Throughout our 99-day lockdown, I watched and read the news more frequently to see which countries have (and have not) taken good care of their citizens physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically. The leaders of New Zealand, Taiwan, and Germany have been lauded for their decisive but empathetic responses.
At the local government level, we have local leaders who shine in their efforts to serve their constituencies comprehensively, caringly and creatively. We can cite, for example, Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto, Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.
The European Commission defines public administration as covering six core areas: a strategic framework for public administration reform; policy development and coordination; public service and human resource management; accountability; service delivery; and public financial management.
One definition of public service delivery is the “mechanism through which public services are delivered to the public by local, municipal, or federal governments.” Examples are trash disposal, street cleaning, education and health services. However, during a health crisis, especially one aggravated by the world’s longest COVID-19-related lockdown, the public expects more from government.
When citizens, most of whom are daily wage earners or informal sector workers, are forced to stay at home for two and a half months, they look to government to satisfy their physiological and safety needs. Every management student can tell you that these are the two lowest levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Physiological needs are what we require for survival. Safety refers to the need for physical and financial protection.
Metro Manila was under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 15 to May 15, and under modified ECQ (MECQ) from May 16 to 31. Thankfully, June ushered in the more benign general community quarantine (GCQ), during which businesses have started to reopen.
June is a historically significant month for Manileños. On June 24, 1571, the conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi declared Manila the first municipal government in the country under Spanish colonial rule. Manila’s 449th anniversary is therefore a good time to evaluate how Mayor Isko has handled the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns.
Sustenance. The city government gave ayuda (aid) in the form of several kilos of rice, canned goods and spaghetti to every family; food packs and hygiene kits to more than 242,000 kinder to grade 12 public school students; and fortified powder drinks to about 150,000 seniors. It also gave food to various groups such as jeepney, tricycle and pedicab drivers, and former Manila residents now relocated in Cavite. And it has not forgotten to give cakes to more than 33,000 senior citizens with birthdays from March to June!
More importantly, the city government gave every family in Manila’s 896 barangays P1,000 during the ECQ, and another P1,000 during the MECQ. The first tranche amounted to about P620 million while the second amounted to almost P660 million (additional names were registered with the barangays). It gave P5,000 each to 11,000 public elementary and high school personnel. It continued distributing the P1,000 monthly allowance to Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and Universidad de Manila students, and P500 monthly allowance to public school Grade 12 students. It continued giving the P500 monthly allowance to senior citizens, first in cash, and now through PayMaya cards that also serve as senior citizen ID’s.
Its Kadiwa Rolling Stores continue to visit various barangays so that residents can buy farm and other food products at prices kept low because of the absence of middlemen.
Shelter. The city government temporarily houses street dwellers (even non-Manila residents) in various shelters (e.g., San Andres Sports Complex and Del Pan Sports Complex), where they can have three meals a day, hygiene kits, sleeping mats, and private sleeping quarters per family. The government has also housed health workers, seafarers, OFWs and stranded local travelers.
For the long term, the city government will build Tondominiums and Binondominiums, four 15-story buildings for informal settlers. Groundbreaking for the Tondominiums was done early this month.
Safety. As of June 19, the city government has conducted 12,952 RT-PCR tests and 115,411 rapid tests for free. It has built 12 quarantine facilities for patients who have tested positive based on rapid COVID-19 tests or who have COVID-19 symptoms. It has also established the 66-bed Manila Infectious Disease Control Center at Sta. Ana Hospital which has sent home more than 100 recovered COVID-19 patients. It has purchased equipment (e.g., analog and portable digital X-rays) for its six public hospitals. It has installed disinfection booths at the Manila City Hall and city hospitals. It has launched Manila.StaySafe.ph, which helps in contact tracing, health condition reporting, and social distancing.
The city government has also launched its online payment and financial services system (Go Manila app) so that taxpayers don’t have to go to (and from) City Hall, line up to pay and risk getting infected with COVID-19.
Sanitation. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 situation, the city government continues its dengue prevention activities, drainage unclogging, and garbage removal from Manila Bay and esteros in preparation for the rainy season. It regularly cleans major streets, such as C.M. Recto Avenue, where farm produce is sold nightly to wholesalers during the quarantine.
Schooling. The city government will purchase110,000 tablets with SIM cards for students and 11,000 laptops and pocket Wi-Fi devices for teachers to help them with online classes. The SIM cards come with a 10-GB monthly load with free 2 GB of data for YouTube.
Source of income. The city government has partnered with delivery company Foodpanda to employ 500 of Manila’s tricycle drivers. It has also hired unemployed Manileños, including PWD’s, to produce one million face masks to be distributed, one mask per family. The mayor also promotes during his nightly report products made by SME’s that are sent to his office.
The city government has been able to do all these by quickly realigning this year’s budget. As Mayor Isko succinctly put it, “Unahin ang bituka bago kalsada.” The government has also been able to tap many private sponsors”•both individuals and organizations–who willingly give resources because they see their donations benefiting the citizens rather than the politicians.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, some people have criticized the way the city government documents its accomplishments on social media and on its website. However, such documentation helps achieve another public administration principle: accountability, or enabling constituents to examine the actions of their government leaders. Sadly, previous mayors of Manila did not practice accountability to the same degree, if at all. But that is another story.
Proverbs 29:2a states, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” Manileños have been quick to return the love as evidenced by, say, the numerous positive comments and “likes,” “hearts” and “care” emoticons they share on the mayor’s and the city government’s Facebook walls and during Mayor Isko’s nightly reports broadcasted on Facebook Live.
Having been out of the country in May 2019, I did not get to vote for a mayor. Honestly, I do not know if I would have voted for Mayor Isko. But having lived in Manila all of my life, I can say that he is the best mayor the nation’s capital has had in the past five decades. I hope he runs for mayor again so that he can continue the work he has begun in Manila.
Salamat, Mayor Isko. On behalf of all Manileños, maraming salamat po sa masugid ninyong serbisyo.
Marissa C. Marasigan teaches business communication, corporate social responsibility, and management subjects in the undergraduate and MBA programs of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of De La Salle University, its faculty, and its administrators.