The net results are cumulative and eventually gel. More when they come with uncanny regularity, as if they were serialized. From visible displays of roadside incompetence, usually through the antics of lowly factotums in the bureaucratic hierarchy who do not understand their charge, to baton-wielding village goons, to the insensitive remarks of a middleman mouthpiece, to the grand and colossal national fiascos and displays of incompetence of ranking officials — the total effect of serial ineptitude impacts profoundly on our leadership.
To the chagrin and humiliation of those who remain popular and still enjoy the support of the electorate, these successive episodes are annoyances actively if not deliberately spread over multimedia as criticism. As each occurs, like the gnawing of a thousand termites upon massive and majestic timber, at some point rot sets in, and the house may fall.
At first, when Rodrigo Duterte took over and the contrast against incompetent bungling from the previous administration was clear, the public seemed satisfied that decisive action replaced buffoonery. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic introduced unprecedented governance standards and tests on competence. As lives were lost in such scandals as the Mamasapano Massacre under Benigno Aquino III as commander-in-chief, so might lives and livelihood now continuously be lost to the ineptitude of ranking officials chosen through unvetted minutiae appointments that escape critical checks and balances.
With the number of new Covid-19 infections spiking over 2,000 daily during a severely locked down economy, for a growing segment of the public, restless, hungry, shorn of sources of living with some falling into destitution and dangerous desperation, the slightest delays in relief, uncalled-for remarks, even the mere image of an uncaring and insensitive ranking official, are enough to push the marginalized over the edge.
Admittedly, comparisons between Duterte’s government and its predecessor are unfair. Squash cannot compare to a coconut, the fruit of life. Or apples to oranges.
But still, serial ineptitude starts impacting on national governance, and after each episode, it becomes increasingly harder to deny the total effect as enamored as we are with decisiveness over incompetence.
From the lost or stolen funds of the special amelioration program entrusted to barangay officials, to benign albeit annoying mini-fiascos involving RFID stickers, child seats, vehicle inspection and vaccine costs and controversies, amid a slew of life threatening imperatives, these display anachronistic retail insensitivities of a relevant wholesale populist dispensation.
Such hark to days of buffoonery in a previous administration that, by the end of its term, was not simply totally rejected when it attempted to perpetuate itself under a hand-picked successor, a principal factor then, but years later when it tried to regain at least one seat in the legislature using its most prominent A-Team.
On the eve of a campaign period for the 2022 presidential elections, any cumulative negativity cast on the credibility of prospective candidates Duterte chooses will be an interesting case study.
Will the bungling stain his otherwise Teflon-coated sheen and impact on his choices for the next presidency, or will the electorate be able to divorce these hallmarks of ineptitude and allow his chosen candidate an unfettered pass to the presidency?