Local good governance must be inclusive

Good governance and development are like inseparable twins — one sparks much — needed reforms to improve people’s lives and institutions; the other results from effectively confronting these challenges.

Literature as old as time and civilization chronicles governance by leaders of families, tribes, kingdoms, governments, and even businesses. Good or bad, governance defines the kind of institutions and the character of the people who benefit from them.

“Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development,” said former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “Despite this consensus, good governance is an extremely elusive objective.”

Since all politics is local, good governance starts at the grassroots. The Philippines has 81 provinces, 145 cities, 1,489 municipalities, and 42,029 barangays. Making development and progress inclusive is the stiff challenge every local executive faces to achieve peace, order, harmony, and development in their jurisdiction. A solid public engagement requires full cooperation between the institutions, the leading actor that exercises power and responsibilities, and the stakeholders.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific outlines eight major characteristics of good governance — participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective, efficient, equitable, and inclusive, and follows the rule of law. All these necessitate addressing corruption in all layers of the local bureaucracy to achieve improved governance and a sustainable present and future. Governance at the local level must be meaningful, and the determinants must be measurable in terms of efficiency of service delivery.

Apropos of their commitment to upholding the principles of governance, more than 100 mayors nationwide have signed a manifesto committing to serve the best interests of their constituents through the Mayors for Good Governance, which was launched at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City last 24 Aug. Mayors Benjamin Magalong of Baguio, Joy Belmonte of Quezon City, Marcy Teodoro of Marikina, Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte, Sitti Hataman of Isabela in Basilan, and Felipe Remollo of Dumaguete, were among the convenors. They agreed to a “comprehensive blueprint” to guide their actions throughout their term.

Of course, it is one thing when local leaders commit to the welfare and needs of the community by maintaining integrity and transparency in all aspects of governance and sustaining such commitment is another thing. While ethical lapses are commonplace among local executives, it is still a welcome respite from the everyday absurdities of life and a heartwarming turn of events that proves not all bulbs are dimmed on this side of the planet.

Valid, embracing public service means prioritizing the common good over personal or political gain, a mantra that signatories to the manifesto agreed to. It’s a delicate balance between good housekeeping and ensuring that budget allocations are well spent on essential projects and programs to benefit the local folks sans discrimination. These projects may include technological innovations, digitization of services to minimize, if not eradicate, corruption, and well-meaning livelihood activities, especially for the unemployed, the youth, and the elders. I’ve read about some barangays providing soap and bag-making skills to people and selling finished products to the community to raise money.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government, then and now, has helped push for local good governance by incentivizing good performance and good housekeeping to force local government units to perform more. The Seal of Good Housekeeping Award and the Performance Challenge Fund or PCF are promising innovations to encourage and inspire local executives to act. The PCF provides financial subsidies to qualified LGUs that exhibit “good performance in internal housekeeping, particularly in the area of transparency and accountability, planning, fiscal management, and valuing performance monitoring.”

While the pinnacles to aim for are already in place, we need doers and movers with less rhetoric to achieve our purpose. We need innovative and forward-thinking local leaders who will chart the course towards reaching this final destination of good governance.

I challenge our local executives to listen more to what their constituents say to improve public service. The more local officials listen and act swiftly, the better for the community. Should they fail this task, the next local elections are always the last recourse to initiate change. But then again, knowing the results of previous elections, some of us have never learned and continue to suffer the consequences of not voting wisely, thus making local good governance all the more elusive.


(You may send comments and reactions to feedback032020@gmail.com or text 0931-1057135.)

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