IF THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) plan pushes through, even President Rodrigo Duterte and the Cabinet would telecommute.
Telecommuting means working from home or an alternative workplace. No need to go to the office.
The DICT will reportedly implement within the year the holding of online meetings of President Duterte and Cabinet members after it acquires the needed teleconferencing system. Duterte and his Cabinet meet every Monday at Malacañang but with telecommuting, DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio said, they will save themselves and other motorists from road congestion, a Philippine Star report said Monday, June 24, 2019.
Rio’s main objective seems to be to spare the Cabinet from the hassle of getting stuck in traffic. Based on the report, Rio said holding online meetings starting this year will help ease traffic.
There are at least two things wrong with Rio’s plans. First, telecommuting is not intended primarily to be a solution to the problem of road congestion. It is meant to increase work efficiency. Second, the law that allows telecommuting is limited to those working in the private sector. There must be a reason why those who crafted the law did this.
The President signed into law late last year the Telecommuting Act or Republic Act 11165 that institutionalizes telecommuting as an alternative work arrangement for employees in the private sector.
The law’s aims include protecting the rights of workers who work from outside the office and promoting work-life balance. It is possible that sparing Cabinet members from the hours of sitting in their air-conditioned vehicles while waiting for traffic to move qualifies as promoting work-life balance.
But it is strange why Rio cited RA 11165 when the law was meant for private sector employees. Government officials and workers cannot invoke the same law. The government may use new technology to make their work more efficient and to bring them closer to the people. That is the mandate of the DICT and that is the reason government agencies are strengthening their websites and coming up with online services so the public need not go to their offices to transact business.
It is different for Cabinet meetings. Deciding on government policy or brainstorming on solutions to the country’s problems is hard to replicate from their homes, in their pajamas, or in offices outside of Malacañang.
When a private office resorts to telecommuting, it foresees savings on transportation and electricity as fewer people in the office means fewer lights, aircon units and computers turned on. Will there be cost savings when government officials telecommute? Will their office budgets be reduced?
Then, there is a need for a leader to be present. One measure of a good leader is that he or she shows up for the followers to see and be assured.
There’s nothing reassuring with the DICT plan.