DON'T GET LOST: USE THE GUIDEPOSTRemarks of Nene Pimentel at the book-launching of Dr. Gaudioso Sosmena, published by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, at St. Giles Hotel, Makati on August 16, 2010
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
I wish to thank Mr. Peter Koeppinger, Resident Representative of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, for kindly inviting me to speak at the launching of the new book, How to locally govern after winning an election: A guidepost, by Dr. Gaudioso C. Sosmena.
I congratulate Dr. Sosmena for coming up with this much needed guidepost for newly elected officials and the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung for publishing it.
Such books as the one being launched today are much needed in the country and perhaps also in other Southeast Asian countries or any developing nation for that matter.
The author wisely writes what local governments are all about, their powers, and the leadership that are needed to make them truly agencies of government for the delivery of basic services.
In the book, Dr. Sosmena emphasizes the need for public accountability – an aspect of public governance that seems to be more often ignored than observed nowadays by a number of our public officials. He also underscores the need for citizen empowerment that the Local Government Code has mandated for local governments to embody in their development efforts. This is a particularly critical suggestion because the truth of the matter is that the people cannot leave good governance to public officials alone. The constituents must strictly monitor, carefully observe and vigilantly watch what their public officials are doing.
And if perchance, they see something wrong is being done, some anomaly is being committed, some abuse is being perpetrated, they must speak out, denounce and bring to the attention of the authorities the evil deeds perpetrated by their public officials. That is a price that people living in a democracy must pay so that they will enjoy freedom, justice peace and prosperity that democracy promises to its adherents.
Our fundamental freedoms and human rights may be written in the Constitution but their being inscribed in the basic Charter of the nation is different from their being observed. To be followed, those freedoms and rights demand that people must stand up, assert and claim them. Without people willing to do that, the civil liberties, the principles of justice, the requirements of freedom and human rights will become dead letters of the law.
And to make sure that the public officials understand what are expected of them, the book spells out practical methods of “local government performance measurement”. Through this device, the constituents of local governments will also have a handy means to determine whether or not their public officials are doing their jobs for the general welfare.
The government performance measure at the local level will also be one way of ensuring that the development of our country would now follow the “bottom-to-top principle” that is embodied under the Local Government Code. This is a most essential standard for the faithful implementation of the devolution of powers mandated by the Local Government Code since its approval in 1991. It is here where the theory of political subsidiarity finds application: that what can be done by the smaller unit of government must be left to it to do and not be subsumed by the bigger governmental units.
On the matter of corruption, which I think is one of the most irritating problems of local or national governance, the author suggests that oversight audit and public accountability be rationally and realistically done.
People in public office must be subject to strict audit and made to publicly account for what they do especially with the money of the people. Only, then, I think, will there probably be a perceptible reduction of corruption that affects the bureaucracy today.
While I agree completely with the thesis of Dr. Sosmena, I think it is equally important for the public official who is being tempted to say “No” from the very moment a corrupt deal shows its ugly head.
The official concerned should not wait for rationalizations as to how the corrupt proposal that is being offered will bring benefits to him or her and the community. The moment the public official allows the serpent to explain its venomous deal to him or her more often than not the transaction will already be consummated.
It would also do the public official well to realize that he or she will not corrupted by his or her enemies. The official will be corrupted by his or her family, friends and relatives.
Thus, it will do the official well to make it a public policy to inform the people upon his or her assumption of office that no corrupt deals will be allowed and that his or her family, friends or relatives are banned from lobbying for any contract in favor of any contractor during his or her term. By doing that the people are alerted from the very start that they have a public official who they can help follow the straight and narrow in the performance of his or her duties.
And as the Dr. Sosmena suggests, combating corruption is linked to the election process.
It is important that the people understand that the people they put in power can affect their lives much more than they realize. Corrupt officials holding office for three years in one term and being eligible for another two three year terms each can spell the difference for a long period between their having good or bad roads, safe or rotten water systems, sufficient or inadequate school buildings, useful or dreadful books and teaching materials for their children, ample or scarce medical attention and even jobs or idleness for their own selves.
Hence, I would like to urge our people as I end this piece that we pay close attention to the message of Dr. Sosmena’s book, and look for people to put into public office who possess three “Cs” essential to good governance: 1. Character (that includes integrity); 2. Capability (the ability to get things done), and 3. Courage (the virtue to stick to and do what is right).
Incidentally, I had advocated this matter years ago. I say this not to blow my own horn but because I do not wish to accused of plagiarism. The three “Cs” or something similar has been popularized recently by a political group which was a good thing.
In any case, unless we have qualified people elected to public office, officials who personify the three Cs mentioned above, we will be going around in circles in our endeavor to develop our localities and our country and get rid of corruption.
And unless we see and follow the guidepost constructed by the well-endowed mind of Dr. Sosmena, the day of our deliverance from misgovernment, mismanagement, and misbehavior by our officials may take something close to forever.
Congratulations again to Dr. Sosmena and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
Thank you and God bless.