Spelling E.R.A.P.

Perhaps the writer Francis Fukuyama was right.  It is not so much wealth or power that moves people ultimately, but the desire for recognition – Plato’s “thymos”.  “The desire for recognition,” observes Fukuyama, “is the most specifically political part of the human personality because it is what drives men to want to assert themselves over other men.”  It is what makes them ignore the pull of other powerful instincts for the sake of what they believe is just.

But the way we Filipinos feed this desire makes us wonder whether this instinct can ever be anything beyond the egotism of leaders. Every change in administration ushers in a new set of slogans and acronyms that carry the distinctive personal mark of the new rulers. This practice is facilitated by sycophants in every agency of government who spend enormous amounts of time thinking out buzz words that would match the initials or the name of the new president.

In the hope of pre-empting the expected avalanche of new programs and projects that are singularly meant to please Erap, I offer here a sampling of what may already be in the works.  My fond wish, needless to say, is to see meaningful public programs and projects undertaken without fanfare, and without the self-advertisement of their sponsors.  My wish is to see the emergence of a new brand of citizens whose loyalty is to institutions rather than to persons.

Over at the Department of Agriculture, my mind tells me that someone is already putting together a program called Emergency Response for Agricultural Productivity, a program aimed at neutralizing the effects of the El Nino and raising agricultural capability to competitive levels. This program will go hand in hand with a parallel one being conceived at the Department of Trade and Industry, that will likely bear the name: Entrepreneurial Resources to Assist the Poor.  It will also jibe with the Department of Labor and Employment’s new emphasis on rural employment as reflected in its Employment for Rural and Agricultural Prosperity.

One of the biggest problems that a pro-poor program will face is lack of funds.  But if the Bureau of Internal Revenue is up to its task, it may soon launch a tax-amnesty drive entitled: Enhanced Revenue Accumulation Program.  The idea is to offer habitual tax-evaders the chance to clear their records in exchange for a lump-sum payment. The Department of Finance, faced with a huge deficit, will have to initiate an Expenditure Reform and Austerity Program aimed at scaling down public works and welfare expenditures and meeting the reduced growth targets set by the IMF.

The Department of Defense under Estrada has already indicated that it cannot approve the modernization package put together by the Ramos administration.  In its place, we expect to see soon an Executive Review of the Armed Forces Program.  This will be undertaken in conjunction with the much-awaited reform in the Philippine National Police.  The president-elect has already made known his bias for uplifting the welfare of the police.  Accordingly, I expect the DILG to launch the Expanded Resources for the Amelioration of the Police.

Not too far behind will be the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) efforts to provide assistance to local inventors who may want to cash in on the market opened by the potency pill Viagra.  When and if they do invent an inexpensive equivalent to Pfizer’s product, I would not be surprised if someone calls it  ERAP, for Erectile Revival to Augment Potency.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Agrarian Reform should not have any problem finding their own acronyms.  The DENR might come up with an Ecological Regeneration and Awareness Program, to drive home the point that it exists primarily to protect the environment rather than to plunder natural resources.

The DAR, on the other hand, could renew its commitment to asset reform by spearheading, together with the new Anti-Poverty Commission, a  program to be known as the Economic Reform Agenda for the Poor.  Their efforts can be complemented by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council’s Experimental Resettlement Areas for the Poor as well as by Pag-ibig’s own Espesyal na Rehistrasyon para sa Agarang Pabahay.

Erap has announced that he will uphold the constitutional priority given to education.  This provides the cue for the DECS to reinvent its existing programs and resonate the president-elect’s bias for the poor. Soon we may witness the emergence of another high-sounding document titled Educational Reforms for the Alleviation of Poverty, even if what the DECS needs most today might be something as immediate as an Effective Re-tooling Agenda for its Personnel.

The Pinoy is an acronym-loving creature.  I have often wondered how many government projects were born in the mind of a sycophant who needed to find the right words to match the initials of his master, and ended up with a concept that sounded nice when spelled out but was otherwise impractical and contradictory.  But then we must not forget that many social movements also began as acronyms and became material forces in their nation’s history.

We can only hope therefore that Erap’s thymotic thirst is not easily quenched by the acronyms that little minds love to serve their bosses. In Plato’s Republic, Fukuyama said, thymos is the “source of courage, public-spiritedness, and a certain unwillingness to make moral compromises.”  That is how I would personally like to see Erap spell out his name.


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