“Our next leaders have a daunting task ahead of them.”
It’s a week before election day when tremendous energy and resources are being expended to win the people’s mandate to govern our nation in the next six years. As polarizing democratic elections tend to be, whoever rises to power will need the help of the brightest minds of the land in navigating the evolving complexity and dynamics of nation building in a world full of crises.
The latest in the ongoing series of Stratbase ADR Institute’s policy forums fittingly presented four of the think tank’s 16 special policy papers. These will soon be published as part of a set of sage recommendations from some of the country’s top thought leaders on critical reforms in governance, foreign policy, health, environment, and sustainable economic recovery.
Setting the tone of the online forum on “Impactful Governance Reforms for the Next Administration,” Stratbase ADRi president Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit stated that at the core of elections is an opportunity to set the course of the country’s future that needs a forward-looking governance outlook, whoever the leaders of the next administration will be.
“I would argue that it should be three-pronged, anchored on the collaboration of government, private sector and civil society,” he said.
He lamented how graft and corruption continue to be a challenge and emphasized the need for effective change through reforms.
“We need to demand transparency, accountability and integrity in government – that we should consider the character and capacity of those wooing our vote,” Manhit said.
Dr. Francisco “Kiko” Magno, Trustee & Program Convenor of Stratbase ADRi and De La Salle University Professor of Political Science, who authored the special paper, “Governance agenda for development in a post COVID-19 Philippines,” said that corruption could be countered by converting it to a high-risk activity. This ill needs to be addressed through prevention strategies that reduce monopolistic power, limit and clarify discretion, and promote accountability in governments.
Prof. Magno cited the findings of the Worldwide Governance Indicators to give the next government a proper context relative to ASEAN countries. He pointed out that though there were improvements with the Philippines at 5th place in percentile rank (2015-2019), when it comes to government effectiveness we are at the lower rung. In the indicator on control of corruption, the Philippines is ranked seventh out of ten ASEAN countries in the observance of the rule of law.
To improve government effectiveness, he proposed the passage of an e-government act that would enable interoperability of data and processes to foster efficiency in the delivery of services.
Dr. Sherwin Ona, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Development Studies, De La Salle University-Manila on Digitalization Agenda 2022 Towards a Resilient Philippine through Digital Transformation and Inclusion calls for the development of “The Digitalization Agenda 2022” that will operationalize digital transformation, digital inclusion, and the protection of the country’s digital infrastructure by shifting from the current cybercrime perspective to cyber defense.
Dr. Ona commented that though the Philippines has laws on ease of doing business and the National ID Act, these are fragmented, and implementation is a tremendous challenge. However, he pointed out how our leaders “don’t really have an idea of integrating government services or embracing the idea of digital transformation.”
“If the incoming administration will embrace digital transformation as a way forward, it should have a whole-of-society philosophy. It should, in my opinion, embrace the idea of digital by default, privacy by design, and good governance principles,” Dr. Ona said.
Dr. Rizal Buendia, Philippine Country Expert, Global V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg and ADRi Non-resident fellow, presenting his special paper “Lessons and prospects in Philippine political governance: cutting across regimes from Marcos to Duterte,” stated that the continuing failure of governance and unrelenting corruption, sustained elitism in political systems, problems of peace and order, poverty, injustice and concentration of power in the central government for more than three decades after the fall of Marcos regime have led to the rise of populism.
“Holistic governance promotes an integrated government organization. The integration requires the changing of values, structure in government operation,” Buendia said.
Ms. Zy-za Nadine Suzara Executive Director, iLEAD and author of the special paper “Rethinking Public Spending Priorities Towards an Inclusive Recovery” critiqued the effectivity of infrastructure development as the main strategy for economic recovery and emphasized the need for a national budget that supports a more inclusive economic recovery.
She calls for a rethink of the current set of budget priorities “towards one that will boost health systems and promote inclusive economic recovery; implement structural reforms that would increase the capacity of government agencies to respond to the crisis as well as the capacity of local government to use their funds; and reestablish open and participatory mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in procurement and use of COVID-19 funds.”
These are just a few of the gamut of problems and solutions that we need the leadership to deliver to the people. We need leaders with the gravitas, competence, and true integrity to lead the nation out of this crisis, not create new ones.