If they win, what should Jinkee, other local officials do?

Voltaire Tupaz
'We hope that local politicians will not only build constituencies for elections but also constituencies for good governance after elections'

ATTENTION CANDIDATES. Good governance is good politics

MANILA, Philippines – The late “Comedy King” once joked when asked to run, “Madaling manalo. Eh paano kung manalo ako?” (It’s easy to win, but what if I win?)

The joke is now on thousands of politicians vying for 18,053 positions in the 2013 elections which includes Jinkee Paquiao

The wife of the Pacman, incumbent representative of Sarangani, is running for Vice Governor, one of the 18,041 positions to be won in local races.

But how the winners will govern is not a joke. Governance is a serious job that demands performance, advocates of good governance suggest.

In a report it presented on October 3, the Ateneo School of Governance (AsoG) recommended standards of performance in social service delivery against which public officials could be held accountable.

Preventing corruption

Based on the success stories of 6 local government units it monitored for two years, the ASoG’s Government Watch (G-Watch) program presented a non-traditional approach to promoting transparency and accountability in local governance.

“Our traditional notion of accountability is that it happens right after the action. What we are introducing is [that] accountability actually starts from the onset wherein you are actually clarifying standards, wherein you are clarifying what to expect from those who hold power,” G-Watch director Joy Aceron said.

Reports on the compliance of LGUs with certain standards in terms of time, cost, quality, quantity and process of service delivery were generated based on the monitoring initiatives conducted since 2010.

The local government units that were monitored based on how they delivered a particular service included the following: Naga City (education); Puerto Princesa (eco-tourism); Island Garden City of Samal (environmental users’ fee); Dumaguete City (health); San Miguel, Bohol (rice production); and Southern Leyte (infrastructure).

The monitoring was done by the public and private sectors, including civil society groups, based on the principles of citizen participation, constructive engagement, and social accountability, Aceron said. 

Lessons learned were documented and included in easy-to-use manuals which other LGUs and citizen groups can use as guides for conducting performance monitoring. 

Constructive engagement

Instead of fault-finding and blaming, the G-Watch approach encourages citizens to directly and proactively engage LGUs by monitoring how they allocate and use public resources.

“It’s still accountability, in a sense, because you know who is responsible for what,” Aceron said, emphasizing that the monitoring mechanism is evidence-based.

The report indicated that “the implementation of the monitoring has proven that LGU and citizen groups can work hand-in-hand to promote common goals: transparency and accountability in local governance.”

Vitallano Nuñez Jr, a member of G-watch in the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte, attested to this, saying that the approach has produced concrete results for the city in terms of revenue collection and behavior change in the private sector.

G-Watch monitored the collection and utilization of the environmental users’ fee (EUF) in the Island Garden City of Samal. The EUF is a market-based mechanism that levies a fee for the use of environmental resources. 

Dati yung mga mino-monitor na mga beach resorts masyado silang hesistant. Dahil doon, maliit ang kanilang nakokolekta. Pero
noong dumating ang G-Watch, nakita rin ng mga beach owners na meron palang nagbabantay nito.

(At the start, beach resort owners were hesitant. Because of that, their collection was minimal. But when G-Watch came, the beach owners realized that somebody was actually monitoring the use of the funds.) Resort owners were initially skeptical about how their local governments were using the funds and were not too keen about the EUF but with G-Watch, they were encouraged to pay the fees.

WATCH YOUR LGU. Easy-to-use manuals about how social accountability can improve good local governance. Poster by G-Watch

What works

Vitallano said the EUF collection increased by 80% since the monitoring was introduced two years ago. The city projected a yearly collection of about P1.3 million from the EUF. The funds will be used for projects and programs that seek to protect and preserve the environment including the following:

  • Strengthening and enforcement of 18 exisiting marine protected areas
  • Mangrove rehabilitation projects
  • Managemant of timberlands
  • Construction of waste management facilities 

Based on the experience of the Island Garden City of Samal and the 5 other areas that were monitored, constructive engagement in performance monitoring can work if the following actions are taken:

  • Information is made accessible to the public
  • Relevant training is conducted
  • Easy-to-use monitoring tools with clear targets are formulated 
  • Mechanism for public-private coordination is formed
  • Feedback system is set up

Good governance is good politics 

Joint citizen-government monitoring initiatives constitute good politics, according to the ASoG Dean Antonio La Viña.

‘Pag nag-monitor ang citizens, alam nila kung ano ginagawa ng mga officials nila, mas magiging educated sila kung sino ang iboboto o hindi nila iboboto,” La Viña said. (If citizens monitor, if they know what their officials are doing, they will be more educated and know who to vote or not to vote for.)

The report can also serve as a guide to aspirants for the 2013 elections.

“If politicians are willing to be responsive to the demands and the voices of the people in terms of what services they need and where they’re needed most, and how, what kind of quality they would want their services to be provided, this can actually result to a constituency of people that will support [these responsive] politicians,” Aceron said.

“With the help of the manuals we’ve done for this project, we hope that local politicians will not only build constituencies for elections but also constituencies for good governance after elections,” Aceron added.

The “laymanized” manuals for monitoring service delivery performance can be accessed online at www.asg.ateneo.edu. – Rappler.com

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