The Long View: Republic of confusion

The Long View
Republic of confusion
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:16:00 07/09/2009

The Iglesia ni Cristo marks its 95th anniversary on July 27. The anniversary was heralded by news that the date- also the constitutionally-appointed one for the President’s State of the Nation Address – would be a holiday. However, some newspapers, including this one, reported that the date would be a working holiday, while reported that it would be a non-working holiday.

Apparently what came out in the media depended on the press release reporters got hold of. One Palace statement announced that the 27th would be a non-working holiday, while another said that it would be a working holiday.

This is important because if the holiday were a special non-working one, private sector employees don’t have to go to work, and if they do, they will be entitled to additional compensation. If it’s a special working holiday, no one’s compensation gets affected either way since everyone has to work and at most, workers will be requested to pause in silent reflection on the significance of the special day.

There was also a certain amount of imprecision in either the announcement of Iglesia ni Cristo Day or the reporting of the announcement. Republic Act 9645, enacted on June 12 of this year, declared July 27 a special working holiday – a special day – in perpetuity.

What President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo apparently did was to announce that the law is now in operation, so that people would be aware of the designation of the 27th as a special day. Naturally she also took the opportunity to be the first to send felicitations to the INC. Next year is an election year, after all.

But the public, for some reason, and probably mainly because the holiday was announced by the Palace, got the impression the special day was an outright non-working holiday and declared so on the President’s initiative. And since the chief executive has a holiday economics policy in place, that people could look forward to a long weekend.

The President, in the past, had used her power to proclaim non-working holidays tactically, to defuse political tensions by sending the public off to enjoy itself when political tempers were particularly high. Businessmen objected to this because impromptu holidays threw a monkey-wrench into their efforts to rationally plan the working year. Eventually, the government formalized both its holiday economics policy by legislating the moving of national holidays to dates that permit three-day weekends, while pledging to control itself when it came to proclaiming spur-of-the-moment days off.

So when conflicting news came out concerning the 27th, human resources offices started calling to get clarification on what exactly the day would be, according to law. They searched the Internet, but the best that could be found there, aside from conflicting news reports, was a Senate bill (S. No. 3281), and not the law itself. One HR person I know called the Office of the Press Secretary and asked for a copy of the law (RA 9645) but was told they didn’t have any. They were helpful enough, however, to clarify that the day would indeed be a working holiday.

I suppose other HR departments called other government departments, whether the Department of Labor and Employment, the Malacanang Records Office, or the Presidential Management Staff. But it strikes me as particularly relevant that the Office of the Press Secretary didn’t have a copy of the law on which the President’s announcement – transmitted, in turn, by the executive secretary and the press secretary – was based.

The press secretary is the official in charge of the National Printing Office (formerly the Bureau of Printing) which in turn is in charge of the preparation and publication of the Official Gazette. This is supposed to be the journal of record for the government.

Prior to martial law, the Official Gazette was marvelously complete, from executive issuances, congressional resolutions and laws, to court decisions, and even had sections on appointments and designations, the chief executive’s official week, and even selected documents deemed of historical value. During martial law, however, coverage became spotty as the government became more secretive. After the Edsa I uprising, in a bid to make public information more accessible, an executive order (No. 200, June 18, 1987) mandated that publication in two newspapers of general circulation sufficed, as far as the need to inform the public of a law’s existence, for it to go into effect. This was supposed to be superior to simply publishing laws and presidential issuances in the Official Gazette, which the public didn’t really have access to anyway.

An unintended consequence of all this, however, was to keep the Official Gazette’s coverage of all things official haphazard and disorganized. Newspapers benefited from the fees they charged the government, but I wonder if the public has benefited from it, particularly since newspaper publication is good for informing people today, but unless you maintain a collection of clippings it’s not particularly useful in terms of keeping a durable record of official directives.

Sweden, which has the oldest Official Gazette in the world, switched publication purely to the Internet in 2007. Our Official Gazette continues to be far from comprehensive and has no online presence. The Office of the President of the Philippines website has begun publishing executive issuances and laws, but the contents only pertain to the present administration. Private groups have taken to publishing laws and such online, too, but again these efforts aren’t complete and not as timely as government could achieve.

The lesson is a simple one. A lot of confusion, for officials and the public alike, could be avoided by embarking on an effort to bring the Official Gazette up to date, to put it online, and to encourage HR departments to subscribe to it – provided the information contained is of the same comprehensiveness and quality as the pre-1972 Official Gazette.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

13 thoughts on “The Long View: Republic of confusion

  1. now you see it… now you don’t.

    this habit of confusing the people irritates so much, not to mention that to some corporate offices, such press releases of working holidays and non-working holidays are of much importance.

  2. The lesson is a simple one. A lot of confusion, for officials and the public alike, could be avoided by embarking on an effort to bring the Official Gazette up to date, to put it online, and to encourage HR departments to subscribe to it—provided the information contained is of the same comprehensiveness and quality as the pre-1972 Official Gazette.

    Information is power, he who controls it, manipulates it, filters it, and interprets it holds the key.
    Imagine what could have happened if Martin Luther did not translate the bible and we still had to rely on priests to translate it for us?

  3. More than the confusion is the question why there is a law commemorating the foundation day of a particular christian sect?

    The INC is not a religion, it is a sect within Christianity, Why is the INC being favored over other christian sects?

    This is what the 1987 Constitution has to say

    Art.II, Section 6, “Section 6. The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.”

    Art.III, Section 5. “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”

  4. MB,

    Any christian sex errr sect will get preferential treatment if they deliver solid votes on a consistent basis…. the heck with the constitution, whoever cheats errr seats in Malacanang will always violate errr interpret the constitution according to their selfish interest.

  5. Why people reacted so much when INC day in July 27 was enacted into law as a special working holiday…. maybe a part of persecution….. while people just enjoyed a non-working holiday when ramadan was declared…

  6. Juan,

    Ramadan is for all muslims just like Christmas and Easter is for all christians.

    When the government celebrates INC Foundation Day, it is showing preference for INC over let’s say the Baptists, Sabadistas, the Catholics etc. It’s like recognizing a Shia special day over one that’s special to a Sunni.

  7. Might as well have an El Shadai Day also, ma suggest nga kay Bro. Eli and Dating Daan Day, masabi nga kay Bro. Mike, and not to forget Brod Pete…

  8. Last i checked, peresecution is about being harrassed by people in power and not, as in this case, getting a very special favor from them.

    The real question here is whether or not this is an Illegal Holiday. The real confusion is whether we, as a people, still have the delicadeza to go against this grave abuse of indiscretion.

  9. perhaps a better question (instead of the legitimacy of INC as a religion or its distinction from other religions) would be: who stands to benefit from this proclamation? is it the INC or the people who made this proclamation possible?

    MLQIII stated the main issue here very clearly (and tastefully, might I add). its all about confusion. why declare a holiday when you won’t get additional pay for going to work? with all these hype regarding the holiday, i suppose its all about who gets to have a shot with the spotlight.

    by saying that a declaration such as this is a show of preference over a particular sector, it could be true. but i think this show of preference is unnecessary. it’s as unnecessary as a student pulling off all the strings to get a high grade without really doing WHAT SHE IS SUPPOSED TO DO to get that high grade: studying that is. that said, this move is probably an exercise in vain (considering all the politically-driven motives at play).

    so again, who gets to be benefited here? i don’t think the INC will see the beauty of this “Special Working Holiday”. Most of the brethren come from the working class, yet at the risk of no pay for that day, they will still celebrate it accordingly. fortunately, we are too busy with becoming better people through acts of goodness than care about temporal considerations such as being “famous for having our very own holiday”.

  10. @manuelbuencamino > How about those “sects” within Christianity that do not believe in Christmas and Easter and other Catholic Church’s feasts? Is it not showing preference for Catholic Church over INC and other sects?

    @ejp > Persecution is when you see something political when the government merely learnt how to recognize good things. The court could resolve your question whether it is legal or illegal, no one is stopping you from raising that question. Goodluck!

  11. @michael adrid > we did not ask the executive nor the legislative departments of our government to pass a law making 27th of july a holiday. nevertheless, we’re going to celebrate not just at the risk of losing a day’s pay, but even if that means losing our jobs. god bless! 🙂

  12. Our current government is always misleading, saying something while doing the other way around.

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