A book for Cebu City candidates

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Thursday, December 13, 2012


I WILL unabashedly recommend a book to all those who seek to govern Cebu City by way of voting in May 2013.

The book, “People Participation in Urban Governance in Cebu” is written by Dr. Felisa Etemadi, the multi-awarded teacher-researcher of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu. It took her three years or so to finish it although her research spanned close to 20 years.

The candidates, be they the serious ones or the pa-choychoy, may see a gleam of understanding of what they really should be doing as elected leaders. They have five months to read and finish the book and decide that, if elected, where they can devote public funds and their efforts to make Cebu City a better place to live in.

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I have yet to go over the book myself, although I read the foreword by Dr. Resil Mojares and Etemadi’s acknowledgment before I started writing this piece yesterday. It is nothing like Dave Barry’s tomes but if you have an Etemadi-Mojares-Mayette Tabada collaboration, it is serious reading.

But then governance is a serious concern. Dr. Etemadi, who launched the book yesterday at Ayala Center Cebu, tracked the people’s participation in policy making and project implementation in Cebu City from the 1990s to mid-2010.

This is what she found out:

“Despite the change in political administration in the period covered by my study (1990s to mid 2010), there is continuity in program thrusts, funding and implementation of projects, particularly on health, education, socialized housing, children and women concerns.

“Investment promotion, the then South Reclamation Project (now known as South Road Properties) and the Information Communication Technology (ICT) may have endured leadership change.

“While political leaders tend to prioritize funding for their pet projects, budget support for the projects of the predecessor from the opposition party may not have been that generous. Basic social services delivery was not impaired however.

“Cebu City has been continually cited as a best practice in many respects. It continues to reap local, national and international recognitions for being the showcase of GO-NGO (government organization-non government organization) partnership and the programs of children, socialized housing and bantay banay.”

Cebu City has had three mayors in the last two decades—Tomas Osmeña, Alvin Garcia and Michael Rama. The three had worked seamlessly together for nine good years—Osmeña as mayor, Garcia as vice mayor and Rama as councilor—until one of them began feeling, thinking, acting and talking like he was the only one who deserved to be mayor of Cebu City.

So regardless of who the mayor was, Cebu City thrived because of the strong interaction among government, civil society and private sector in matters concerning their city.

This finding by Etemadi in her study should humble whoever claims to be solely or largely responsible for Cebu City’s growth. The book highlights issues on poverty alleviation, socialized housing, watershed management, informal economy, rights of women and children, which Dr. Mojares says in his foreword to be “not only current but benchmark issues for the decades to come.”

Etemadi, 61, is recommended for the lifetime and prestigious post of professor emeritus by the UP committee on professor emeritus appointments. She is the first from UP Cebu to have reached this distinction. The self-effacing Etemadi said of this, “(It sends the message that) UP Cebu is as good as the other (UP) campuses. It’s not about me. It’s an inspiration to other faculty.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 13, 2012.

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