Goodbye to “soft government”

Two things made headlines this week.

One, the impending temporary closure of Boracay island, the risk of the same on other tourist islands like our nearby Siargao represents a change in the way our laws are implemented. For the first time, polluters are taken to task for their misdeeds.

With the President's announcement that no casino will be built on the island, oppositors just lost their reason to mobilize locals to resist the implementation of necessary laws meant to keep their islands waters safe for tourists without which their livelihoods would be lost.

Second, the new PNP Director Oscar Albayalde vows a continued implementation of Oplan Tokhang, the program so dreaded by the presidents oppositors they have taken to bloating the “kill” figures to oppose it. Obviously, high performance ratings of the president and former PNP Chief de la Rosa belie this sentiment.

In both instances, what is most telling is that majority seem to approve these tough measures, with those opposing the moves are a noisy minority.

This is not surprising given that this is the second time that Boracay faced a coliform crisis, and that the drug problem has made too many inroads into our families and has captured law enforcement, the response, yes, the gravity of it, seems acceptable.

The same goes for the drug problem. Official statistics from the Dangerous drugs board point to a reality that at least 5% of the Philippine population on average is hooked on, or has benefited from the drug trade. Reasonably, this estimate is lower than reality. This represents several million-enough to oppress tens of millions more, and keep pockets of influence that open the door to more illegal activity.

The hard logic they raise stems from a frustration that problems like these were never solved despite being raised earlier. Thus, the thought that more drastic measures need to be imposed becomes palatable.

There are still those who believe in the old order of “soft government”- that governance means pushing symbols and images rather than programs, and creating exceptions and impressions rather than attain results. IN short- to please the few that expect their influence to be followed, and MAKE IT APPEAR that action is being done.

The results of past soft government are evident:

Six years of Daang Matuwid barely improved our poverty figures- we are still several points poorer than Indonesia.

The vaunted trillion peso savings after PNOY is a shame- it could have been used to build necessary roads and at least ease Metro Manila traffic. But they chose to SAVE IT.

Slaps on the wrist here, some shaming there, all spun and woven into a feeling that something is being done- only for the problem to surface later. The Janet Napoles Saga shows how she was used to harass political opponents, while giving allies a free pass.

Their media allies conveniently tuck away the reality once it is no longer popular, and obfuscate failure with telenovelas and “yayadubs” to continue the fairy tale that a good job is being done. That was then.

In today’s reality, tough measures have borne their results:

In the case of the drug problem, surveys have already pointed out how much less of a problem it is in many communities. Build build buld programs have taken off to the delight of the crowd. We have yet to see whether Boracay will indeed be cleaned up.

The hard truth is that in today’s world, results matter mode than impressions, and actual change is seen when the effect of the problem, not just the look of it is actually diminished.

Social media has enabled this new consciousness, and has helped raise expectations, demanding results. That certain segments of mainstream media are losing their audience is a wake up call for them to be more responsive and truthful in their reportage. Old style impression-based propaganda no longer works in this connected society.

Old style Soft government is out, and tough government has become more acceptable, and the people adamantly expect more results.

Resurgent Contributor Pilar Santos is an NGO worker from Butuan City. Photo: Wikimedia commons