President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. must focus on governance if he wants the country to recover from the economic crisis, shift from a consumption-led economy to an investment driven one to generate more jobs, narrow the poverty gap, and provide a better quality of life for Filipinos.
This was the main takeaway in “Philippine Governance: Lessons and Prospects for the Marcos Jr. Administration,” during a recent forum organized by top think-tank Stratbase ADR Institute and advocacy group DemocracyWatch.
“To build the Filipino nation, we need a three-way trusting relationship among the government, private sector, and civil society,” said Professor Victor Andres Manhit, president of Stratbase Group.
Edwin Santiago, a non-resident fellow for the Institute and associate professor at De La Salle University, suggested “we chart our progress through things we can measure, and stressed the importance of watching the Philippine performance in various global indices.”
Specifically, we should watch the World Governance Index, Ease of Doing Business, Global Competitiveness Index, Index of Economic Freedom, Rule of Law Index, Corruption Perceptions Index, and the Open Budget Index, Santiago said.
How the Philippines fared in these indicators vis-a-vis other countries will guide on the aspects of governance we need to focus on, he added.
According to him, the Philippines registered only marginal improvement in the World Governance Index, specifically in political stability and absence of violence, and government effectiveness, and in only three of 10 indicators in ease of doing business.
Performance in the remaining four indices all worsened or is worsening, he added.
“In the final analysis, what is important is that the evaluation of any administration should be done objectively and that it comes with a forward-looking perspective,” Santiago said.
Dr. Rizal Buendia, also a non-resident fellow of the Stratbase Institute and Philippine Country Expert for the Global V-Dem4 Institute, talked about the importance not just of governance but holistic governance.
“Public management is built largely around the notion of performance and improving the effectiveness of public institutions,” he said.
He then linked governance to information systems, saying there is a need to integrate the front-end government parts, or those that deal with and provide services to citizens.
He said the failure of the bureaucracy to carry out its tasks and respond to urgent challenges erode the political legitimacy of government.
“If transformation is to be realized, government people have to learn to participate actively in the process of integration, give up some political or organizational interests, and mobilize resources to appropriate agencies and offices,” Buendia said.
Dr. Francisco Magno, full professor of political science and trustee and program convenor for the Institute, acknowledged politics but emphasized that it must be an instrument for achieving development and sustainability in society.
Magno instead advised the current leadership to focus on public service, based on meeting the needs of the people.
“Anticipatory governance – using the future to create multi-lateral learning and foster intelligent and inspired organizations – should provide the path for Marcos Jr. to veer away from the Marcos Sr. legacy and to move toward the future,” he said.
In closing, Prof. Manhit called on civil society, the private sector, and concerned individuals to hold leaders accountable for the reform programs they said they would pursue.
“We must continue engaging with government, partnering when and where possible for various efforts.”
This will be how we should assess Marcos Jr.’s leadership, he said.
“All governments must be evaluated objectively across widely accepted governance standards. This is how we help our country become better,” Manhit said.