Wednesday, October 16, 2002

On Being in Government

We have recently been appointed as legal consultant for the National Food Authority. The appointment allows for free practice outside the NFA; thus, we will be insulated from the financial constraints usually associated with a government job. It does not mean, however, that it is going to be a free ride. There is much work to do. We have to help run the law department of a PHP 7 Billion corporation that controls the food supply of the Philippines. On top of these, we have to deal with stuff like protocol -- i.e., before we can talk to Mr. C, we have to talk to Mr. A and then to Mr. B-- and a resident auditor from the Commission on Audit. Well, that will keep us honest.

It is quite interesting to know that in spite of the fact that the pay is low, being in givernment requires having to deal with regulations as expansive as outer space -- from rules that prohibit the use of photocopying machines unless your bring your own paper to laws that require the filing of a statement of net worth the violation of which can send one to jail.On top of that being in government compels me to do the thing I dread the most -- riding an elevator run by the government. All these years, I've managed to avoid using government elevators by taking the stairway. The fear springs from my impression that government buildings in the Philippines are poorly maintained, if at all. There is no budget for that or if there was, it was used for something else or by someone else.Thus, government elevators are rickety, shaky and noisy -- you can almost hear the cables snap. I dread government elevators so much that I had gone as high as the sixth floor using the stairway. Unfortunately for me, the NFA office is in the 10th floor and I don't think I'm physically fit for that kind of action.

But I sincerely hope that this stint will be spiritually fulfilling. As I reported for work this week, for example, I was just in time to help out in a case that involves millions of government money -- these are millions of pesos that would be use to buy cheap rice for the people -- not a bad way to start this budding career, isn't it? Not bad at all. I hope that compensates for all the cruel things I have done as a commercial law and labor litigation lawyer -- like firing hundreds of people. I regretted that so much that I'm beginning to think that there is a special place in hell for labor lawyers who fired poeple for a living -- something like a government elevator that keeps going up and down with an operator with a radio that keeps on playing Ted Ito songs. Maybe being in government is my salvation. It is just queer that it looks very much like the hell that I imagined.