CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/28 October) — The quest for reforms, for clean and honest government, must be unending. And it must start with the vote we cast in our barangay. Some may say reform is an impossible dream. Still, it is no cause for despair, for not trying. There is no excuse for not striving.
It is sad that epidemic-scale corruption doesn’t seem to surprise anyone except fleetingly. It’s bad to leave things at that, to be resigned to it. And it’s very bad that plunder doesn’t provoke the kind of indignation that compels remedial action. But try we must anyway.
For one, we should stop electing the wrong people. We shouldn’t let political dynasties dominate. We shouldn’t let them rule for generations, preventing more deserving leaders from emerging, crowding out good candidates. We should liberate society from mediocrity and pretentious leadership, which dynasties breed.
Squandering opportunity for reforms
Elections are supposed to be an opportunity for change and renewal, a time for weeding out the incompetent or the corrupt and clear the way for good government. But somehow people miss the point and squander the opportunity.
We still resort to feeble attempts at reform. We ought to know by now that last minute initiatives don’t work—like seasonal poll watching, which is too little, too late. It can’t address the year-round corruption that renders the system impervious to reforms. It’s the subtle forms of cheating in the barangay’s governing processes that need attention.
Haphazard planning, implementing, and accounting for community projects need attention. Bid violations, negotiated awards, unauthorized decisions, and uncalled-for actions thrive for lack of citizen attention or oversight. These are the major factors in the outcome of elections.
These are the occasions that make possible wholesale bribery and rigging of election outcomes. Lack of citizen attention to these activities leaves the community exposed and vulnerable to all sorts of corruption.
Leaving the tasks of governing entirely to the discretion of the demagogues and incompetents that get elected is a recipe for bad, very bad governance. It enables them to keep on exploiting the government’s resources for whatever purposes.
Voting once every three years isn’t enough
It wouldn’t be so bad if people don’t equate their sovereignty and authority with the mere act of voting. Casting a vote does not change a bad situation, although it can remove an unwanted leader. But removing a bad leader won’t necessarily improve anything. It depends on what happens after the election.
The process of change or reform does not end with elections. What citizens do after casting a vote is even more important. For that’s when they must make election winners perform their duty, to take their responsibilities seriously, to do the right things, and to right the wrongs that encourage corruption and impoverish the community..
If a bad leader is replaced and the new leader is good, good things could happen. But even if he’s good but the constituency is bad, not much good will arise and the situation could remain bad, or even turn worse.
That’s the reality in a democracy, and it applies in a society like ours, especially in Mindanao which is wracked by, on one hand, corruption and leadership incompetence; on the other, by the failures of an apathetic, nonperforming citizenry.
Corruption and incompetence are products of a dysfunctional system. If our political system could only operate properly—with laws enforced across the board—it would produce efficient and honest governance, adequate public services, and more or less equal benefits.
But there is so much governing without sense of propriety, law enforcing with too many exceptions, and law-breaking with impunity!
Time now for Mindanaons to wake up their barangays, take their destiny in their own hands, and stop relying on demagogues, oligarchs, and autocrats and their dynasties! (Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)