Do We Deserve it?
The concept of governance is as old as, if not older than, civilization
itself. The word governance means the process of decision-making and
the process by which decisions are implemented, or not implemented.
It could be in the context of corporate governance, international,
national or local governance. To stretch it farther, I would add individual
and personal governance.
For this forum today, I shall confine my remarks to governance and
the Filipino and his government. Of late, the term good governance
is widely being used as most essential criterion by major donors and
international financial institutions in making aids, loans and grants
to organizations or countries. Bad governance is considered one of
the primary causes of all evils within our societies. And with the
sorry state of our native country and our fellow Filipinos today,
bad governance, goaded by personal extreme greed, is obviously characterized
by pervasive graft and corruption that have held captive and prevented
the full growth and development of the Philippines, sinking the country
to the economic rung second to the bottom, just above Bangladesh,
and causing more than 30 millions of Filipinos to languish in extreme
poverty, while the corrupt elite rich and famous government officials
wallow in ecstasy with their stolen hundreds of millions, if not billions,
of the people's money.
There is really no need to dissect the details of the anatomy of
graft and corruption in the Philippines. To everybody in this room,
leaders of the various Filipino-American organizations, this abominable
crime against society in the Philippines is well-known. Graft and
corruption have grown into a culture in the Philippines, a way of
life, not only amongst unconscionable traditional politicians, but
even among our people. Indeed, the government is only one of the actors
in governance. The other players are the military, the influential
landlords, associations of peasant farmers, financial institutions,
and even the NGOs, etc., where corruption is likewise evident.
All the various players, with the exception of the government and
the military, are tagged together as part of the civil society. In
some nations, organized crimes or syndicates, or political dynasties,
or powerful families in a province or a city, all of which we also
have in the Philippines, preying on the people, also influence decision-making,
even in our government and in our civil society itself.
There are 8 principal and fundamental features of good governance:
It must be (1) transparent, (2) consensus-oriented, (3) participatory,
(4) responsive, (5), accountable, (6) equitable and inclusive, (7)
effective and efficient, and, (8) one that follows the rule of law.
To these eight, I would like to add discipline, as a factor of assurance
or guaranty for implementation of good governance.
Sadly, these are the nine essential things glaringly absent in the
Philippine government, and in governance in the whole country in general,
except perhaps among a few exceptionally honest officials and our
A caveat: Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency
and the rule of law.
The goals of good governance and the resultant effects are obviously
the minimization, if not the elimination, of graft and corruption,
and the protection of society as a whole, especially those who are
most vulnerable, in this case, our poorest of the poor in the Philippines.
Achieving these will not only bring back pride and dignity to our
nation, our governments and its officials, but also to the Filipinos,
especially to our disenfranchised and marginalized fellow Filipinos
in the deep gutter of poverty.
Characteristics of good governance
Allow me to fast-reverse, and go back to the basic structure of
our society, the cells, if you will, the bits and pieces of tiles
that form the mosaic of our society we call, "We the People."
This is where I strongly believe good governance should start from…individual
or personal good governance. And this is where discipline is most
It is obvious that all we need for good governance are virtues and
principles we were taught, and should have learned, in the kindergarten.
Unfortunately for the Philippines, it seems majority of our government
officials had skipped kindergarten. Seriously, if we look closely,
all of these principles are clearly listed in the Ten Commandments
of our Christian faith also, which ten I would even summarize into
one: Love thy neighbor as you love thyself. Period. And that must
include our neglected poor countrymen.
If we, the Filipinos, as a people and as a nation, had only strictly
adhered to, and followed and implemented the discipline we were taught
in the kindergarten, our country would be number one today. Fifty
years ago, we were number 2, second only to Japan. And today, as I
have said earlier, we are down at the bottom, just above the last
one, Bangladesh. It is indeed a shame… all this, for simply
ignoring what we learned in the kindergarten and for straying away
from God's words of loving one another, and being our brother's keeper.
The Filipino United Network (USA) last year launched the Dollar
Moral Crusade Against Graft and Corruption and for Good Governance,
which has caught the imagination of many Filipinos overseas, and those
in the Philippines. Our inspiration behind this movement were (and
still are) the miracle Governor of Pampanga, Ed Panlilio or Among
Ed, as he is popularly known, and Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga, which
not only provides food for the hungry and home for the homeless, but
pride and dignity for the poorest of the poor.
Having said all that, governance could only be good, and good governance,
guaranteed and sustainable, if we, the Filipino people ourselves are
disciplined, honest, transparent, accountable and honorable, because
we, the people, are the bits and pieces, the tiles, that make up the
mosaic that makes up our society, as I have stated earlier. The politicians,
government officials, came from nowhere else, but from us, from "We,
the People." If the people are dishonest and tolerant of corruption,
so will our officials be, in the same manner as when the integrity
of the bricks and mortars we use to build a house with are fundamentally
defective and weak, so would the entire structure be.
Given the current situation in the Philippines, where good governance
is virtually absent, where graft and corruption among government officials
is the order of the day, of any day, where the weak and the sick are
trampled upon, every single minute of the day, robbed of their self-respect
and dignity besides food on their table, roof over their head, and
education for their children, individual or personal governance comes
into serious question.
In my article, What's Stopping Us?, published in various websites
and newspapers, I decried our lack of discipline as a people, our
lack of love for our country, lack of self-respect, and lack of pride
for the Philippines. To me, these are the reasons why we have retrogressed
as a people and as a nation, and why we have lost the trust and respect
of other nations and other peoples of the world. And somewhere along
the way, this was how we lost our honor and integrity as a nation
and as a people. The Desperate Housewives incident was an alarming
wake-up call, a symptom-complex on how the world perceives us. The
hurt I felt about the insult was much much less than the hurt I felt,
and am feeling, for what we have done, and what we have failed to
do, as a people and as a nation, that led to such an insult and humiliating
perception by the world.
Governance requires active participation by the people, a key cornerstone
of good governance, who are unceasingly vigilant and pushing hard
for the rule of law at any cost. If we had already allowed the election
of crooked politicians, as we repeatedly had done in the past several
decades, officials who have been providing bad governance, who are
corrupt, and who have caused all our national ills, we, the people,
could, at least, put into gear the implementation of our individual
or personal governance, and wage a war against graft and corruption
in our native land, and put these crooks and plunderers behind bars.
And perhaps even throw away the keys.
We, the people, are as much to blame as our politicians for our
present situation. If properly harnessed, the will of the millions
of the governed and the resultant people power can easily prevail
to effect discipline, honesty, transparency, and accountability among
our government leaders. If , "We the People", could truly
unite and bring the proven guilty plunderers in our government before
a "social firing squad" of justice in a public square of
dissent, perhaps we can instill enough fear among these crooked politicians
to deter them from doing business as usual.
If we only pay lip service, do not lift a finger, and simply allow
the crooks and criminals in our government to continue to plunder
our nation and victimize our people, then we all deserve what we are
By repeatedly electing known crooked politicians, and now not doing
anything meaningful to overthrow the corrupt officials in our government,
we, Filipinos, are not really being Christian, kind, generous and
compassionate, but simply too stupid to accept the status quo, this
culture of corruption and the oppression of our millions of fellowmen
who are languishing in poverty.
Good governance starts from "We, the People." We cannot
stay by the sideline, sit comfortably on the fence, and expect a miracle
to be handed to us on a silver platter. To get good governance, we
must work very hard for it to be worthy of it, and to deserve it.
My question, then, to every Filipino around the world, especially
to the youth of the land, is: Are you willing to make hard choices
and sacrifices and walk the talk, and wage a serious war against graft
and corruption in every level of our government in the Philippines
to deserve, and achieve, good governance and the rule of law?
Delivered by Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS,
Vice Chairman of the Filipino American Leadership Council (FALCON)
at its the Second Summit Conference on April 26, 2008, at the Biltmore
Hotel, Los Angeles, California, following the Greenlining Institute
Summit of Fortune 500 companies.
GOOD GOVERNANCE AND THE ART OF COOKING BIBINGKA
The United States of America has been quite good to us. It has provided
us with opportunities to discover our personal skills and professional
potentials, and has granted us adequate rewards that we barely dreamed
of when we first set foot on this soil. But for all the blessings
we have attained, the Philippines is like our first love in high school,
you know, the one that we cannot forget and cannot get over with,
the one that sometimes occupies our mind, delighting us with fantasies
of what ifs and what could have been.
But the recent news that has been reaching us about our first love
has been quite disturbing. It seems that our people are now neck-deep
in misery, and it might not be long before despair turns to desperation.
There is however in Pampanga an experience of hope. Similar to the
American presidential primaries, a gubernatorial candidate was chosen
through consensus by a concerned assembly of people united by a common
desire to promote good governance and responsible citizenship. In
the face of unprecedented mudslinging, black propaganda, financial
hand-outs and vote-buying, an innovative political campaign was launched
by this assembly that was centered on hope and that appealed on conscience.
Perhaps it helped that the candidate was a priest who was willing
to sacrifice the practice of his vocation just to serve the Kapampangans
in more fundamental ways. In the end, Fr. Eddie Panlilio won over
an entrenched son of a popular actor-politician and the wife of the
alleged top gambling lord in the Philippines. The unthinkable, the
impossible happened. This life-changing experience has been set into
a book by campaigners, entitled Luid Ka, which, translated, means
Hail, a salute of dignity to a fellow human being. Incidentially,
the book Luid Ka! is available in our summit today. I would like to
ask you to get a copy for yourself, so that by doing so, you not only
will become more aware of the miracle in Pampanga, but more importantly,
you will become catalysts in your own provinces, strong in faith that
God does allow victory over almost insurmountable odds.
In the past nine months, Among Ed, as the elected governor is more
affectionately known, has achieved notable gains, including the collection
of sand quarry revenues to the tune of 191,862,000 pesos as of April
18, as opposed to an average of 19 million pesos yearly in the past
three administrative terms; the active and genuine campaign with bidders,
contractors and suppliers against the so-called SOP, which is a euphemism
for graft or grease money; the empowerment of the capitol employees
through continuous capacity-building programs; the eradication of
the 15-30 or ghost employees; the proper funding of the agricultural
and aquaculture undertakings of the province; the establishment of
an office that will exploit the tourism potentials of Kapampangan
history and culture; the upgrading and re-equipment of district and
provincial hospitals; and the rationalization of services for the
poor and marginalized.
At the same time, the citizenry has been awakened to participate
more actively in the shaping of their destiny. Civil societies were
formed in order to represent the interests of different sectors; organizations
and corporations from within the province, the nation and even from
overseas, have stepped up their advocacies in social responsibility.
Village organizations have been tapped to monitor the accomplishment
of infrastructure projects.
This, in essence is the paradigm of cooking bibingka in Pampanga
politics: init sa itaas, init sa ibaba, at maluluto ang galapong.
(Bibingka, a type of rice cake, is a Filipino treat especially during
Christmas. It is traditionally cooked with charcoal from above and
below). From above, the elected leaders and the civil servants must
persevere to implement change through good example. From below, the
sovereign people must always take responsibility for themselves and
for the policies of the leadership. The implementation and institutionalization
of change in society should always involve transparency and accountability
in government and the active vigilance of the citizenry. Even now,
the Panlilio administration is besieged on all sides by those who
want him to fail, especially those who have lost the opportunities
to profit from the suffering of the poor. But the crusade for good
governance still holds, because there is a responsible citizenship
that remains vigilant of their desire to implement change.
Similarly, on a larger scale, the present political crisis surrounding
our national leaders does not absolve the people from sharing in the
blame, and when I say the people, it is inclusive of you and me. We
are a part of the bibingka, for we are among those who stoke the fire
from below, not only with our remittances, but also with our wealth
of experiences in good citizenship. If we excuse ourselves from becoming
influential voices in the confluence of events, then the bibingka
of national culture will come out half-cooked at best. Even from across
an ocean, we remain a part of nation-building, and even more so, because
the Unites States remain to be the strongest ally of the Philippines.
Like other expatriate Filipinos all over the globe, we have been
exposed to some of the best practices in humanity. We return our thoughts
to home and ask, why not in our country? Then we realize that there
are indeed points of hope in the bleak landscape, not only in Pampanga,
but also in Marikina, in Naga City, in Isabela, in the City of San
Fernando, even in pockets like Subic and Clark, and so many other
localities where government and citizenry cooperate and collaborate
to bring out the best in the Filipino spirit. We can contribute to
the uplift of our mother country by offering new practical paradigms,
so that in the community of nations, the Philippines will be constrained
to follow the path of modern political practice.
Conversely, the Pampanga Experience teaches us Fil-Americans two
lessons. Kapampangans focused their unity on their collective dignity
which was put to risk when the electorate was limited to a choice
of the lesser of two evils. In a parallel vein, our common outrage
was awakened when our revered medical practitioners were maligned
by a television show that celebrates values contrary to our tradition.
The Kapampangans have discovered lately that victory in the polls
is but an initial step towards a journey of great struggle. Similarly,
we in FALCON have realized that our outrage should be translated into
a common action, and our unity should be sustained through common
vision and consistent advocacy.
We here present may yet represent a few, but given the motivation
to uphold our heritage and our name, we can bring down the goliaths
of fragmented, parochial and regionalistic attitudes that have marked
our communities here in the States. Filipinos of good will and unfailing
hope have done it back home. They have proven that it is possible.
In the name of all Kapampangans of hope, I enjoin you, my fellow
FilAmericans, let us not forget the Philippines, the first country
we loved. I enjoin you, FALCON members, to help in cooking a good
bibingka. Together, let us embrace the advancement of good governance
and responsible citizenship and make it one of our primary advocacies.
Nuan ka, America, God bless America!
Luid ka, Pilipinas, Hail, Philippines!
Speech delivered by PamagCUSA Chairman, Ram
Pineda, during the FALCON Summit at the Millenium Biltmore Hotel,
Los Angeles, CA, April 26, 2008