Thursday, July 03, 2008


How does one teach civility to civil servants? I have found that the antidote to "masungit" bureaucrats is asking for their names.

Yesterday I went to the spanking new building of the UP Registrar to follow up my request for yet another batch of my Transcript. For some magical reason I was apparently underassessed by my old college waaaay back in 2002. At the clearance station I gave my claim stub to the man behind the window. Apparently the ToR claim stub was not the same as the clearance stub - which unfortunately did not have my name. I noted it was this same man who gave the same form to me some weeks back. It was in fact his fault that he did not put my name on it, and had not adviced me that I needed to do the seneseless act of writing my name when in fact all I needed to present him was a valid ID for him to process my request.

I give respect where it is due. However I will not tolerate being disrespected, even with the tone of voice. I particularly despise being made to feel like an inconvenience, as though I were a supplicant to the almighty public office of the man behind the desk. I noticed he had not bothered to look at me, and must have assumed I was a fresh grad - a youngling he could afford to intimidate.

"Eh pa'no ko hahanapin yan wala namang pangalan?" (So how will I find this if you don't have your name?"

I pointed to the ToR claim stub which bore my name in capitals. "Di ba pwede na ho ito?" (Isn't this enough?)

"Eh iba namang form yan eh." (No, but that is a different form).

Pasensya na ha, nagpanting talaga ang tenga ko.

When I am upset my eyes usually widen into huge saucers and my voice deepens noticeably. I realised this even as I looked him in the eye and asked him for his name. He asked for my ID. I asked for his name again. He said ID. Again I asked for his name. This went on for about 30 seconds. It would have been comical had I not been so incensed. Finally he gave his name. And I gave him my ID. Afterwards he became noticeably more civil.

Ah these bureaucrats. I have been on your case since before I left. And here I am doing battle with you again. Argh. To reiterate:

The Bureaucracy, unfortunately, is unavoidable in any modern society. They are supposed to provide the backbone for any government. They are assured tenure so that they may continue to provide services irrespective of who occupies Malacanang. It is assumed that the Bureaucracy is immune to politics.

Tenure and a modicum of "isolation" from politicians jockeying for position makes for a cadre of government workers who may serve tenure until they die or retire, whichever comes first. You wonder why they wear a certain kind of expression on their faces as they sit behind those desks and windows? Well they have security of employ running at the back of their mind. Whether they actually do work or not, they simply need to show up to get paid.

So you know they have a certain attitude, coupled with a notion that they are entitled to work as slowly and as inefficiently as possible because they are government employees, then what have you got? A bureaucracy that will move as slo.o.o.owly as possible. A bureaucracy that will seek to work as little as possible because there is nothing prompting them to do otherwise. A bureaucracy ripe for all sorts of rent-seeking possibilities.

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