ONE of the requirements of all cities and municipalities given by the DILG after every local election is to formulate an Executive and Legislative Agenda (ELA). This is a process wherein the mayor, the vice mayor, and all their councilors (with the aid of department heads) will have to sit down and decide what direction will they take in the next three years even if they hate each other. In simple terms, this is a process of alignment of all departments in the local government so that they would have a guide on how to spend their money as well as check whether they will have tangible outputs at the end of their term.
This planning is very crucial and should be taken very seriously. If done properly, it can set the success of the three-year term because the local bureaucracy is guided as to what to do first and what to prioritize. The thing is, most LGUs don’t even bother investing time and resources on this. Most of the time, they simply copy paste old documents for compliance purposes while they enjoy the day or two at some resort on a paid "vacation."
The idea of ELA is anchored on the principle that planning is essential before any work is done and that our local bureaucracy is actually composed of two bodies; the executive (the mayor and his department heads) and the legislative (the local council). In order for any program to work, there has to be clear collaboration of the two bodies so that they see eye to eye and are on the same page as to what to prioritize.
An ELA can also be likened to a state of the city address (Soca) since it too provides ground for the mayor to lay down his or her agenda and convince the legislature to create laws that will make them happen. But unlike in Soca, the ELA is more intensive as problems and issues are actually discussed sector per sector. And that programs, projects, and activities are clearly identified to solve the issues.
ELA also sets elected officials into proper perspective. You see, when they ran for office, the promised heavens to the electorates. But in reality, their powers have actually limits much more their local budget. Most of the time, a lot of their promises are not even covered by their functions and are impossible to fulfill within the three-year term. With the conduct of ELA, they are forced to revisit their limited budget, their mandates, and the blueprint of the city as found in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (Clup) and Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP).
Most of the cities and municipalities do not have a clear mission of why their local government exists. Usually, it’s just the planning office crafting the ELA, bypassing the process of dialog and compromise. Almost always as well, their usual concept of governance is building roads, building schools, building hospitals and building practically all possible infrastructures.
Another worth pointing from how our municipalities function is that the legislative department is generally a puppet to the executive department. The councilors don’t seem to have a good grasp on how crucial their powers are and almost always end up to be just submissive to their mayors.
Successful governance is not measured on how many roads our leaders built or how many basketball courts they have provided us. Authentic governance is measured on how the mayor, the vice mayor and the councilors use their respective powers to change what food I put on my table. Let me take Boracay for example; is it good governance to see how the island became a world’s tourist destination when only the rich owners of hotels got richer while the original inhabitants got displaced somewhere else and got poorer and poorer? How is that different from the Spaniards colonizing our country a long time ago?
The only measure of true success in governance in the Philippines is how our local leaders can decrease the poverty incidence in their locality. That should always be the entry point as well as the exit. And so before they copy paste their old ELAs for compliance or ask their brightest staff to make the ELA for them, perhaps they should think twice and give the process a chance.