Golf and the Excesses of Governance
I was informed by a friend that I’m back in the news… again. Following the incident at Valley Golf and Country Club, my take was taken up by posts in Inquirer.net and PinoyExchange by DJ Yap and Alex Villafania:
One blogger, Marocharim (http://www.marocharim.com) criticized the re-appropriation of agricultural land into golf courses. “The least you could expect is to demand courtesy and respect from everyone in the [golf] course.”
Rather than having at least one reader out there wonder how in the heck do you pronounce “Marocharim,” what I did in fact say was this:
A lot can be said about the issue of agrarian reform (like, say, CARP) at this point. Heck, it’s ironic – even sarcastic – to speak of the caprices of golf when you’re running the Department of Agrarian Reform, and if you’re a mayor in one of the poorest provinces of the Philippines. That, though, can wait for another day.
OK, I wasn’t “misquoted” by Yap and Villafania; I suppose that one of my Plurks may have leaked out to the world. Today being the “another day,” allow me to take advantage of the angle that both Yap and Villafania decided to highlight. (I don’t know how and why, but thanks anyway…)
The interesting question: if you hold a Government position, should you play golf?
The Pangandaman vs. dela Paz incident brings to mind a couple of interesting points to chew on, or to play golf with:
- While what Government officials do on their own time is none of my business, anything that has anything to do with their public lives happen to be my business, as a taxpayer and as a citizen. It’s not as much as they are “public figures,” but that I can never be completely and absolutely sure that not a single peso of my taxes would go to their membership fees at country clubs, Alien wedges, and Top Flite golf balls.
- All forms of public service should involve some degree of ascendancy. In this case: if you’re the Secretary of a Government agency that involves distributing lands to the deserving poor, and if you’re the Mayor of one of the poorest cities in one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines, it’s not exactly in good taste to play golf. After all, you’re playing in land that’s supposed to be farmed.
I’m not one to deprive someone of a hobby, much less Government officials. There are more unusual, eyebrow-raising hobbies out there: “borrowing” office supplies, fixing forms for the price of merienda, 100-truck drives around the Metropolis, telebabad with COMELEC officials, collecting liquid fertilizer… the list goes on.
The fact that we can speak of “privileges” and “perks” when it comes to governance may just be the reason why we get the Government we deserve. Imagine these ordinary situations that take place even with the benefit of a lifestyle check:
- Swanky Chryslers with Government plates.
- Swanky ultra-expensive burgers (“barjer,” whatever you want to call them).
- Swanky houses in swanky subdivisions.
- Swanky memberships in swanky country clubs… all on a Government official’s salary.
The Pangandamans – heck, our politicians – playing golf, for all intents and purposes, is in bad taste. “In bad taste” is different from condemnation; it’s just that there’s something unpleasant about enjoying the privileges and caprices of the rich when your constituency – in this case, tenant farmers and the people of Masiu – do not play golf. In a time of crisis, and for all the pedantry about economics and thriftiness, our Government officials whack expensive balls with expensive sticks at expensive places. Then, in the controversy surrounding Pangandaman and Dela Paz, beat up one another.
Because I specialize in f***ing things up to the point of filling up all sorts of “big pictures,” it’s simply this: we are (in this case I am) concerned with this issue because it just goes to show so many things wrong with Government today. It’s about the propensity towards violence, the propensity towards flaunting wealth, the propensity towards imprudence and bad taste. Yes, indeed: we still remember the march of the Sumilao farmers, the protesters in front of the DAR office in Quezon City who live in tents, the plight of the farmers from Villareal-Caranoche.
This isn’t just about mild bruises and droplets of blood; those injuries are highly publicized microcosms of the suffering we all feel because of the excesses in Government:
- The fact that this issue involves people getting beat up should, in a way, highlight that even in high culture hotspots like golf courses, man can still be wolf to man.
- The fact that this issue involves the DAR Secretary should, in a way, highlight the plight of tenant farmers who don’t own land, while Government officials enjoy golf.
- The fact that this issue involves the mayor of a poor city in a poor province should, in a way, highlight the plight of a constituency that suffers while their leader enjoys and leads the good life.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the irony of it.