REFOCUSING GOVERNMENT: Re-Visioning for the Coming Elections

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by Eric Santillan

“Freedom is only one generation from extinction.” – Ronald Reagan

In a few months, it’s going to be elections once again. Candidates are sending feelers, and the campaign fever is once again at a high. You see epal all over the place. The paradox of it all is this: the people who want to be elected the most are probably those we shouldn’t, and the people who don’t want the power are the ones we should.

So are we ready to choose the “right” candidates? Are there right candidates? Is there anyone who can change the trajectory of corruption we are in and push us towards a more honest, effective, efficient, issue-based politics and governance?

As we enter our election season, I humbly suggest the following principles: local, more than national; governance, not just economics; candidates who will give value, and not just have good values.

Local, more than national. The foci for previous elections has been the national elections. And yet, the real battle is in the local elections, because it is our local leaders who affect us the most. The Honorable Gentleman from Quezon City, Tito Sotto, can plagiarize all he want, and it can become fodder for national news and trend in Facebook and Twitter, but THAT particular act does not really affect the people of Payatas. It is the act of the Barangay Captain of Payatas (and the mayor of Quezon City) that will most affect the people there. The local elections are where people should be most vigilant. The automation of elections does not automatically equate to a more accurate elections. It only means that the platform for potential cheating has changed. In a study conducted by IT election groups, they found out in an audit that the accuracy rate of our PCOS machines are at 97.21519% or 557 errors in 20,000 marks. This potentially affects tightly-contested races, specially in the local elections.

To give a more stark example, it is the work of local governments (as it is empowered by law) to center disaster risk management efforts that led to a zero casualty rate at the height of Pablo in Cagayan de Oro City. Contrast that with the casualties in other places. In Compostela Valley, with almost 2000 people dead and missing, local government officials have been accused of being part of illegal logging and mining operations. The Local Governments, in a world of climate change and disasters, have a real hand in affecting whether people live or die. Fair warning: you can die if you elect an inept and corrupt local official!

Focus on governance, more than economics. The focus of our efforts the past years has been on improving the Philippine economy, for good reason. We were languishing in the cellars of a chronic economic downturn. But economic improvement is a byproduct of a more efficient and effective governance and fiscal discipline. Governance is the physical exercise of management power and policy. It is the use of institutions and structures of authority to allocate resources and coordinate or control activity in society or the economy. To simplify, good governance is what makes good economy possible.

Focus on leaders who give value, and not just have values. We’ve always talked about honesty and integrity among our leaders. That is needed, for sure. But integrity has to do with doing your job well (you cannot be a good person and shortchange your work), and not just honesty and goodness. More than being good people, we want leaders who DO their jobs, and do them well. More than leaders with good values, we want to have leaders who will give us value work. When we talk about good governance for example, it’s not just about honesty and good intentions, it’s about doing what you say you will do, spending money according to previously agreed upon parameters, and coming up with effective and efficient work.

About Eric Santillan

AngPeregrino is Eric Santillan. He is a management consultant for two firms specializing in sustainable business, competitiveness and risk management, cost control and culture management. He is also a writer for The Mindanao Current. At one time or another, he has taught, moderated college organizations, done organizational development work for BPOs, been a Jesuit, mentored people and given retreats.

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