Mistakes happen to the best of us, but I suppose some people are expected never to.
A couple of days ago, I went on Pia Hontiveros’ show – Strictly Politics – thinking that we would be discussing campaign rules and so on. Imagine my complete surprise when I found out that we were going to be talking about a provision in the implementing rules and regulations of the Fair Elections Act that shouldn’t have been there. More specifically, a provision that said survey results couldn’t be released 15 days before elections; a provision already struck down by the Supreme Court. A quick call to my office confirmed that, indeed, the provision in question didn’t appear in the 2004 version of the IRR.
So there I was.
Admitting that mistake – knowing full well that it meant a huge leap backward in the COMELEC’s efforts towards greater credibility for the agency – made my ears burn. But that was the only way to go. Mistakes are made, and only made worse by denial. Still, it really felt like merde.
What made it worse was all the insinuations, even outright accusations, that followed. ‘COMELEC shows a tendency to oppression;’ ‘COMELEC has a penchant for expanding the intentions of the law.’ All I could do was point out that these conclusions only held true if the insertion was deliberate, which it wasn’t. After all, haven’t we been all over the place nowadays helping everyone shine the light on nearly every aspect of the policy framework governing the 2007 polls? And didn’t that provision not show up in 2004? Now I knew we shouldn’t be congratulated for doing what we ought to be doing, but I needed to show that a deliberate re-insertion of a void provision simply went against everything we’ve been doing; that it was a stupid move that could only torpedo our own efforts at improving agency credibility, and that no one would be stupid enough to willfully do that.
Still, in the final analysis, and considering the anti-COMELEC sentiment already in the air, I knew that I shouldn’t be surprised that the error would be so determinedly used to further pummel the COMELEC.
So, no excuses.
The next day (yesterday), I brought the mistake to the attention of the Commission en banc – and was not fired (hoo-bloody-ray) – just before the start of the COMELEC-PNP command conference. The Commissioners immediately instructed the Executive Director to prepare the amendatory resolution.
Today, I got a call from SWS’ Mahar Mangahas who wanted to know whether we had already published the amendment or at least issued an apology. I told him that I hoped to have the amendatory resolution out within the week. I’m still working on it, and making a complete pest of myself (I hope). Ellen Tordesillas, blogger and consultant on Strictly Politics, called me up too, asking pretty much the same thing Mangahas did. And right they are too, for keeping close tabs on this.
Government agencies should be held to higher standards of competence. No matter if the mistake was truly honest; no matter if the mistake could not have possibly caused any damage (after all, the severability principle applies and an invalid provision in the IRR is deemed inoperative even without correction), government agencies should be extremely vigilant in its official utterances to prevent such mistakes from happening. In all cases, in all instances, goverment agencies – and government employees – should always aim for zero-defects.
Sheesh. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, Macchiatto? Only this time, I’m eating humble pie I didn’t bake myself.