THE WORM’S EYEVIEW: Good governance requires responsible citizenship

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Nov) – Statistics tell us that more than 10 percent of our people are visiting, studying, living, or working abroad at any given time, increasing by the year.

They come and go, leave for extended periods, or return to retire and stay for good. But as they reassume their place in the community, it’s as if they never left. As before, their presence is taken for granted or even ignored, their membership in the community given little or no importance.

Like before, there is no effort to invite them to participate in the process of governing the community. If there is a meeting or a public hearing, they cannot share their ideas, expertise, or suggestions.

Thus, their experience, acquired learning or technical knowledge, and wide perspective have no impact upon the standards or quality of life of their home community, the barangay. It’s a pity that this is so, especially with respect to those returning from culturally advanced or industrialized societies.

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Without their active participation, they cannot enrich the community’s arrangements, programs, work ethic, or quality of life.

Some may enjoy a glamorized stature in its social life but they have no significant impact, being non-participants in the community’s governing process.

This explains why, despite their presence in the barangay, they have no effect upon its arrangements and everything remains the same: neighborhoods shabby and disorderly, squatter sites squalid and uncontrolled, street traffic worsening, poor infrastructure, and so on.

That these conditions persist is a sad reflection of how powerless Filipinos are as citizens. These expatriates and returning overseas workers have plenty to share from their cosmopolitan outlook, along with their acquired standards of technology and lifestyle.

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But no opportunities are provided for them to exchange or share ideas with the rest of the community. Thus powerless in a system held captive by greedy politicians and political dynasties, they have no influence or impact.

In fact, whether homebound or expatriate, we so-called sovereign citizens of our Republic have no influence on our officials and our so-called representatives, and no effective voice even in our community.

It is the effect of a triple failure: failure to demand participation or a say in our own community’s governance; failure to make democracy’s processes work properly; and failure to assert our sovereignty and authority to compel good governance.

As a result our governing system is dysfunctional, controlled by oligarchs and selfish politicians; our people are manipulated, exploited by greedy political dynasties; and our economy is skewed, cornered by predatory capitalists.

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Our failures also stem from the absence of a sense of community; we have not learned to take individual or collective responsibility for our community’s development or governance, leaving it all to officials.

Lacking sense of community, we do not establish neighborly mechanisms or structures for drawing the community together; in fact, we exacerbate the divide-and-rule tactics of greedy politicians by tolerating them or even cooperating with them in exchange for personal favors.

In other words, we are also being greedy and exploitative towards our neighbors, taking advantage of nepotism or favoritism to gain selfish advantage or personal benefits.

In other words also, we are not serious about establishing good governance—as responsible citizens ought to be. We have a flawed appreciation of our citizenship; it lacks the element of responsibility and loyalty to community and the common good.

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This flawed citizenship is the root of all the disorder, criminality, poverty, squalor, and injustice in our society. Only if or when we develop a sense of community and responsible citizenship can anyone expect better-ordered barangays, better-behaved inhabitants, and more progressive communities.

It is from responsible citizenship that civic pride is fostered and responsible caring for the common good is nurtured and institutionalized.

That’s how important sense of community is. It impels the urge to rise above self and family interest in order to uphold justice and the common good.

And it drives a community to be discriminating, choosy, and wise in its election choices, careful that only competent and service-oriented officials get to manage and oversee communal affairs.

(Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. valdehuesa@gmail.com)