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Models Of Good Governance In Local Governments Are Making Waves In Philippine Politics

A number of local government CEOs are rousing fresh hope among citizens and voters in the Philippines that governance can, indeed, be improved for the welfare of the people

A text that says ‘do something great’
Photo by Clark Tibbs Unsplash

Among the fresh faces fuelling hope for change and transformation in various component cities of Mega Manila are Mayors Vico Sotto of Pasig City, Marcy Teodoro of Marikina, Ike Ponce of Pateros, Isko Moreno Domagoso of Manila, Kit Nieto of Cainta, Menchie Abalos of Mandaluyong, and Francis Zamora of San Juan.

A recent major public opinion survey of citizens’ perception of local government performance in Metropolitan Manila gave the above-named CEOs the highest scores. There are several more within Metro Manila and in other parts of the country, but we will just focus on these magnificent seven in the meantime.

In a country where political dynasties reign supreme in both national and local politics, Teodoro, Domagoso, and Nieto are the first in their families to successfully win election to the top post. Sotto, Ponce, Abalos, and Zamora are scions of political families, but they are turning out to be of a different mold from their forebears.

People now talk about these LGU CEOs as emerging models of good governance. They are being described as non-traditional politicians and genuine servant leaders.

They are said to spend less time in their air-conditioned offices and much more time where most of their constituents can be found — in communities that are poorly planned, congested, crime-infested, and deprived of basic services for human living. The deprivation includes decent housing, adequate utilities and health facilities, job or livelihood opportunities, affordable transport, and peace and order enforcement. The mayors want to see and feel firsthand the situation of their people and listen to their plaints and suggestions.

When the coronavirus struck and forced the general lockdown of goods and services in all communities and at all levels of society, these mayors showed their mettle. They were seen responding to the emergency with practical and out-of-the box solutions for their people, while waiting for assistance from the national government.

To a citizenry weary with tales of endemic graft and corruption among politicians who have enriched themselves bigtime and almost overnight in public office, these newly-minted models of good governance are being talked about in near disbelief. They are emerging as the new folk heroes in social media. Suddenly, some of the political critics and skeptics are beginning to sound hopeful about the future of Philippine politics.

Fairing poorly by comparison are office holders at all levels who are considered traditional politicians. For sure, they still constitute the majority in the controlling institutions. But netizens have become more aggressive and noisy in calling them out for sloppy performance, shameless corruption, and lack of moral standing.

What is governance? And when is it good or bad?

Governance refers to the process of decision-making or the process by which decisions are implemented or not implemented.

Good Governance is an approach to government that is committed to creating a system founded on justice and peace that protects the individual citizen’s human rights and civil liberties.

It has eight (8) major characteristics. It is participatory and consensus oriented. It is accountable and transparent. It is responsive, effective and efficient. It is equitable and inclusive. And it follows the rule of law.

Thus, it assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.

Certain indicators of good governance are usually monitored, and these include the following:

1. Voice and accountability.

2. Political stability and absence of violence.

3. Government effectiveness.

4. Regulatory quality.

5. Rule of law.

6. Control of corruption.

The opposite to all these is bad governance, which is increasingly regarded as one of the root causes of the biggest evils in our societies.

It is for this reason, for example, that major donors and international financial institutions now increasingly insist that they will grant their aid and loans only on the condition that reforms are first undertaken to ensure “good governance”.

But all this talk about good governance also has its accompanying costs. Among these costs are the following:

1. The money spent on administrative processes. This is also known as administrative expenditure.

According to Fluvian and Drucker, this expenditure covers both administrative expenses and capital expenses. These are the costs incurred by the government in running its affairs.

Afolugbo of Nigeria calls it the cost incurred in running the government. It is the cost of performing political duties, and discharging civil services to the public.

2. The provision of security by the state. This refers to the military and the police, or the uniformed personnel.

3. The misuse of public funds rationalized in the name of governance by corrupt officials, or graft and corruption in all its forms.

4. Population increase which causes more demand for public goods and services, such as education, health services, and the like, and the pressure from every organized group that will compete for the increasingly limited resources.

5. The ever-increasing civil service sector. These are the government personnel at all levels whose salaries and emoluments are funded by the people’s money.

6. The personal costs to those who exercise governance, such as physical burnout and illness, threats to personal security, social costs, and the like.

Each one of the local government CEOs cited above will have to be weighed against the conventional wisdom in public administration centers of higher learning and public opinion polls.

But for purposes of this article, let me cite just one of them who typifies the new image that these local CEOs have brought to their offices. This one has easily lionized the attention of public media due to his years in show business before he forayed into politics. He is none other than the city mayor of Manila, Francisco Moreno Domagoso.

Photo courtesy of People Asia magazine

Mayor Isko Moreno

Born and raised in poverty, his life is the stuff that movies and tele-seryes are made of — the very same medium that, in real life, gave him the eventual leverage to compete successfully and win as a local politician in the city of his birth. From councilor, to vice-mayor, and now mayor of the City of Manila. From the ranks of the poor and the lowly, to the circles of the esteemed and the influential.

But rather than let all this success go to his head, some say that he is sounding more and more like someone who has discovered a sacred vocation, a higher calling to become a servant leader in the complex and impossible realm of public service. How will his newfound vocation play out?

Upon his assumption of office as Mayor of the City of Manila, Francisco Domagoso, more popularly known as Isko Moreno, carried out a series of seemingly small but significant, decisive, and quick actions to address long-felt but wantonly neglected problems in the city.

By way of background for the reader, two places in Manila stand out in this narrative.

Divisoria is an iconic popular shopping center for the masses in the city of Manila. This is where bargain hunters from all over the country come for all types of goods, local and imported. Prices are several times lower than anywhere else. Thus, the place is always packed with shoppers and, for generations, was also notorious for congestion, urban filth, petty crimes, and standstill traffic.

Plaza Lawton is a public square right in front of the iconic Philippine Postal Office building located in the heart of Manila. It is a few-minutes walk from the City Hall and the Walled City known as Intramuros. At the center of the square is a monument to Philippine hero Andres Bonifacio, the leader of the uprising against the colonial Spanish government which ignited the Philippine Revolution in the late 1890s.

It is on these two iconic places that newly-installed Mayor Isko Moreno descended in his first week in office. In lightning fashion, he took a series of actions that were reported to an unbelieving citizenry by the mass media.

The streets of Divisoria were completely cleared of illegal stalls and vehicles. The Bonifacio monument at Plaza Lawton which reeked of filth and human waste was now spanking clean. Several more such actions took place in different parts of the city — all in the span of a few days. The effect on the people was something like shock-and-awe. “So, it really can be done, after all?”, many said, incredulously.

Since then, Isko Moreno has become the poster boy for the possibility of good governance — at last — in a city that he himself admitted had long lost its pre-eminence as the capital of the nation. Overly populated, extremely congested, filthy and polluted; with widespread urban blight, horrendous traffic, severe lack of basic services, endemic graft and corruption, and the breakdown of law and order.

Alongside the initial public chorus of praise and flattery for his unbelievably good start, however, one can hear some cynical comments. “That’s just for starters! That’s showbiz gimmickry! The problem is too deeply rooted, it can’t be solved! He’ll tire soon enough! At the rate he is going, he’ll get sick and will eventually give up. Wait ’til grease money gets into his hands from the syndicates.”

Conclusion

So, we cannot help but ask: What could it cost this bright young man with big dreams and a brave heart and a disarming gift of the gab to stay the course and pursue his vision for the City of Manila until it shall have become a reality?

The response to the question bears watching. For Isko Moreno and the rest of his fellow young mayors in some of the cities of Metro Manila and other parts of the country. The much-awaited change in the culture of governance may yet become a reality soon. ###

Please enjoy reading my first 2 articles on Ave Maria:

Ave Maria!

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Curajimmy

Curajimmy

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A Rotarian, an educator, a speaker and a business consultant. Member, Filii Sancti Dominici (FILII).