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A few years ago, I attended an international conference that showed that from 2005-2009, our country lost approximately P 1.2 trillion due to graft and corruption in our government. This huge amount of public funds could’ve easily been used to provide millions of homes for the poor and college scholarships to poor but deserving students.
This is the reason why it is important that every Filipino go beyond just saying that he wants good governance and actually start playing a more active role in the present administration’s drive towards “Ang Matuwid na Daan.” As the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Here are some simple steps that can help us take part in our journey for a better country.
1. Encourage younger Filipinos to register to vote for the upcoming elections.
In a talk I recently gave to more than a thousand college youth leaders in Nueva Ecija, I asked them who among them were already registered to vote for next year’s national and local elections, I was disappointed to see that less than 30% of them raised their hands.
Many of them said they didn’t know that there was an ongoing registration process and that you are actually eligible to already vote once you reach the age of 18. The elections are one of the most important events in our history since this is where we actually get a chance to choose the right kind of leaders for our country.
Thus, in a country where majority of the population is under the age of 40, the youth vote can be instrumental in reshaping our political landscape. We have heard many groups clamoring against epals (credit-grabbers) and political dynasties but the only way we can really take them out is through our votes.
By encouraging more young Filipinos to register we are able to have more idealistic voters who will more often than not refuse to be swayed by traditional politicians and their shenanigans. Deadline for voter registration is already on Oct 31, 2012 at your local Comelec office. Let’s do our own share by reminding and encouraging first-time voters to register and make their voice heard in the coming elections.
2. Know the roles and responsibilities of your public officials.
I recently went to a top university in Quezon City and asked some of the college students there if they knew what the responsibility of a vice-mayor or a councilor is, and many of them just shrugged their shoulder.
Such is the case all over the country where majority of Filipinos still do not know what the roles and responsibilities of our public officials are. How can we demand accountability and good public service from them if we do not even know what they should be accountable for in the first place?
In Quezon City, councilors receive almost P50 million every year from the city government and that is what they use to implement various projects in their district but is that their real mandate? No. Councilors are elected to first and foremost enact ordinances or laws covering only a particular local government unit but many of us think that like a mayor, they should also be doing projects and other activities.
By knowing what the duties and responsibilities of our public officials are, we can now easily assess if they have done a good job during their term in office and whether or not we should vote for them again.
This coming November, the Ateneo School of Government and “Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership,” through the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, will be launching “Governance 101: A Guide to Understanding how our Government Works.”
This will contain the roles and responsibilities of our public officials as well as the salaries that they receive. This booklet will be shared with different colleges and universities all over the country so that they can help in making more young Filipinos become more discerning voters in the future.
3. Let them know we are watching: Make your voice heard through social media.
Two recent events have shown us how powerful social media is in influencing the decisions of our government leaders. The anti-epal campaign in Facebook – led by Vince Lazatin, Mae Paner and Carlos Celdran – has “forced” many local politicians to put down their posters and tarpaulins lest they be featured as an epal politician which may turn off some of their voters.
Another social media campaign that recently dominated the news for the past week was the Anti-Cybercrime Bill campaign that has forced many senators to retract their earlier support and vote for the bill.
For the record, it was only Sen Teofisto “TG” Guingona III who actually voted against the flawed Cybercrime bill. Through social media it is now much easier for ordinary Filipinos to tell our government leaders what we expect from them.
Guingona also filed the Crowdsourcing bill that aims to provide an avenue for ordinary Filipinos to give their suggestions and comments on pending bills in the Senate. If this bill is passed, this will encourage greater people participation in the crafting of our laws. Hopefully, more Filipinos can also use social media to expose government officials who have used their influence and position to enrich themselves while in public office.
Let us remember that the only way we can continue our journey towards good governance is through a vigilant and proactive citizenry. If our government officials know that we are watching them then they will think twice before doing any unscrupulous acts that they know may eventually lead to the end of their political career. – Rappler.com
Comments are welcome at email@example.com. Follow Harvey on Twitter: twitter.com/harveykeh. Harvey S. Keh is a Fellow of the Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative and former executive director of Asia Society, the leading organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of the US and Asia in the global context. He is also the lead convenor of the “Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance” and the director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government.