THAT is the biggest challenge to all the winners of the just concluded elections.
Winning the votes is one thing. Turning them as a platform to meet people’s concerns, needs and aspirations is another.
The former required excellent campaigning. The latter demands sincere commitment, passion for public service, grasp of the elements of good local governance, and development mindset.
Good local governance simply means making the public institution effectively works to invigorate local economy, create job and livelihood opportunities, enhance people’s access to social services, empower people to become active in governance and make better political decisions, and create conditions for a peaceful and safe environment.
It is a disturbing fact however that most local government units (LGUs) are dysfunctional, acting far from the above qualities as defined in Local Government Code (LGC), Memo Circulars of DILG, and the Philippine Constitution.
They act like a private property and a milking cow of political families, fiefdoms, contractors and developers. They serve as extension of the haciendas, corporate farms and other businesses of the landed elites.
They hire people like patrons, with utter disregard for the civil service rules, standards and ethics. In effect, they promote and institutionalize a political culture of patronage.
All official papers can’t get through their hands without the imprint of their ego and vested interests. All projects whether local or nationally funded are with “SOP cuts” that goes into their personal pocket.
They dip their hands into the LGU’s kitty anytime they want as if it’s their private bank account.
These explain why corruption continues uninterrupted and bleed our public treasury, and deprived our people of the vital social services and development they deserve.
Hunting, attacking and prosecuting the crooks is necessary but it won’t stop them and others from corrupting, even after they are caught -- because the LGU environment is deeply corruptive and for decades have not been corrected substantially by those in position of power and authority.
Of course, we have problems with the character and values of officials, especially those who gained their seats by "gold, guns and goons" or by the help of their political patrons. But the key problem remains in the prevailing system that breeds crooks and criminals.
That’s why there's no way they can function and function truly for the people unless the codal rules, policies and structure in local governance are transformed from their present quagmire, and the qualities and standards for elective officials and appointive ones are redefined.
For now, it is my unsolicited advice that some important pillars for making the public institution works should be followed.
One, straighten the public service orientation and ethical standards of local government officials and enhance their capacities to perform their vital functions set by the Constitution, the Local Government Code (LGC) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Set in motion the updating of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (Clup) and the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), then make functional the Local Development Council (LDC), Local Special Bodies (LSB), and the enlistment of genuine and independent Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), not those in the favored list of the local officials and DILG field office.
Two, institutionalize system of transparency to ensure the public disclosure of all its services, transactions, income, spending, including lifestyles of its officials and personnel in accordance with policies and guidelines set by LGC, DILG, DBM, COA, and CSC.
Three, make functional the LDCs that truly reflect the concerns, needs and aspirations of the people, not the whims and caprices of local executives.
Four, operationalize the citizen’s grievance mechanism as provided in the LGC, and where cases are heard fairly and resolved judiciously.
Fifth, give equal important to the development of the corporate character of the LGU by enhancing its capacities for assets management, resource generation, local economic development planning, and creation of job and livelihood opportunities. This is the only way for LGUs to become less dependent on their 20% IRA share, and stop looting local treasury, holdup ping their people with all sorts of taxes.
Only when these things are done, can we sincerely say that LGUs are truly and effectively functional.
By the way, another unsolicited advice, LGUs should also tap the services of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), CSOs, Learning and Research and Training Institutes, and special resource consultants. They can help in accomplishing certain functions and tasks more efficiently.
Well, these are big and daunting tasks to make LGUs work for people’s development.
If some politicians and officials prefer to ignore these and go their own vested ways, they should voluntarily vacate their post, or the long arm of justice will kick them out.
Just a perspective.