Embracing the principles of good governance


Yesterday, I had to shuttle between two great conferences. Lucky for me, they were right beside each other in the Artic Room of the Waterfront Hotel. I first went to the 1st Cebu Local Governance and Development Forum sponsored by the Cebu Business Club, the Cebu Leads Foundation, the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) and the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA). First to speak was Mr. Fernando “Perry” Fajardo who gave the audience of mostly LGUs from Cebu Province the present state of development of Cebu.

Perry as usual gave a very impressive presentation about Cebu. For instance, I didn’t know that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) collection for the year 2007 had reached P8.74 billion. That figure is not surprising. But what I find appalling is the reality that Cebu only gets back a pittance in the form of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). But I don’t blame this on our current centralized form of government; rather we should blame ourselves for not demanding from the central government a bigger share from our contribution, which came from the sweat of our brow!

Also Perry pointed out that there has been a 30% increase in the sales of brand new motor vehicles and with the current reality that no one is constructing new roads in Metro Cebu, please don’t complain when our major thoroughfares become a huge parking lot! Yet our politicians are quarreling with each other on what kind of mass transportation system we should adopt, a Light Rail Transit (LRT) or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)? Let’s just decide!

This brings us to the talk of Dr. Jesus “Jess” Estanislao who spoke on the “Emerging Vision and Processes of Local Governance and the Role of LGUs.” Jess challenged his audience to “Focus on the development and unity of Cebu and nothing else” citing the focus of the late US Pres. John F. Kennedy who aimed to put a man on the moon, no matter how difficult it was. But our problem of course is our political leaders who are still quarreling as if we Cebuanos are fond of listening to their tirades, like it was some kind of telenovela or zarzuela.

I’m sure that the LGU officials who were in attendance got great ideas about the new kind of politics that Jess Estanislao (he is the country’s guru on good governance) has been espousing, the politics of good governance, more so that he told us about another depressing news that Botswana in Africa just overtook the Philippines, because they embraced the principles of good governance. So, will we take the challenge of Jess?

The forum next door was on the topic of “Project Lantern, Anti-Trafficking Results Conference. Project Lantern was launched by the human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM) which opened its doors in Cebu last March 2007. Since then, thanks to the law on Anti-Trafficking in Persons, their combined efforts have resulted in the rescue of 259 victims of trafficking and the arrest of 77 individuals and the filing of cases against 107 people suspected of trafficking crimes. This has netted some 63 prosecutions, which as Region 7 Intelligence Chief Sr. Supt. Augusto Marquez said was an impossibility in the past.

Today, thanks to the creation of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) that also created a Regional and Local Task forces, there is now a combined effort by the police, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), DSWD, Department of Justice (DoJ) and many NGOs to fight anti-trafficking where they are operating. Thanks to Project Lantern, it has indeed given a ray of hope for women and children who have been trafficked that there is a chance to get away from the mess they are in.

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The US Mid-term elections are over and done with. Now that the dust has settled, the Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives, which the Democrats have held for a long time. In the Senate, the Democrats have maintained its control, although it is a very slim control. This has sent US President Barack Obama to say, “The American people have sent an unmistakable message tonight… and the message is to change course.” Indeed the US Mid-Term elections is what pundits say is the real test for Pres. Obama whose popularity has dwindled when he could not deliver the change that he had promised.

The US elections should also give Filipinos an idea on how our own Mid-term elections two and a half years from now would go if Pres. Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III doesn’t usher any real changes in the government and for the Filipino people. He came in to rid this country of corruption and eradicate poverty, which is to say the least a humongous, albeit gargantuan task for one who really doesn’t know where to start in fixing our country.

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