FOLLOWERS follow leaders because they see the bigger picture and will generally create solutions to improve the general conditions of things. If this statement is incorrect, why else should we choose leaders among us – when the ones we choose see nor understand no better than anyone of us. The country has been crying out for leaders who are systems thinkers and innovators for a long time. But as citizens, we also need to check our thought processes.

How we can translate politics to transcend beyond personal but instead transformational for our country is an ideal mission. Let me cite some tell-tale signals that show how difficult this mission is because there are so many among us who do not think in terms of systems – but on a very personal basis.

First mentality – “whatever works for me is good, even if it is not good for the country.”

Many of us often see the abuses of our leaders in the light of how their decisions and deeds personally affect our lives, either directly or indirectly, either adversely or beneficially. But not in the lens of how these leaders directly violated laws or regulations, and ignored their mandates, regardless of whether the deeds directly affected us. Hence, there is a tendency that when their deeds benefit us, no matter how wrong these are - we tend to justify it. Ideally, if we think less of ourselves and more of ensuring that our institutions, systems, and laws remain strong and effective for all and not just for some, maybe we can dream of a future that is not very dependent on personalities.

Second mentality – “I remember my dead spouse and shall continue to seek justice for him or her.” Another psyche we have as Filipinos is the habit of commemorate anniversaries of massacres, killings and other atrocities, but sadly, there seem to be a lack of fervor or focus to consciously, systemically, and seriously demand, monitor, and evaluate the reforms that we want so the same atrocities do not happen again. We like to shout on the streets and spew general emotions, but do we also account for the institutional and policy reforms especially in the governance and the justice system. So where does one seek justice for one’s dead spouse for example? Do we see the reforms happening? Do we ask for them to happen or do we simply light candles to commemorate the past?

Third mentality – “Working in silos even if it is more difficult than working together." One classic example is how the national government is trying to put all vaccination records in one national portal which is the VaxCertPH designed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Health (DOH) but still the process is slow. The Philippine National ID System was launched but many are concerned how the cards are not acceptable for different transactions. The keyword is interoperability.

This country needs a data governance framework like most advanced countries. The state cannot just collect personal data anytime they want but instead observe a single-entry policy for citizens to only provide data once or a few times in one or two offices and the data systems of these offices are inter-operable. The framework is usually protected by strict data protocols and rules for data use, analysis and reuse. It is aimed to not only make citizen's life convenient, but improve delivery of government services, draw insights for anticipatory governance to create strategies for future problems, and also solve current problems. The new currency is data. A well-meaning government will use public data for the good of the country and not to advance the political and personal interests of people inside the government. However, the latter seem to be the norm.

Fourth mentality – “Your choices reflect your values.” This is a sweeping and dangerous statement and a generalization if applied especially to our choice of who to vote next year. Our choices and decisions are not just shaped by our values and principles. Societal behaviors are heavily influenced since the old ages by the prevailing norms and narratives in the society, and by the social networks where an individual circulates, as pointed out by Dr. Paul Collier, professor of my Oxford’s Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development course.

To simply state that one's political choice reflects one's values is quite a fallacy of connection. Our choices are a manifestation of more than just our values. But a collage of factors. There are many parallels to see, that not anyone of us can even fathom how the thought process of any individual can arrive at a choice.