Hunger and grief-A A +A
Thursday, August 23, 2012
NO JOKE. Comparing the local government websites of Naga City in Camarines Sur and Cebu City is like pitting a game cock against the platypus, and that goes with apologies to the semi-aquatic mammal.
In 2004, some work found me curious about how institutions communicate their public narratives. Successful institutions can tell their stories like the back of their hand, and you can say that a big part of Apple’s success was due to the genius of a storyteller in the name of Steve Jobs.
Studies, in fact, say that we’re in the “conceptual age,” and at no other time in history has the storyteller, embroiled in the business of plotting and meaning-making, earned a crucial role even to the point of product development. But that’s another story, for another column.
Anyway, the meandering search led me to not a few surprises. I found a website that had downloadable PDF files of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’ communication principles and programs in English. Fictionist and poet, Goebbels was instrumental in crafting the Aryan story of the superior race, he was a master in symbolism, and it was, in fact, the Nazis who first thought of the Olympics torch relay, which was all part of the choreography to dramatize the party’s power and grandiosity.
But then again, that’s another story for another column. I was looking at benchmarking government institutions with the best online practices. In 2004, this was like looking for mutants in a human world.
Until I chanced upon “naga.gov.ph,” and felt as though I’d like to grab some pedestrian by the collar and shove the guy into the computer monitor. You could shuffle through the interface and marvel at the layers. It was a highly-detailed study on transparency that showed the whole depth and width of what went on in the local government of Naga City.
I love the part under “Customer Care,” the scrolls of which featured downloadable forms, business guide, a Naga citizens’ charter, even a PDF file instructional on how to conduct an independent earthquake drill. The latter reminds you that the city was a spewing distance from Mayon Volcano. One click, yes, and you think the Naga City Hall had collapsed the steel bars of its transaction windows and offered instead a time-travel portal. It was ahead of its time.
This wasn’t the rule then, in 2004 it was an exception, rather exceptional. Again, it reminds you how it would take the wit of an archeologist to haul the fossils in some local government websites sadly even to this day.
Here’s more, and this is what I think makes the Naga City website stand out. Under “Transparency at Work,” there’s a column called “Good Housekeeping,” under which you can click finances, bids and projects with results, annual procurement plan, programs and projects, best practices, awards and recognitions, price monitoring, MDG progress chart. Yes, I know, the one we have is a platypus.
That was 2004, and I remember it now because as one plane plunged into the sea off Masbate, our spirits plummet, too, and hit rock bottom. The first time I found naga.gov.ph, I said here was one government that meant business, merging in perfect terms all the best intentions with a great haul of intelligence. That was how I knew of then mayor Jesse Robredo.
While there is much to laud about his goodness, I also find that his biggest contribution is putting his wit into governance. He was a good chess player I heard, and yes, the innovation he brought to local governance was classic move, sure to knock some lousy king. That made him dangerous to many, but a big loss to the Filipinos.
Our great grief is proportional to our hunger for conscience and intelligence in government. As public trust turns to public grief, we say Godspeed, Sec. Jesse.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2012.