The 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Noynoy Aquino summed up the accomplishments of his third year. It was delivered in bold vernacular, all of 45 minutes, and in concluding his valedictory, he asked his minions in government the question “Saan po kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha ang mga kawani sa ahensiyang ito?” He was of course referring to the Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs and the National Irrigation Administration.
The President was very displeased with the way services were expressed by these government agencies. Accordingly, they performed below par. The performance in his estimation constitutes an embarrassment to his administration, a failing mark from the very constituency, his boss, the entire citizenry of the country. Services should have been delivered properly, promptly and expeditiously.
There should be honesty and transparency. If services cannot be given boldly, at least, it should be rendered judiciously and thoughtfully.
Being appointed at the helm of an agency is a sacrifice. It is not a reward. It is never even rewarding in the first place. It is foregoing privacy. It is selflessness. It is akin to martyrdom.
Appointing people to run the business of government is a delicate affair. It is like choosing the best physician to treat your loved one. And more than that. It is like selecting the best surgeon to perform surgery on one’s innards. But are those in the authority to appoint those who will run government have seriously considered the track record of those to be appointed? Or are they merely selected because they happen to be around at a time when there is a need for people to fill up vacancy? In this case, I would presume that in the event these authorities would need medical care, they would just pick anyone looking like a medicinal man to do the treatment for them. I will not even be surprised if they would merely get a friend or neighbor to heal their kids. But in reality, or in normal times, this is not most likely.
But how come some mediocre are appointed in the delicate operation of public service? Where did these personalities come from? How did they ended up handling the refinements of government service? What made them significant in the face of numerous qualified, competent, apolitical career officers? And after a stretch in their chosen assignment the pale performance unfolds before our eyes and here we are, like the President, asking the question: “Saan po kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha itong mga taong ito?”
Definitely, serving the people is not a matter of pakapalan ng mukha. Or the choice of appointee should merit the standard of “makapal lang ang mukha.” Working in government is like a surgeon in the operating room performing a delicate procedure. The thickness of face is never a factor as a matter of fact. After all, governance requires a more gentle application on the art of servitude. But these people will not be there in the first place had they not been conscripted. They probably came from the ranks of the “makakapal ang mukha”, where else.
That is why when the country is fledging in the face of neighboring countries advancing from where they were, we cannot but sigh and recite in our prayers “deliver us from evil. Amen.” Of course, we do not deserve this kind of situation. We never even wish it would visit us. But we are just children of fate. It is our destiny to have responsible men we call our groundbreakers who happen to have, not only the stomach for ineptitude but the gait for ineffectiveness. We merely call them indifferent as a kind of salutation. But of course, in the final analysis, it is “pakapalan na lang ng mukha.”