Journ Classroom

April 26, 2008

A sad day for UP

Filed under: general — Luz Rimban @ 5:13 pm
Tags: ,

It was dusk. The graduation ceremony at the University of the Philippines’ National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) was coming to a close. The commencement speaker had said his piece, each of the graduates had been called to the stage, the Chorale had sung, and the cream of the undergraduate and masteral classes had given their responses.

Now it was time to hear from the graduate who had just finished her Ph.D.

She prefaced her speech by asking everyone to applaud her, since unlike her younger counterparts graduating with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees, she said, no one had given any expression of approval or acknowledgment of her feat, obtaining the highest degree the institution could give: a doctorate in public administration.

The audience indulged her by clapping, but she didn’t seem satisfied. What she said next stunned some in the audience.

“Palakpakan n’yo ako at bibigyan ko kayo ng exemption sa number coding ng MMDA (Applaud me and I will exempt you from MMDA’s number coding scheme)!” blurted Dr Corazon Cruz, Assistant General Manager of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), one of NCPAG’s newest Doctors of Philosophy in Public Administration. As everyone in the audience knows, the MMDA is the agency of government enforcing traffic rules and regulations in Metro Manila, including the number coding scheme that mandates vehicles to stay off the road one day a week depending on the number their license plates ends in.

It sounded amusing and people did chuckle. But the implications of what Dr Cruz said and did eventually sunk in. Here was a government official who had supposedly spent years of study on public administration, trying to offer the audience the incentive (bribe would be more accurate) of an exemption from MMDA rules in exchange for applause. She was telling people she could break the rules if they did her a favor.

“Palakpakan n’yo ako at bibigyan ko kayo ng exemption sa number coding ng MMDA!” sounds frighteningly similar to “Iboto nyo ako at libre kayong lahat sa Philhealth!” or even “Iboto nyo ako at bibigyan ko kayo ng tax exemption!” The line embodies what people dislike about government.

And what is troubling too is that the people before her were not just any audience. They were graduates of the NCPAG, future public servants and leaders of the Philippine bureaucracy.

At that very ceremoy, previous speakers had all been lamenting corruption in government. Indeed, if there is one college that is supposed to study and solve corruption in government, it is the NCPAG, the college within the country’s premier academic institution specializing in governance and the strengthening of institutions so that these are made to work for the common good. Even if no one among the speakers really took the corruption bull by its horns, to borrow a cliché, there was some mention of it in all of the speeches.

The commencement speaker, 100-year-old Engr. Fernando Javier of the UP College of Engineering class of 1933, Mr Centennial himself, noted how different things now were from the 1930’s and 40s, and the huge problems the country was facing now, corruption among them.

The college’s magna cum laude graduate, Michelle Jimenez, talked about how idealistic young people like her and her co-graduates were unfazed by the ills plaguing the bureaucracy, and were committed to serving the government in the Philippines despite the lure of working abroad.

Ador Torneo, Dean’s lister from the M.A. class, reminded graduates that they had the millions of taxpaying Filipinos to thank for their education, and exhorted classmates to serve the people. He said the task ahead was daunting—rice was in short supply but corruption was everywhere. The worst thing that could happen, Torneo said, was for hope to fade and be replaced with despair.

Torneo described the NCPAG’s role when he said something to this effect: “May sakit ang bayan natin at kailangan natin itong gamutin. Kailangan ang mga doktor (Our country is ill and it needs treatment. It needs doctors).” NCPAG graduates, Torneo said, were supposed to be the doctors ministering to the ailing country’s needs.

And then came Dr Corazon Cruz, one of the oldest graduates, and a ranking government official at that. But she did not take the cue from those who spoke before her. Instead, she gave the audience a glimpse into the minds of people in government, how easily they could offer to break the rules, how they could make light of something like this, even in an innocent undertaking as making a speech at one’s graduation. What she said represented what NCPAG’s fresh graduates wanted to change—bribery, palakasan, connections. (Some graduates were mumbling about how what she said smacked of the use of political connections to get off the hook).

Dr Cruz is probably not one of those doctors Torneo was referring to, whom the country needs. If this is how public administration “doctors” think and behave, perhaps the public should not expect any recovery anytime soon. Filipinos can and should actually sue for malpractice.

(disclosure: I attended the NCPAG Recognition Rites as the parent of a BAPA graduate. My mind wasn’t able to absorb Dr Cruz’ main speech because i was chewing on her intro statement.).

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2 Comments »

  1. […] How said. Aside from the fact that standards have fallen, morals too are loosening. Knowing what is right and what is wrong is something a UP graduate should know, but there are indication UP is producing graduates who don’t, going by the standards of the National College of Public Administration Governance. […]

    Pingback by A Class of Cum Laudes « Journ Classroom — April 28, 2008 @ 7:24 am | Reply

  2. I have so much fond for UP although I never am part of it. It’s because UP is peopled with principled and intrepid men and women who, in one way or another, brought this country to where it is now.

    But the example that Dr. Cruz furnished is not admirable. It’s deplorable.

    Perhaps what Conrado de Quiros said of the youth is also true of the grown-ups:

    “The bargain is never really Faustian, with the devil offering you all the joys of the seven cardinal sins in exchange for your soul. It is invariably Lilliputian, decisions now and then about bending the rules to help kin or friend, exceptions now and then because of a ninong’s pakiusap. It’s not the big capitulation you have to fear, it’s the small concessions. Those are what really tell, or take their toll, on you. The blurring of vision here and there that leads to blindness, the deafness to entreaty here and there that leads to callousness, the suspension of conscience here and there that leads to the deadening of the soul. It’s the daily, steady, incessant accumulation of all this that turns you into the thing you once fought against, and you don’t even notice it.”

    Comment by Arvin Antonio Ortiz — November 26, 2008 @ 12:46 pm | Reply


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