More Filipinos have become not only acutely aware, but also
less docile in accepting poor private institutional, government agency,
and community government in the past two decades. That is a good
development. It is an essential part of democratic nation building. It
is a crucial part of employee, citizen, and community member
The word “governance” has emerged in common use and “good governance” has become a mantra. What does “governance” mean?
I offer several definitions.
The World Bank, which popularized the concept and the word’s usage
globally, in 1991 defined it simply as “the manner in which power is
exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources
Marc Huffy’s 2011 definition is more detailed, and is contained in his
book, “Investigating Policy Processes: The Governance Analytical
Framework”, where he writes that governance relates to “the processes of
interaction and decision-making among the actors involved in a
collective problem that lead to the creation, reinforcement, or
reproduction of social norms and institutions.”
The World Bank’s definition has been made more explicit in subsequent
years with the qualifier that may be paraphrases as “for the greater
benefit of the people”, the greater benefit not being limited to
economic growth but also stressing equity in wealth distribution, the
uplifting of the poor above poverty, the sustainable use of natural
resources and the protection of national patrimony whilst ensuring fair
economic returns those who invest.
In 1986, we liberated ourselves from what had become a clearly bad
government. We have conducted a number of national experiments of sorts
that started with our electing a woman who had no experience in
government or management but was known to be “not corrupted”. Her
administration produced neither the social reform we had anticipated nor
the economic recovery we wished but she had at least caused the putting
in place of what we hoped were better political institutions. A number
of her people, however, were seen a corrupt.
A four-star general then won a heatedly contested election the results
of which were questioned. His administration worked much better that the
previous one but ended, too, with allegations of corruption. The
majority then opted for a popular actor who had been a big town mayor
over another tried and tested “trapo”. We cut his term short because we
perceived what he had been doing, which involved corruption and sexual
intemperance, as unworthy at least of our aspirations. We replaced him
with a promising, seemingly more professional person who many now think
pulled a very fast one on us, with perceived corruption greater than the
actor she replaced. And then we topped that by electing to son of the
“uncorrupted” woman because while he had no record of performance, he
was, at least the one that could prevent the return of the actor.
Now, while we seem to have progressed much in the world’s eyes, in our
own we not only are still unsatisfied but now see this administration as
having gone the way of its predecessors as far as corruption is
concerned, coupled with embarrassing ineptness in handling a number of
local and international incidents.
What have we done as a people to deserve this? Why are we like Sisyphus,
condemned to pushing a rock uphill, only to have it escape our control
and roll back down? Sisyphus liked to fool the gods who punished him for
his tomfoolery. Unlike Sisyphus, we have no gods to fool. But worse, we
We fool ourselves with the myths we weave about us. We have lived far
too long with the myth that ours is the first democracy in Asia. We like
to see ourselves as modern. We go by the myth that we have a legal
system based on universal values and a mind-set that is global in
dimensions. We say we are a nation united. Many of our social scientists
speak of a Filipino culture. Many of our thinkers speak of the Filipino
psyche and spirit.
But the reality is we are neither a true democracy nor modern in our
thinking. To be sure, there are segments of our population that think
and act modern ways, and live lives that reflect democratic principles.
Too many of our people born into poor families, in poor and backward
communities, stay poor and backward.
Hamstrung by a paucity of accessible resources and much needed life
support and social services -- potable water, sewerage, power,
education, vocational training, housing, health, transport and
communication -- they are unable to develop themselves to break out of
the bonds of poverty.
Education and training, often seen as avenues out of this poverty, are
restricted and often clogged. The numbers of school houses and teaching
facilities are still limited, many inadequately equipped, and many,
despite best efforts by our more dedicated officials, in various states
of disrepair. We have insufficient teachers and many fall below even our
own standards for knowledge, skills, and attitudes, not to mention in
too many cases poorly managed and led. There is also the obvious
disconnect between what is taught and the knowledge, skills and
attitudes needed to live productive, responsive and responsible lives.
Our elected and appointed leaders and managers often show a disinterest
in their real jobs, looking at their positions instead as positions in
which they can enrich themselves while enjoying undeserved perks and
privileges, calling themselves “servants of the people” but in reality
acting like the people’s lords and masters.
They never consult with the people on any major issues because they
claim the people are ignorant and cannot intelligently discuss issues.
That they may not know seems like a matter of design.
Many of our structures and systems were designed for simpler and more
stable times, when even then they could not work as designed because the
mindsets and the spirits that run them were at odds with the principles
and values that underpinned these structures and systems. In more
complex and quickly shifting times, they have become barriers to open
experimentation of new approaches to fast evolving problems, condemning
us to continuing poverty and snail’s pace development.
The disconnects in our operating systems -- national unable to link
effectively and efficiently with regional, provincial and municipal
governments; agencies that are supposed to coordinate for better
delivery of services but do not and instead protect turf; avowals of
integrity and reforms put in place but then subverted by existing
networks of graft and corruption -- have become unbearably apparent.
They not only have caused the loss of money and opportunities. They have
costs far too many lives, and often of our children and our youth.
Jobs, badly needed in a labor surplus economy like ours, are few because
we have managed to block substantial foreign investments in the name of
nationalism and strategic interests, casting aspersions on the vested
interests that others may have on our country. In the meantime, many of
the moneyed in our country have not made the kinds of investments in the
sectors and in the parts of the country where they can do the most good
-- in modernizing our agriculture, fisheries, agribusiness, and natural
resources exploitation in a sustainable manner. We have chosen,
instead, to concentrate the money in real estate development and other
speculative ventures that generate big profits for the few and hire a
few at short terms for less than decent wages.
And we feign puzzlement at why our poor gravitate to the politicians who
can promise immediate relief from their miseries even for all the
warnings we give them. The fact is we are as guilty of perpetrating this
rotting system as the politicians who most obviously enjoy the powers
and the not so hidden prosperity. The politicians are guilty of
rapacity. The poor are guilty of selling their votes. And we are guilty
for our mindlessness and lack of caring.
Yes, we need to change our leaders, of that I have no doubt. But we must
change ourselves first, now, so that we will earn the right to kick
Mario Antonio G. Lopez teaches at the Asian Institute of Management and consults for business, government and civil society
ROLAND SAN JUAN was a researcher, management consultant, inventor, a part time radio broadcaster and a publishing director. He died last November 25, 2008 after suffering a stroke. His staff will continue his unfinished work to inform the world of the untold truths. Please read Erick San Juan's articles at: ericksanjuan.blogspot.com This blog is dedicated to the late Max Soliven, a FILIPINO PATRIOT.
DISCLAIMER - We do not own or claim any rights to the articles presented in this blog. They are for information and reference only for whatever it's worth. They are copyrighted to their rightful owners.
Please listen in to Erick San Juan's daily radio program which is aired through DWSS 1494khz AM @ 5:30pm, Mondays through Fridays, R.P. time, with broadcast title, “WHISTLEBLOWER” the broadcast tackle current issues, breaking news, commentaries and analyses of various events of political and social significance.