Of politicians and true public servants
The abundance of free skills training, livelihood assistance, employment and loans that are available to the poor are revelations to me when I joined orientations given by three government agencies recently.
I tagged along with my wife when she visited the regional offices in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, of these three departments: Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Labor and Employment (Dole).
My wife is gathering ideas for programs she plans to implement in her hometown, Alcala, to help improve the lives of her townmates.
Our first stop was at Tesda, where provincial director Romeo Talosig animatedly presented the courses, scholarships, and class venues made available by his agency. Apart from a full range of vocational subjects, the courses include specialized modules in computer, agriculture, tourism and foreign languages.
The class venues are online tutorials, trainings held in municipalities and barangays, classes in private and public schools, and workshops at Tesda offices. Scholarships are given in all these class venues. If municipalities and private schools operate Tesda-accredited training schools, they are paid by Tesda for each student enrollee.
Talosig noted the increasing trend of college graduates enrolling in Tesda courses, because the skills they learn widen their employment options when they go abroad. I am eager to enroll myself in Tesda classes such as organic vegetable farming, goat-raising and commercial flower farming, which I want to get into as hobbies when I’m done minding other people’s problems as a practicing lawyer.
Our second stop was a meeting with DA regional executive director Narciso Edillo, who chalked up an impressive background as an agriculturist in foreign countries
before he came home.
Apart from Edillo’s discussion of livelihood assistance and loan programs, what resonated with me was his lamentation on how Filipinos have lost the habit of backyard vegetable gardening. We now prefer to buy vegetables at the “talipapa” instead of growing our own, he lamented.
Edillo has been going around the Cagayan Valley region encouraging local government units, schools and citizen organizations to promote backyard gardening. He freely distributes seeds in his meetings. Five eggplant and five tomato plants in the backyard will be more than enough to meet the vegetable needs of a family of eight, he said.
Our third stop was a meeting with the Dole chief of labor and employment office, Grace Pomar. She energetically presented the various stop-gap employment opportunities sponsored by the Dole for unemployed graduates, intern students and calamity-affected families.
The Dole programs include the Special Program for Employment of Students, where students can obtain temporary work in local government units; the Government Internship Program, where unemployed graduates can provisionally work in government offices; and the Tulong Pangkabuhayan, where people hit by disasters can earn income by performing emergency work for 30 days.
My encounter with the three government offices left me with notable impressions.
Our notions of public officials as indolent and corrupt are tainted by the unsavory reputation of politicians and political appointees. But many of the career officials who run our bureaucracy are true public servants who are sincere in serving the people.
There’s a wealth of government programs that can help uplift the lives of our poor. But many of these programs are inaccessible, because politicians running our local government units are not exerting enough effort to help address simple problems besetting the poor, such as: 1. their lack of government-issued identification cards, which is a requirement to avail themselves of public programs and; 2. their lack of transportation money to attend classes.
The budgets for and access to scholarships, livelihood assistance, government employment opportunities and loans are hijacked by politicians who misuse them as instruments of patronage.
We live at a time when the reign of politicians sullies the image of government. We long for the day when true public servants rule our country and its people.
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