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Citizens prevail

Contrary to any myth or propaganda, no single person, party or political affiliation has the monopoly on that thing called “governance.” 

It’s a big word. The Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific defines good governance as “a way of decision-making and implementation that aims to achieve desirable and beneficial results for both those who govern and are being governed.”

From Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 an assortment of booths, fora, performances and all around goodwill took place at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City for the Galing Pook Governance Fair, aptly called “Mamamayan mamamayani”—Citizens will Prevail.

The event was organized by Galing Pook Foundation in partnership with civil society organizations, the private sector, the national government and numerous local government units.

“The modern-day principle of inclusive sharing of responsibilities between the government and its people likewise constitutes sharing of accountability in the progression or regression of the nation,” according to the event rationale.

The fair’s objectives: Recognize invaluable engagement of civil society which aided various LGUs to achieve social, economic, technological, political, and institutional sustainable development; strengthen the capacity of LGUs in providing for opportunities for inclusive people’s participation in local governance; and inspire the larger population of citizenry to enjoin themselves in the crusade for good governance.

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At noon on Monday, Aug. 31, local band Sponge Cola played onstage while panel interviews of the Galing Pook 2015 finalists went on lunch break. Other Filipino artists performed at other times during the fair. These performances provided entertainment to the exhibitors and participants, most of whom came from the provinces to showcase their best practices and local produce. “Local rocks!” was not an uncommon sentiment.

Panelists from Galing Pook and the academe listened to the project presentations by the mayors or governors, appreciative yet critical of the initiatives. After the well-prepared audio visual presentations came the most difficult part—interpellation. The questions sought to bring out, or at least clarify: Does the project introduce something that has not been done before (innovation)?  How were various sectors, both government and non-government, able to work together for the project’s success (participation)? Can the project be transplanted to another area (replicability) and what are the factors that must be present? Will this continue into the long term and how (sustainability)?

And if you think governance is all about motherhood statements and warm, fuzzy feelings—you’re dead wrong. The toughest questions follow—and yes, they involve numbers:  How is the success of the project best measured? What is that number? How is this figure projected to continue into the foreseeable future?

The winning projects/ LGUs were announced the following evening. They were: (1) “I Luv Taytay! of Taytay, Rizal; (2) Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Program of Narra, Palawan; (3) Team Albay of the Provincial Government of Albay; (4) Education 360 Investment Program of Valenzuela City; (5) Minahang Bayan, A Small Scale Mining Program of South Cotabato; (6) Ambao Fish Sanctuary and Reserve Area in Hinundayan, Southern Leyte; (7) “Sirib Express” of Ilocos Norte; (8) “ Mapanagutang Pamamahala” of Barangay Graceville in San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan; (9) Friendly Drugs:PPP  on Health Plus Project  of South Cotabato ; (10) Community Enterprise Development Program-Pangkabuhayan Centers of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte.

For the first time, too, the Galing Pook Citizenship Award was bestowed on three citizen organization:  Cagayan de Oro-based Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc.; Tagum Cooperative of Tagum City, Davao del Norte; and, Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Governance, Inc.

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It’s always a happy task to write about these events celebrating practices and achievements that have  real and  tangible effects on the lives of ordinary people.

These are the projects that practically nobody outside of the respective LGUs has known about. No publicity, no false expectations, and because it’s participatory in nature, there is no opportunity to grab credit.

In the next few weeks, we are bound to hear more about these projects, what they are, and most especially how they accomplished what they did. The who—it does not matter as much. It’s everybody’s effort; to everybody’s benefit.

The focus is not so much about the building of big-ticket, capital-intensive, “hard” infrastructure but on “soft” projects—development initiatives that make the governors and the governed work together, yielding real results.

At the entrance to the Governance Fair, there were two giant boards on which visitors could pin pieces of paper—empty lists given them upon registration.

One board says “Top Five Things I Demand From My Government.” We are perfectly within our right to demand certain things from our government, specifically our officials. After all, we were the ones who put them in office, and we are the ones paying their salaries. So yes, we can demand and criticize and express our sentiments about everything that’s not going well.

But it does not—must not—end there. The other board asks for “Top 5 Things I Can Do For My Country.”  We are not here to just be served. We have a part to play as well. What can we contribute?

In the end, when something goes wrong, it is because we did not get involved enough, or assert ourselves well enough. On the other hand, if something works, and everybody benefits, not just today or this month but onwards—is it not rewarding to think that citizens prevailed?

 

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