COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Now that the May 2013 Elections is coming we are again reminded of our privilege to choose our national and local leaders who will occupy different government posts. And if we have suffered in the last three years the consequences of the follies and miscalculations of our present leaders then we have only ourselves to blame – we voted for them in the last elections. We are fortunate enough to be able to choose our own leaders as embodied in the Constitution so we should not waste our votes and suffer bad results like inefficiency and corruption or plain lack of good governance.
An election is the only time where the voice of each constituent is evidently heard and counted, and as such, must be exercised by every voting individual with seriousness and foresight. Selecting our leaders is our only power in determining our collective destiny, in changing existing conditions for better or for worse, and in making a significant stake in governance. We know for a fact that some leaders forget the interest of the people once placed in power, rule according to their whims and caprices, and manipulate our fragile system of government in order to achieve their own selfish ends. So we ought to vote wisely and not make our elections a mere show of democracy.
But what kind of leader must we vote for? And what kind of public servant must we have? The late DILG Secretary Jesse M. Robredo had a ready answer for these questions and that a leader and a public servant must be “matino at mahusay.” Matino in order to answer the call for transparency and accountability, and mahusay in order to answer the call for good performance. Robredo explicit said that “hindi lang matino, hindi lang mahusay but matino at mahusay.” Indeed I’m reminded of a community organizer who exclaimed “to what use is an honest man if he doesn’t get the job done?” Therefore we should vote for someone who is matino at mahusay.
Yet being matino at mahusay is not the only prerequisite for a good leader and public servant. We must see to it that the leaders we put in office must have the heart for the poor, the needy, and the dependent; the people who need government the most. We need a leader who will see the poor as active participants in development and not an eyesore of society. As Robredo once said while still mayor of Naga: “Instead of viewing the poor as a burden, we envisioned them as our partners and assets, albeit untapped. Prosperity building must be tempered by an enlightened perception of the poor, whose upliftment should be an end-goal of governance.”
I have quoted Jesse Robredo on this question of leaders and public servants for it was his stint as Naga City mayor where a community was democratized the most. He was known for “providing a leadership that is inclusive and consultative, that empowers and enables instead of rules, that promotes people participation and build stakeholdership over time.” As mayor, Robredo said that “we started by organizing and reaching out to all the sectors of the community – from the ambulant and market vendors, jeepney drivers, farmers and labor groups to the civic clubs, professional associations, business leaders and nongovernment organizations.”
The Naga mayor further said: “We thence translated at the local level the abstract concept of “people power” and institutionalized the practice of participative governance by enacting the People Empowerment Ordinance…. Thus, the Naga City People’s Council was established – a federation of over a hundred nongovernment, non-profit organizations and people’s organizations, which, among others elected among themselves their representatives to local special bodies of the city government effectively joining their elected officials in the policy making process. As a council, the NCPC was empowered to propose legislations, participate and vote at the committee level of the city council.” Indeed, this is democracy at work!
It is not only democratization as an end in view in choosing our local and national leaders but “to build a just and humane society” marked by compassion and consideration for the human being, animals, and the natural environment. With that in mind, we should not vote for people who have dictatorial tendencies, exploitative of others and the environment, and lacking any sense of fairness. For our would-be legislators in the local and national level, they must not perpetuate the dominance of big business and oligarchy but must push for greater democratization of our society. The coming election is our time to decide – to be ruled by an exploitative few, or vote for good governance.
January 20, 2013