MY DEAR fellow Filipinos, next week is a gamechanger. But real change will not come from the candidates. It will come from us. I recommend that we review the lessons we must have already learned by now coming out from more than two years of a pandemic that has totally disrupted human activities. What hard lesson did Covid-19 teach us about deciding the kind of government we want? Here are my top five lessons which I really hope we don't forget on May 9.

1. Importance of local elections, especially when the national government has no clear direction. While national elections are very important, local elections are extremely important too. Think systems. When the national government fails to deploy responsive strategies, the local government unit (LGU) takes the center stage in ensuring that local strategies prevent the escalation of problems and lessen their adverse impacts. Think how your local leaders manage resources, manpower, and time in the face of a universal pandemic. Think and recall. And realize how crucial local leaders are down to the barangay level in addressing massive challenges.

2. Importance of digital and communications strategy as a leadership attribute. Look closely at how your leaders leverage on digital systems and on creating risk communication strategies amid the pandemic. Examine where their priorities now lie. If your leaders today still simply see innovation as a fad and digital applications as a mere tool, and do not seriously invest in utilizing digital platforms and developing effective risk communication programs, beware. These leaders will drag your city, our country down to obsolescence.

The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the importance of RCCE or Risk Communication and Community Engagement amid the pandemic. Effective risk communication strategy since day one of the pandemic to minimize risk and prevent spread -- to use information and communications as means to build public trust and influence health behaviors to mitigate risk. Public trust is the goal in RCCE to minimize risk. LGUs around the country need to create effective risk communications strategies. If the national government strategy is scare and political drama, at least at the local level, you can employ the ideal model which is a good balance of "hope and worry" - creating a populace who are hopeful but at the same time careful. Sadly, many leaders used in their official messaging language that are off, vindictive, uncalled for, not data-driven, mostly speculations, jests, politically shaded, vague and scary.

3. Need for effective collaboration to create collective and well-coordinated responses. Despite the pandemic being primarily a health issue, there is no specific box of concern it can be placed in. The problem entailed various disciplines from health, science, economy, governance, policy, and many aspects. Reflect now how your leaders harnessed the knowledge across all disciplines and whether this collaboration was positive, intentional, and productive. Ditch leaders who use collaboration merely as a political slogan. To know this objectively, ask how different sectors were involved in proactively facing the pandemic.

According to the McKinsey collaboration challenge for 2022, collaboration is not just a buzzword. It is a personal and professional skill. Are our leaders those that inspire collaboration? Are they intentional? Are they transparent? Are they creative? The common elements that often flow through any successful collaboration: intentionality, transparency, and creativity. It may positively impact how a leader works with others.

4. Healthcare should be among the top concerns of governance, not just a political tool. For decades, healthcare as a slogan has become convenient political soundbites. Now think of systems. Think about policies. Did your leaders put in place sustainable, seamless health service delivery systems? Or did they merely use the healthcare activities during the pandemic to gain political mileage? Think about the policies, the interventions they have put in place. Analyze those and do not be too forgiving any more. Give other leaders a chance.

5. Time is precious. Life is precious. Timely government actions are crucial. Government always has an excuse for slowness. They even find a way to justify or to glamorize slow and delayed public services. But the pandemic showed us mercilessly how lives are lost, how families are affected, how resources are wasted, and how the future is threatened, when governments do not act in a timely, targeted and purposive manner.

I hope and pray that 2022 yields for us innovative, dynamic, responsive, and inclusive leadership from national down to local. Let’s pray for it.