"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

A Call for Good Governance

Do We Deserve it?

The concept of governance is as old as, if not older than, civilization itself. The word governance means the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented, or not implemented. It could be in the context of corporate governance, international, national or local governance. To stretch it farther, I would add individual and personal governance.For this forum today, I shall confine my brief remarks to governance and the Filipino, and his government.Of late, the term good governance is widely being used as most essential criterion by major donors and international financial institutions in making aids, loans and grants to organizations or countries. Bad governance is considered one of the primary causes of all evils within our societies. And with the sorry state of our native country and our fellow Filipinos today, bad governance, goaded by personal extreme greed, is obviously the root cause of the pervasive graft and corruption that have held captive and prevented the full growth and development of the Philippines, sinking the country to the economic rung second to the bottom, just above Bangladesh, and causing more than 30 millions of Filipinos to languish in extreme poverty, while the corrupt elite rich and famous government officials, from top to bottom, wallow in ecstasy with their stolen hundreds of millions, if not billions, of the people's money.

There is really no need to dissect the anatomy of graft and corruption in the Philippines. To everybody in this room, leaders of the various Filipino-American organizations, this abominable crime against society is well known. Graft and corruption have grown into a culture in the Philippines, a way of life, not only amongst unconscionable traditional politicians, but even among our people. Indeed, the government is only one of the actors in governance. The other players are the military, the influential landlords, associations of peasant farmers, financial institutions, and even the NGOs, etc., where corruption is likewise evident.

All the various players, with the exception of the government and the military, are tagged together as part of the civil society. In some nations, organized crimes or syndicates, or political dynasties, or powerful families in a province or a city, all of which we also have in the Philippines, preying on our people, also influence decision-making, even in our government and in our civil society itself.
There are 8 principal and fundamental features of good governance: It must be (1) transparent, (2) consensus-oriented, (3) participatory, (4) responsive, (5), accountable, (6) equitable and inclusive, (7) effective and efficient, and, (8) one that follows the rule of law. To these eight, I would like to add discipline, as a factor of assurance or guaranty for implementation of good governance.

Sadly, these are the nine essential things glaringly absent in the Philippine government, and in governance in the whole country in general, except perhaps among our career diplomats.

A caveat: Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.

The goals of good governance and the resultant effects are obviously the minimization, if not the elimination, of graft and corruption, and the protection of society as a whole, especially those who are most vulnerable, in this case, our poorest of the poor in the Philippines.

Achieving these will not only bring back pride and dignity to our nation, our governments and its officials, but also to the Filipinos, especially to our disenfranchised and marginalized fellow Filipinos in the gutter of poverty.

Characteristics of good governance

Allow me to fast-reverse, and go back to the basic structure of our society, the cells, the bits and pieces of tiles that form the mosaic of our society we call, "We the People." This is where I strongly believe that good governance should start from…individual or personal good governance. And this is where discipline is essential.

It is obvious that all we need for good governance are virtues and principles we were taught, and should have learned, in the kindergarten. Unfortunately for the Philippines, it seems 99.99% of our government officials had skipped kindergarten. Seriously, if we look closely, all of these principles are clearly listed in the Ten Commandments of our Christian faith also, which ten I would even summarize into one: Love thy neighbor as you love thyself. Period. And that includes our neglected poor countrymen.

If we, the Filipinos, as a people and as a nation, had only strictly adhered to, and followed and implemented the discipline we were taught in the kindergarten, our country would be number one today. Fifty years ago, we were number 2, second only to Japan. And today, as I have said earlier, we are down at the bottom, just above the last one, Bangladesh. It is indeed a shame… all this, for simply ignoring what we learned in the kindergarten and for straying away from God's words of loving one another, and being our brother's keeper.

The Filipino United Network (USA) last year launched the Dollar Moral Crusade Against Graft and Corruption and for Good Governance, which has caught the imagination of many Filipinos overseas, and those in the Philippines. Our inspiration behind this movement was (and still is) the miracle Governor of Pampanga, Ed Panlilio or Among Ed, as he is popularly known.

Having said all that, governance could only be good, and good governance guaranteed and sustainable, if we, the Filipino people ourselves are disciplined, honest, transparent, accountable and honorable, because we, the people, are the bits and pieces, the tiles, that make up the mosaic that makes up our society, as I have stated earlier. The politicians, government officials, came from nowhere else, but from us, from We, the people. If the people are dishonest, and tolerant corruption, so will our officials be, in the same manner as when the bricks and mortars we use to build a house with are fundamentally defective and weak, so would the entire structure be.

Given the current situation in the Philippines, where good governance is virtually absent, where graft and corruption among government officials is the order of the day, of any day, where the weak and the sick are trampled upon, every single minute of the day, robbed of their self-respect and dignity besides food on their table, roof over their head, and education for their children, individual or personal governance comes into serious question.

In my article, What's Stopping Us?, published in various websites and newspapers, I decried our lack of discipline as a people, our lack of love for our country, lack of self-respect, and lack of pride for the Philippines. To me, these are the reasons why we have retrogressed as a people and as a nation, and have lost the trust and respect of other nations and other peoples of the world. And somewhere along the way, this was how we lost our honor and integrity as a nation and as a people. The Desperate Housewives incident was a tiny wake-up call, a symptom-complex on how the world perceives us. The hurt I felt about the insult was much much less than the hurt I felt, and am feeling, for what we have done, and what we have failed to do, as a people and as a nation, that led to such an insult, such a humiliating perception by the world.

Governance requires active participation by the people, a key cornerstone of good governance, who are unceasingly vigilant and pushing hard for the rule of law at any cost.

If we had already allowed the election of crooked politicians, as we repeatedly had done in the past several decades, officials who have been providing bad governance, who are corrupt, and who have caused all our national ills, we, the people, could, at least, put into gear the implementation of our individual or personal governance, and wage a war against graft and corruption in our native land, and put these crooks and plunderers behind bars. And perhaps even throw away the keys.

We, the people, are as much to blame as our politicians for our present situation. If properly harnessed, the will of the millions of the governed and the resultant people power can easily prevail to effect discipline, honesty, transparency, and accountability among our government leaders. If , We the People, could truly unite and bring the proven guilty plunderers in our government before a "firing squad" of justice in a public square of dissent, perhaps we can instill enough fear among these crooked politicians to deter them from doing business as usual.

If we only pay lip service, do not lift a finger, and simply allow the crooks and criminals in our government to continue to plunder our nation and victimize our people, then we all deserve what we are getting.

By repeatedly electing known crooked politicians, and now not doing anything meaningful to overthrow the corrupt officials in our government, we, Filipinos, are not really being Christian, kind, generous and compassionate, but simply too stupid to accept the status quo, this culture of corruption and the oppression of our millions of fellowmen who are languishing in poverty.

Good governance starts from "We, the People." We cannot stay by the sideline, sit comfortably on the fence, and expect a miracle to be handed to us on a silver platter. To get good governance, we must work very hard for it to be worthy of it, and to deserve it.

My question, then, to every Filipino around the world, especially to the youth of the land, is: Are you willing to make hard choices and sacrifices and walk the talk, and wage a serious war against graft and corruption in every level of our government in the Philippines to deserve, and achieve, good governance and the rule of law?

Delivered by Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Vice Chairman of the Filipino American Leadership Council (FALCON) at the Second Summit Conference on April 26, 2008, at the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, California, following the Greenlining Institute Summit of Fortune 500 companies. Dr. Chua is also Chairman of the Filipino United Network (USA).

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