THE WORM’S EYEVIEW: Tend to your community now, not later!

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 4 Jan) – Practically everyone claims to want good governance for the country, for their province, their city, and so on down the line. Yet bad governance persists, on most levels—wrongful, corrupt governance.

It’s not as if people don’t know what good governance means; it’s just another term for good management—conducting the affairs of a jurisdiction responsibly, efficiently, profitably for all, and in accordance with law.

Despite its obvious meaning, however, the long dominance of traditional politicos (trapos) has distorted the view of our citizens about governance. It developed in them the habit of relying on pretentious officials to make vital decisions for the community without involving, consulting, or even informing its members. A colonial hangover.

Officials are public servants but the trapos manage to redefine the term “servant” to mean the opposite, enabling them to dictate how government goods, services, and benefits are distributed and to whom. Trapo governance has institutionalized dependency, and mendicancy, among the masses, deepening the root of corruption at the foundation of our Republic.

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Unless the educated sectors of the community do something to neutralize this pernicious trapo influence upon the grassroots, there is no way we can arrest our country’s downward slide to the status of a failed state.

The professionals in our society—educators, churchmen, lawyers, etc.—are a vital sector of the grassroots, being barangay citizens themselves, but they seem to be in denial. Either they deny that they are also barrio folks, or they just ignore the unmistakable signs of creeping anarchy at the base of the Republic and the worsening scale of corruption in our institutions.

These A and B socioeconomic category of barangay citizens seem unconcerned about the future of the Republic and democracy itself. They show no appreciation for the role of the grassroots as the determinant of stability and progress, oblivious to the effect of their apathy, unconcerned that their smug non-involvement in the affairs of their community will ultimately undermine what privileges they enjoy at present, that such detachment could become the occasion for enemies of society to take over.

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Their non-involvement is unfortunate, for it’s their leadership or at least their show of interest for the wellbeing of the community that society needs in order to neutralize and avert the malicious efforts of trapo elements to exploit the weaknesses of the grassroots.

It is they who can show everyone the essential role that citizens must perform to safeguard the Republic in the face of multiple threats, local and alien. There’s simply no substitute for good governance in the community to keep the nation stable and able to progress.

Without their active participation, the masses cannot shake off the habit of relying upon trapos that exploit them in exchange for patronage and dole out. Reliance upon corrupt local officials makes them highly vulnerable to corruption—to the extent of allowing their votes to be prostituted.

The urgent need for political education at grassroots level can no longer be ignored; it needs to be undertaken now, not later. But not the formal sort. What’s needed is education that flows from edification, or the concrete demonstration of a citizen’s role—affirmative action.

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Such edification must be led and provided by the pace-setters and movers of the community. The objective must be to establish a regime of good governance in the barangay—which is the prime conditioner of good governance at upper levels.

If corruption and bad governance persist in the barangay, the same will be replicated at upper levels. One must keep in mind that upper level officials are elected by barangay votes—which barangay officials manipulate if left undisturbed (as in the past).

There are attitudes and practices to change, including the common misapprehension even of educators and professionals that the powers of government are performed exclusively by the bureaucracy and the elective or appointive officials in it.

Most people are unaware of the unique nature of governance in a barangay—where the citizens have an essential role, a role that must be performed if there is to be good governance.

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This role is most important at the lowest level of government in accordance with principle of subsidiarity—which requires that citizens must tend to their community (its arrangements, its development, its governance) and not surrender said responsibility to public servants or to upper levels.

Towns, cities, and larger jurisdictions are primarily the concern of officials elected to administer them, but the barangay is the direct concern and responsibility of its citizens.

Everyone needs to be reminded that the battle for the presidency and all other positions is won in the barrios, among the impressionable masses.

Unless sensible citizens tend to the wrong attitudes and practices of their neighbors, this country will be deluged next year by trapos pushed up by the ignorant and corrupt voters of the 42,000-plus barangays. We shall then have more Lito Lapids and Manny Pacquiaos in Congress, along with the likes of Jojo Binay and his unscrupulous style of governing.

Thus the time to be attentive is now, not during the election period. It’ll be too late by then; the trapos and big-money interests are already out snaring the votes of the masses through patronage and deception even now.

(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. [email protected])

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