OpinionsBow and ArrowGood governance, my personal journey

Good governance, my personal journey

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Public administrators and government officials are expected to adhere to a variety of ethical standards, codes and approaches that can be learned but present few difficulties for administrative practice. When codes or requirements however, are vague, unrealistic, and in conflict with one another, they complicate the issues involved in acting ethically under all circumstances.

After four years in government work, during the 1987 reorganization under Cory Aquino’s administration, I was considered for a managerial position. One of the questions thrown to me by one of the Promotion and Selection Board members was on how I see myself in the next three to five years. I answered that by that time I may be already prepared to become as assistant director or even a regional director. Sensing that I may have sounded too ambitious, he retorted: “How can that be when you are not a lawyer?”At that time, it was not yet a requirement for a division chief to be a master’s degree holder.

I was taken aback and I reasoned out that, “in fairness to the lawyers, many of them are good managers but some are not. If an agriculture graduate like me can manage livestock and other forms of animals with limited gray matters between their eyes, there is no reason why I cannot lead a group of homo sapiens. The standards of the lawyers are man-made laws and sometimes crafted by the tyranny of numbers and the abuse of a political party wielding power both in the executive and legislative branches of government. The laws governing agriculture are God-given, natural laws. Unlike human beings, lower forms of animals copulate on specified times (ovulation period). There are seasons to culture plants because cropping period is not year-round. Summer and winter are not good seasons for some crops to grow.” I ended by saying that, “it does not need a lawyer to know what is just, fair and equitable.”

My simple concept then of good governance and excellent leadership were anchored on the principles of justice, fairness and equity. Yes, good governance is the process of measuring how public institutions conduct public affairs and manage public resources and guarantee the realization of human rights in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption and with due regard for the rule of law,  yet I believed that that those three above-mentioned concepts encompass all of those governance requirements.

As I stayed longer in government service, however, I realized that good governance also relates to the political and institutional processes and outcomes that are necessary to achieve the goals of development and that one of the true tests of ‘good’ governance is the degree to which it delivers on the promise of human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

According to the United Nations, Good Governance is measured by the eight factors of Participation, Rule of Law, Transparency, Responsiveness, Consensus Oriented, Equity and Inclusiveness, Effectiveness and Efficiency, and Accountability. It was on these corporate values that I soon discovered that many of my decisions as a public executive were grounded.

Participation “requires that all groups, particularly those most vulnerable, have direct or representative access to the systems of government. This manifests as a strong civil society and citizens with the freedom of association and expression,.” As far as I can remember I was one of those who became active in the organization of workers’ union among government workers and when I became a director, I started the participation of the president/representative of the workers’ union in the management committee in all the regions I was assigned to. In region 6, we even had 2 union representatives, one from Bacolod Office and the other one from Iloilo.

Rule of Law “is exemplified by impartial legal systems that protect the human rights and civil liberties of all citizens, particularly minorities. This is indicated by an independent judicial branch and a police force free from corruption.” I adhered to the principle of meritocracy to the fullest. I did not have a single appointee who was recommended by politicians or senior officials of our office. Aside from the system provided by the Civil Service Commission I had my own “PBB” (Pinoy Big Brother: Ponslig Edition) search which has separate selection sessions for the applicants certified qualified by the PSB.

Transparency “means that citizens understand and have access to the means and manner in which decisions are made, especially if they are directly affected by such decisions. This information must be provided in an understandable and accessible format, typically translated through the media”. Critical and serious decisions were always made public. During the implementation of the Government Rationalization Program, I had the opportunity to implement the same in 3 regional offices. All issues and concerns were discussed with unions and the staff during Monday programs. All questions and answers were heard by everybody. I never entertained individual nor small group negotiations.

Responsiveness “simply involves that institutions respond to their stakeholders within a reasonable time frame.” I was an advocate of doing task based on the approved process cycle time. Big ticket projects were almost always preceded by a strategic planning by the concerned partner communities.

Consensus-Oriented “is demonstrated by an agenda that seeks to mediate between the many different needs, perspectives, and expectations of a diverse citizenry. Decisions needs to be made in a manner that reflects a deep understanding of the historical, cultural, and social context of the community”. I pioneered the formation and institutionalization of the Council of Intermediaries and organization of GO-NGO convergence. All groups of clients and partners of the office were given time to decide with us on the manner of program implementation and I allowed to join them during regular mid-year and year- end evaluation and planning sessions.

Equity and Inclusiveness “depends on ensuring that all the members of a community feel included and empowered to improve or maintain their wellbeing, especially those individuals and groups that are the most vulnerable.” I was reprimanded several times by congressmen who accused me of providing and allowing groups who were not members of their political party to avail of our programs and services. The beneficiaries of our livelihood and emergency employment assistance then were finally selected by our office. We also devised a scheme to directly pay to the workers like our ATMization paying system which prevented one person to be authorized by a number of workers to get their salary.

Effectiveness and Efficiency “is developed through the sustainable use of resources to meet the needs of a society. Sustainability refers to both ensuring social investments carry through and natural resources are maintained for future generations.” I am a believer and practitioner of Kaizen, the continuous process improvement principle.

Accountability “refers to institutions being ultimately accountable to the people and one another. This includes government agencies, civil society, and the private sector all being accountable to one another as well.”  I always reminded my colleagues in the office that there is only one captain of the boat and my favorite song is Don’t Let Me be the Last to Know. I believed in and adhered to the statement “the buck stops at me.”

It is just unfortunate that many practices in the service now are not compliant with the eight aspects of good governance.

I consider my stint in government as controversial. I got the ire of many politicians. If not for my “stubbornness” I could have been the first director of our office in Negros Island Region in 2016. The most influential politician of Negros Occidental then at that time was against my wish and the interest of my supporters from Negros Oriental.

The corrupt, mediocre and the deadwoods in our office disliked me. I, however, got recognitions from the client-public, from my Office, the Civil Service Commission, Career Executive Service Board and my college alma mater bestowed me the highest honor to its alumni in 2020.

I still use today the guide I learned in public service: Is it fair, just, and equitable?

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Author’s email: pligutom@yahoo.com

 

 

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