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By Jejomar C. Binay
Former Vice President

Jejomar C. Binay
Former Vice President

This column is titled Governance Matters. I hope that through this column, I will be able to share with you my insights on governance in the public sector and why it matters in our daily lives. These insights come from a long career spent in public service.

I was fortunate to have been the first local government official to be appointed under the Cory administration. I would hold other government positions for the next 30 years, among them chairman of the Metro Manila Commission (MMC) and the Metro Manila Authority (MMA) – which I held while Makati mayor – and later as chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) with Cabinet rank. When I was Vice President of the Republic, I also served as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and in such capacity I served as chairman of the board of the agencies under it, among them Pag-Ibig Fund, National Home Mortgage Fund, Social Housing Finance Corp., and the National Housing Authority. I was also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, and honorary chairman of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

But my guiding principles of governance were formed during my years as mayor of Makati.

I remember speaking before Makati’s barangay leaders in 1989, and discussing with them my views on governance and good government:

“The phrase good government is invoked by practically everybody nowadays. The trouble is, some people do exactly the opposite in the name of good government. As they say, even the devil will quote the Scriptures if it suits his ends. I must warn you against these people who will seek to mislead you and negate everything that you will do in the name of good government.

“For good government means sincerity – sincerity to the people who have reposed their confidence in us, the people of Makati.

“Good government means honesty – honesty not only in our actuations but also in what we say. No one can say that he is for good government when he spreads lies and distortions and baseless accusations to promote his own personal evil ends. Good government means not only a clean heart but also a clean mind.

“Good government is constructive. It means building one stone upon another under a good foundation. It is not destructive.

“I must warn you therefore, against many pretenders and impostors who sanctimoniously and self-righteously preach good government, when in fact, they are the principal enemies of good government.”

Good governance and social justice are intertwined principles. We cannot have social justice without good governance, and governance cannot be described as good, unless it addresses the roots of inequality based on economic class differences. What we needed to do is to regularly fine-tune, and if needed, overhaul the machinery of government.

What I envisioned was a local government whose guiding philosophy is anchored on providing efficient and relevant public services, harnessing community spirit, instilling a sense of personal and social responsibility, and providing opportunities for advancement.

If we were to make the local government truly serve its people, we had to put in place drastic reforms. If we were to make an impact on the lives of our people, we must shed off the curse of bureaucratic inflexibility.

Government must always be in a state of constant movement. Bureaucracies have been traditionally impervious to change, and there are many who defend this state of permanence. The conventional thinking is that by being virtually unmovable, bureaucracies are unaffected by the shifting winds of politics. The reality, however, is that the bureaucracy, not only in the local government of Makati in 1986 but also in the entire government machinery, has been trapped for so long in a labyrinth of outdated practices and procedures. And for government to keep in step with the dizzying changes brought about by technology, for government to remain in touch with its people, for government to remain relevant, it has no choice but to change.

I have always believed that if we were to make democracy a reality in the lives of ordinary people, then local governments should not only be a dispenser of services but an engine for economic growth. Equally important is that local governments should make sure that the benefits of growth are felt by all. Development experts would call this the principle of subsidiarity: the people are best served by the government entity that is closest to them. But I have come to call this the Closer to the People principle.

After the February 1986 EDSA Revolution, the opportunity for government, particularly local governments, to serve at the frontlines of our democratic order presented itself. And we would set the wheels in motion in Makati.

jcbinay11@gmail.com

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