.

More than 1,000 people in Eastern Samar province, disgusted by the worsening condition of highways in the province, signed a petition demanding the immediate repair of badly damaged roads. In a letter, the petitioners said: “We say enough! No more excuses. Repair and rehabilitate our roads now.” Similar messages were sent to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, asking her where the people’s taxes were going.

Municipal Trial Court Judge Rowena Tan of Balangiga town, who drafted the petition, said, “The hell roads of Eastern Samar are an eloquent testimony to the selfishness, callousness and insensitivity of our local and national officials.”

Journalists who have traveled to Eastern Samar will readily testify that some of the worst roads in the country can be found in the province. People call the highways “a thousand lakes,” “hellish roads,” and, in a humorous and somewhat oxymoronic twist, “luxurious roads,” derived from “palukso-lukso” (because one has to hop from the edge of one pothole to another to avoid falling into the rut).

Billions of pesos are being allocated for construction and repair of roads and highways, but why are national highways such as those in Eastern Samar in such a deplorable state of disrepair? One reason is corruption. Contractors scrimp on some materials such as cement and gravel or asphalt so that they can make some profit after giving 20, 30 or perhaps even 40 percent of the project cost as kickback to certain national and local officials. Another reason is that provincial roads are not given enough attention because they are far from Imperial Manila and the critical eyes of the media.

The “rising” of 1,000 people in Eastern Samar gives us hope that Filipinos will no longer remain silent, clenching their fists and gnashing their teeth in helpless anger over the many bad things that are happening in their country. What is needed for evil to triumph over good is for good people to stay silent and do nothing about the evil things that powerful people are doing, or not to complain about the non-action of government officials on their urgent problems.

In a democracy such as the Philippines, the people have the right to peaceably assemble and ask the government for redress of their grievances. They have the right to complain about deficiencies in services and facilities; they are paying for these things with their taxes. They have the right to demand good service from government officials, from the President down to the last town councilor; their taxes pay for the salaries of these public servants.

The people have the right — and the obligation — to complain about, denounce and demand action on cases of corruption. Corrupt government officials steal the money of the people, money that should be used to provide the people with better services and facilities.

The people are getting fed up and they are doing something about the bad state of affairs in their communities, towns and provinces. The “rising” need not begin and end in Eastern Samar. It is high time the people expressed their moral outrage over the deplorable situation that is obtaining and the bad things that are happening in their country. Time to reprise Corazon Aquino’s “Tama na, sobra na!” [Enough already, too much already!]