Local executives elected in the May 2019 elections mark their first anniversary in office this week.
We are certain that when they campaigned to be elected to their current positions, they had no way of knowing that a global pandemic would accompany the usual challenges and temptations of the job.
In those pre-COVID days, progress, inclusive growth, resilience and good governance were among the aspirations of local government units. Each LGU’s chance at success varied greatly, depending on its own history, attributes, baggage left by previous leaders, the culture of its people, and the qualities of its new leader.
It appeared that eschewing traditional practices and restrictive mindsets in the manner of governance could be good predictors of success. Younger executives, adept at technology, appreciative of science, and more inclined to make decisions based on hard data, seemed to be making good first impressions.
And then this pandemic brought the world to its knees. All of a sudden, all plans were put on hold and survival became the name of the game. Each leader grappled with the threat of the virus, and the corresponding economic consequences of the public health emergency, with whatever resources available. Some were lucky to have actual or vicarious experience running an LGU; others had a rude awakening.
While Filipinos look to the national leadership for direction, all policies, directives and assistance is delivered through the local government.
What an ordeal the past months have been—and the crisis is far from over. With the pandemic far from over, our local leaders will continue to be the face of the government, and will be the cause of our confidence in, or abhorrence of it.
The leaders who marked their first year on the job this year will be the ones to see us through as we make a transition to the so-called new normal. May best practices be highlighted, retold and replicated. May blunders and incompetence be rebuked.
These leaders’ competence or ineptitude will determine whether we simply pick up from where we left off—or whether we have to work hard to recover after losing the equivalent of many years of progress.