Echaves: Citizens watch

THE Duterte administration has reiterated its commitment to fulfill the pre-election and campaign promises to declare war on drugs, criminality and corruption.

So, now our media outlets overflow with news about drug lords being named and targeted, and drug pushers and users either surrendering or killed in encounters (though suspicions are rife about rubouts and salvaging towards getting the fat money rewards).

But we still have to get an equal dose of news about criminals being apprehended, charged or sentenced to jail. And the only corruption story involving big personalities is that of ex-VP Jejomar Binay.

The 16 million-plus who voted Duterte to the presidency must also have included those not exactly straight or law-abiding. Which means they probably never expected that the slogan “Change is coming” would eventually be at their heels.
This, because many a time, the constituents who elect their leaders to national posts are so used to just becoming fence-sitters while expecting their leaders to do all the job.

Such posturing is a formula for failure. I, thus, see wisdom in this Facebook post: “We elected DU30 our president. So, are we ready to change?”

This week, an executive order on the Freedom of Information is set for release. Primarily, it should allow free and ready access to information involving government operations and transactions.

But its flip side should make it incumbent for citizens to provide information to government about behavior and practices that reek of, for instance, corruption.

Transparency International, the global coalition for change, has a ready “Anti-Corruption Kit” that suggests ways of citizens helping. While the book’s primary target readers are the youth, adults might even be better positioned to help.

One suggestion is Follow the Money. For starters, go back to campaign promises. Were more schools promised? Have they been built? How much is allotted for each government project and for how long?

At the barangay level, discuss the government spendings. Are there gaps, and why? Get public officials to explain these gaps, whether in money or time frame.

Another suggestion is Count the Supplies. Track where they go. Some government agencies buy in bulk to enjoy bulk discounts. Yet there’s no regard for the shelf life of some purchases.

I remember one state university here which stocked up so much on printer ink cartridges amounting to half a million pesos.

But these stocks hardened and became useless. Such criminal waste of government resources!

Third suggestion is Set up Citizen Report Cards. This practice in the private sector could be well applied at the barangay level. Cards allow citizens to articulate their expected quality of public services.

The citizens of a barangay could focus on one service at a time. Garbage collection, for instance. In both Mandaue and Cebu Cities, garbage collection is a sickening problem. Corner streets have garbage just strewn anywhere, some even infested with maggots.

Share photos with media outlets showing poor public services like uncollected garbage, potholed streets or uncovered diggings that endanger life and limb.

More tips tomorrow.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)
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