Inquirer Headlines: Nation

A World with Extreme Poverty is a World of Insecurity.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

2 governors, mayor share best practices in governance

June 16, 2008 03:41:00
TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—And then there were three—all leading lights in local politics who have joined hands to preach good governance in the hope this would be replicated elsewhere.

In their first much-awaited meeting, Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca and Pampanga Gov. Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio plotted on Tuesday night their future, and the country’s.

Over dinner of sinampalukang manok, pancit molo and bistek Tagalog at Club Filipino in San Juan City, the three officials agreed to tackle together problems, and more importantly, share their “best practices” in governance with other local chief executives.

“We are a fragmented nation and what we want is to group together, make a commitment and advocate the same advocacy,” Panlilio said in an interview. “The country deserves better governance.”

One quick way to reach out is through cyberspace. The three officials are planning to set up a “group blog,” where they can write down their thoughts, in the hope of luring others to their cause, according to Robredo, who keeps a blog like Panlilio.

There have been calls for the three officials to get together and talk about what’s good for the country, but it was only last week that they got around to doing it. After all, they are the new breed of reform-driven public servants.

Harvey Keh, director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship of Ateneo de Manila University School of Government, arranged and joined the meeting of the three, whom he calls the “hope of the country.”

“If bad people in our government can join forces to wreak havoc in our country, then why can’t the good people join forces as well and promote good governance in our country?” he said.

In their two-hour meeting, the two governors and the mayor made an amusing, but otherwise not surprising discovery about themselves: They’re advocating the same reforms.

Greater transparency

These are ensuring greater transparency and accountability in government dealings, curbing the pervasive illegal numbers game “jueteng” and illegal logging, and fighting for more local autonomy in the maintenance of law and order.

And with less than two years to go before the 2010 national elections, the three officials are now pushing for computerized elections and voters’ education.

After the dinner, Padaca, 44, went home feeling a certain “lightness of heart.”

“I thought to myself. ‘I’m not alone anymore,’” she said by phone on her way to a remote village on a mountainside in San Agustin town in Isabela province for a regular dialogue with her constituents on Friday morning.

Robredo, 50, winner of the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service and one of Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World for efficient, good governance, said the main consensus was cooperation.

“Since we’re not getting any help from the national government, we agreed to cooperate in solving our common problems,” he said by phone from a domestic airport in Naga. For one, they could share strategies, he added.

Choice of police chiefs

One of their more pressing concerns now, especially in Panlilio’s case, is getting regional police officials to respect their choice of police chiefs, which is crucial in the campaign against jueteng.

The mayor was happy to note that Panlilio employed the same tack he took when faced with the same problem in the past: Call the senators’ attention.

If a solution entails getting a law amended, the three officials said they would write lawmakers to file a bill to this effect.

But over and above their local concerns, the three agreed to share “best practices” on how transparency and accountability work in their respective turf with other like-minded officials.

“Good governance starts with simple lifestyle, low-cost expenses in the capitol, transparency and accountability, efficient delivery of services,” Panlilio, 54, said in a phone interview before giving a talk on good governance at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City on Friday morning.

The priest shot to national prominence following his crushing victory over the popular Gov. Mark Lapid and moneyed Lilia Pineda in last year’s gubernatorial elections in Pampanga province.

Best practices

Among the best practices that can be replicated elsewhere are Naga’s practice of allowing NGOs to sit at deliberations of special bodies and the city council, and in effect, help run the city, and posting the disposition of its funds and results of its bidding processes on its website; Pampanga’s efficient collection of quarry taxes; and Isabela’s efforts at food sufficiency.

The three plan to meet again, hoping to see other “like-minded” officials next time around.

“We’re very sure there are a lot of others out there who have their own success stories, but have yet to be discovered,” said Padaca, who thrashed the heirs of the Dy family in the 2004 and 2007 gubernatorial elections in Isabela.

Panlilio agreed: “If we put more emphasis on those who really work for good governance to change the political system, and we work together, it will have a big impact on our country.”

The idea of bringing the three officials together was to create a “coalition” of local government officials who are committed “to promoting good governance, transparency and accountability,” Ateneo’s Keh, 29, said.

“I want to make the organization grow, to include other local government leaders who want to see genuine change in our country,” he said.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Corruption preys on RP poor: UN study


Petty corruption is taking a toll on poor people in the Asia-Pacific, including the Philippines, by curbing economic development in the region, according to a United Nations Development Program study.

The report, "Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives," said small scale corruption is draining economic growth across the Asia-Pacific region and affecting people's access to basic services. It called on governments and citizens across the Asia-Pacific to tackle corruption together by focusing on areas that impact daily life such as health, education, the police and natural resources.

"Corruption undermines democratic institutions, retards economic development and contributes to government instability. It attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existence is the soliciting of bribes," said Hafiz Pasha, director of UNDP's regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

"Economic development is stunted because outside direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the ‘start-up costs’ required, because of corruption."

The report cited a global study which shows that corruption tends to slow the income growth for the bottom 20 per cent of the population. It said corruption slows down poverty reduction by lowering growth rates and reducing the effectiveness of social programs.

The report said corruption often hinders the delivery of many of the goods and services targeted for the poor. Instead, the goods often finish up in the hands of well-off and connected households who can afford to bribe the officials. It also said that the rice and powerful get the best deals when there is a general shortage of services, public or private.

Politicians, police least trusted

According to the report, politicians are seen as the most corrupt group in government followed by the police, with the judiciary running a close third. Nearly one in five people claim to have paid a bribe to police during the previous year. Other sectors also tainted by corruption include tax collection, education, medical services, utilities and registry or permit services.

The report cited a 2005 study commissioned by the Asian Development Bank that showed that power projects in the Philippines are more expensive than international norms due to delays, heavy reliance on international consultants and contractors, corruption and extensive use of foreign currency loans.

It said corruption was involved in almost all phases of a project, from tendering and bidding to operation and maintenance as well as in privatization and the awarding of independent power-producing contracts.

The report warned that corrupt policemen could extort, abuse or even rape suspects and force them to pay for their freedom. It added that police can also seize people they know to be innocent, threatening them with arrest and demanding payment for release.

On the other hand, the report cited a number of studies that found that two-thirds or more of the Asian population consider their court system to be corrupt and admit that they consider it wise to pay bribes.

The report said governments should ensure that complaints against the police are dealt with by a truly independent body while making changes on police structures and operations
to make them more efficient and responsive. Other solutions include applying rigid recruitment criteria, reallocating individuals across tasks, modifying transfer patterns, and carrying out ethical evaluations of those who are up for promotion.

For corrupt justices, the UNDP recommended that governments ensure that judges are appointed by independent bodies, serve fixed terms, have salaries that match their experience and qualifications and are offered all necessary protection. The judicial system should also require judges to give written reasons for their judgements – making greater use of information technology to offer easier access to court documents.

Strong civil sector involvement

The report also noted the strong involvement of civil society groups in fighting corruption in the Philippine government.

Several of the anticorruption initiatives and groups cited were:

- The Action Program for Judicial Reform initiative, which monitors the selection of the chief justice, ombudsman and election commissioners

- The Transparent Accountable Governance project, which monitors textbook procurement and delivery in the Philippines

- The Concerned Citizens of Abra Good Government, which monitors government projects in the Abra region

- The Transparency and Accountability Network, which monitors road-building in the country.

The report also cited the role of journalists in reporting cases of public interest. It said the Philippine press has helped create public pressure for reform even as some reporters admitted receiving bribes.