A Call for Good Governance

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 career diplomats.

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 essential.

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 getting.

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.



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


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