Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Good Governance

The column today (Oct. 14, 2009) of Conrado de Quiroz in the Philippine Daily Inquirer can be summed up: 

"We ourselves are the only ones who can guarantee good governance."  

His entire column is worth reading:

The one thing I keep being asked in forums is: How can you assure a Noynoy presidency will not go the route of the others?

The one answer I keep giving when asked that question is: Who am I to assure anything? But two things, I say by way of caveat, give me reason to hope.

The first is that even before Noynoy announced his decision to run, he shot up past the others. Completely spontaneously, completely effortlessly. Which astounded even me (I thought he’d do it, but more gradually). Clearly, the storyline of “the coming of the opposite of GMA” had been building in people’s minds for a long time.

The good news there for us, quite apart from the Noynoy camp, is this: Noynoy avoids, or escapes, the fundamental bane of elections, which is spending a staggering fortune to get elected. Either candidates use their own money, if they are staggeringly rich, or they depend on the oligarchs for staggering donations to their campaign. Either way it cannot augur well for the fate of the national treasury that the person who becomes president does so by pawning the family jewels and/or depending on the kindness of strangers. History—especially Philippine history—has yet to record a candidate who divested himself and his friends, or cronies, of wealth for the staggering pleasure of serving the people.

If Noynoy’s numbers hold—and I don’t see why not, this is an Edsa masquerading as an election—he will become president without being beholden to the usual suspects. That frees him to formulate policies that can be good for the country and not for the contributors. He will be beholden only to the people, not to those who oppress them.

That is of course no guarantee he will do right by the people. History, especially Philippine history, is full of leaders who were beholden to the people and reciprocated only by screwing the people. We do not have to look far, we’ve had one for the last nine years. This was a person who rode on the back of People Power but dedicated herself afterward only to spiting the very thing she owed. Substitute “ungrateful” for “lucky” and Joey Salceda’s description of her becomes more ferociously accurate.

What’s to guarantee Noynoy won’t do otherwise? Well, there’s Noynoy himself. He is not the “opposite of GMA” for nothing. The opposite of being an ungrateful SOB is being a grateful SOC (son of a Cory).

Far more importantly, there’s us, the people.

Nothing else can guarantee it. We are not active in our governance, we will never have the leader we deserve. Or we will have exactly the one we do. A people who do not particularly care if they are screwed will always have leaders who will screw them. Either by the leader’s natural inclination or the led’s own ardent invitation.

The political culture of this country sucks. It is a culture that naturally promotes corruption and trapo shenanigans. It is a vortex that swallows the best of women and men, as forums always point out. How to prevent it? By bestirring ourselves to prevent it.

It’s not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings. Nowhere is that truer than in our political life.

Take the case of corruption. Doubtless there are many reasons for it, not least of them psychological, or pathological. Some people are just bottomless pits of greed, and some are more bottomless than others. But you look at it a little more closely and you realize that the most fundamental reason for corruption is that we tolerate it.

This has been my favorite argument for years. Clearly, we do feel revulsion for people who steal, as seen by the way we corner pickpockets, handbag slashers, and other petty thieves in sidewalks and beat them black and blue. Why don’t we do the same thing to crooks in government? The only explanation I can think of is that we don’t see what they do as stealing.

Either the sums they pilfer are too huge for us to grasp, the act taking on an air of abstraction quite unlike the quite graphic grabbing of a boy’s schoolbag, or those sums are things we attribute to them anyway. Both are true, the latter especially. We really have no concept of “taxpayers’ money.” We think of the taxes we pay—and all of us do pay it, epically, if indirectly, through VAT—not as our money but as their money. It is tribute we give to our liege. If the taxes come back to us in the form of a road or bridge, we are happy. If they do not, we say, what else is new?

That is why corruption flourishes here like floods, and that is why it does not in Europe and the US. We do not see taxes as our money, they do. We do not see the hijacking of taxpayers’ money as stealing, they do.

The burden of change does not just lie in our officials, it lies in us. And the beginning of change is recognition, the driving force of change is discovery. We start realizing taxes are our money, and our officials start thinking twice about stealing them.

We ourselves are the only ones who can guarantee good governance. The prospects are not entirely daunting. We do have a capacity to act. We do have a capacity to put our fate in our hands. Look how we respond to disasters, completely instinctively galvanizing into action to reach out to the victims. Look how we respond to earthquakes and famine, digging the earth furiously and penetrating places God forgot to rescue the trapped and hungry. Look at the way we respond to floods and mudslides, braving the wilds to bring relief goods to the ravaged and help them build again. This is People Power at its best. This is People Power in everyday life.

It’s just a matter of realizing we’ve been the victims all this time. It’s just a matter of realizing we’re the ones who most need relief.

It’s just a matter of realizing we’re the only ones who can give ourselves relief.

Ref.: http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20091014-229930/Assurances
. . . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment