OpinionsGender BenderP-Noy road show

P-Noy road show


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It felt a bit like a road show, and it was said that the President does go around the country with some Cabinet Secretaries in tow, to see local situations firsthand and to be seen.

At the Convention Center gathering on Sept.7, there were the requisite speeches of homage about the President’s sincerity, simplicity, and work ethic, his own presentation of his administration’s accomplishments thus far, also, as often, an age-inappropriate child performance, and closing photo ops of people wanting to be snapped next to the President of the Republic.

Nothing terribly wrong about all that, except that my organization was invited to a meeting of the President with NGOs, when what really was planned was a gesture of thanks on his part to the “People Power Volunteers for Reform”, his election campaign volunteers.

So there we were all tagged with PPVR stickers before being allowed into the hall, although we were not members of that group – still a minor snafu, and it must have warmed PNoy’s heart to see such a large crowd.

I voted for Mr. Aquino, and still believe it was the right choice, in fact, the only choice. He has mobilized many bright and committed people into his administration, some of them women and men from NGO backgrounds I personally know who have persevered in development work for decades.

The administration’s performance has been adequate, considering the hurdles of long-entrenched bad habits of the bureaucracy, the continuing stranglehold of family politics in too many areas, decades-long neglect of rural and agricultural development, the huge pressures of unemployment, and unmanageable population growth all producing crushing poverty.

What I was looking for was another tone, away from traditional habits: less celebratory of the person of the President and his successes, perhaps more of a working visit than inaugurating an insanely- expensive market, and my personal bias would be to do without jokes or inane comments about the beauty of local women — concessions to traditional crowd-pleasing ways.

But even crowds can be re-educated about a new seriousness in the hard work of governance. And why couldn’t his speech have included references to issues in this Province, to show awareness of the pressing local concerns, and also to bear down on local officials for their own better performance?

Of course, preparing information on local issues means more work for his team but the result could be a more meaningful engagement with provincial audiences.

After the President left, there was a smaller forum with presidential staff and some leaders of organizations, but again here, too much time was devoted to presentations of “ a day in the life of the President” from his breakfast at 7am through to the rest of his working day.

What on earth for? The next presentation on policies and strategies was informative but theoretical; examples of actual implementation would have been more enlightening. Little time was left for POs and NGOs to voice comments and questions, and many who wanted to be heard were not.

The idea of national officials meeting with civil society organizations is a good one, given that on the whole, elected local officials and the bureaucracy don’t much care for the principles in the Local Government Code and other national policies affirming the participation of civil society in governance.

Secretary Lacierda of the Presidential Communications Development & Strategic Planning urged the participants to strengthen their organizations and offered open communication lines to their office.

Perhaps POs and NGOs will use this means to voice their concerns to the national level as needed.

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