Environment

US-AIR Luzon- Transporting Hope for the Philippines

Posted on 2015/11/06

The Luzon leg of the United States- Alumni For Institutional Reform (US- AIR) Program flew high on August 14, 2015 with the theme “Institutionalizing Reforms to Promote Political Transparency and Good Governance at the Embassy of the United States of America, Manila. Participants of the said forum came from various sectors active in the advocacy and alumni of various US Department of State - sponsored programs.

The program was opened by US Embassy’s Political Counselor Eric Kneedler.

The first resource speaker was Professor Ronald U. Mendoza, the Executive Director of the Asian Institute Management- Policy Center. He lectured on “Accountability and Transparency: An Anti-corruption Campaign”.
*AIM Policy Center’s Prof. Ronald U. Mendoza

Dr. Mendoza stated that corruption is the result of the formula where monopoly is added with discretion minus accountability. The discovered luxury items of high profiled prisoners in Muntinlupa, the unexplained wealth of ex- Chief Justice Renato Corona, the billion dollar Bataan Power Plant, and the 32 million dollar Claude Monet painting from the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family showed, how many institutions in the country lack professionalism and commitment, and are not taking part in the holistic combat against corruption. He said that a study also showed that in terms of illegally acquired wealth, only 40% is recovered thus; this scheme allowed corrupt people to continue running for office as they still have the necessary resources.

Prof. Mendoza then proceeded to discuss political dynasty. Though the speaker emphasized that there are political dynasties that brought about positive changes in their respective states, citing Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, still international and local evidence shows that political dynasties are detrimental to development and good governance. The speaker further added that not passing an Anti-Political Dynasty Bill is providing a perverse incentive for others to become fat dynasties (family members occupy various political posts simultaneously) because the fatness dictates the control over the province and the resources it can deploy. With these patterns, dynasties seem to be highly correlated with worst governance and worst development outcome on average.

In addition, he said that poverty changes the thinking of people making them focus more on short-term goals than the future. Anything long-term is heavily discounted since what is immediate becomes the priority. In a study conducted by AIM during the 2013 midterm election in 17 Metro Manila cities, result showed that almost 40% of the respondents had indirectly sold their votes compared to the almost 19% who directly did. Vote buying fits in the discussion of corruption since it is part of the preservation of corrupt acts and corrupt people. However, this also shows that as long as the economic growth is not inclusive this will continue to be the trend as voters will remain vulnerable to the kind of politicians that can give them what they immediately need.

He also showed the case of 4P’s program as part of the social protection system and explained that as opposed to being mere dole outs, study shows that beneficiary families are more receptive to provide budget for the education of their children compared to the non-beneficiaries. This program was designed not to give immediate impact on poverty, but to build human capital and is an actual investment for the future. In addition, he also explained that 4P’s gives measurable and tangible results compared to the prevalent patronage system in country.

As a parting message, Prof. Mendoza pointed out that to combat corruption we must not only go after corrupt officials. There must be a holistic approach to change the way we think and how we want this country to be. He presented the case of Parang, Maguinadanao wherein pictures and disbursement reports of fund are publicly posted as a practice of transparency and accountability.

The second speaker for the forum was former Isabela Governor and former Commissioner of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Maria Gracia Cielo M. Padaca who tackled the topic “Political Participation and Electoral Reforms”. Her discussion started recalling her childhood as a polio survivor and how she has spent her life pursuing goals despite her disability. She then grew up to become a local radio broadcaster which she credited as the reason why her campaign brought in a lot of interested crowd as they have been hearing her for a very long time already. She described her campaign when she first ran for governor with little to no resources at all as opposed to her competitor who was capable of paying for campaign materials and advertisements. She prided that it was her proven sincerity and integrity as a broadcaster which made people believed in and voted for her.

She also shared about her life as the Commission on Elections Commissioner and the transition from manual to automated voting. As the Commissioner, she encountered various problems on the methods of campaigning and of vote buying. She also cited how there is lack of security and privacy in the actual casting of votes. Though she has approached various officials to help address these issues before, these problems remain to exist to this day. She emphasized on the need to develop a better and more protected system of voting as she believes this will help eliminate other problems such as vote buying.

As what has been approved by COMELEC was the folder, she called on citizens to demand from their respective polling precincts to position it in such a way that the secrecy of the ballots will be preserved. She also pointed out the flaws of automated voting wherein people can see who is being voted upon through the portions being shaded.
*Ms. Padaca’s lecture on ballot secrecy folder

In the end, she encouraged everyone to help in educating the public to voting wisely and to do away with personality election. She also asked that the participants help in curbing the problem of vote buying and to always demand for transparency and clean election. She even encouraged the participants who have political inclination to participate as front-runners and run in public office. She believed that to see real change, we have to put people who are competent, capable and honest.
Part of the US-AIR Program is the awarding of mini grants wherein participants will implement projects in their respective communities to address relevant concerns (environment and good governance/political transparency). The chosen proposals recipient of P40,000.00 mini grant were as follows:

Mindanao:
1. Sagip Kabataan Project - Bukidnon Legal Aid Center MeraphiPimentel
2. Creating a Music Video Advocacy and Education Campaign to Heighten Awareness and Care for Bitan-ag Creek - Maria Angeles Dano - Hinosolango, PhD - USG Alumna
Luzon:
1. Production of Manual for the Aksyon Kalikasan (Eco Actions Ph) Barangay Green Governance Training-Writeshop - Aksyon Kalikasan -Roy Cabonegro
2. Congress Watch - ANGKOP - Atty. Eirene Jhone E. Aguila
3. Garbage Disposal and/or Waste Recycling- TOSP - Eddie Hilario Saracanlao

*US AIR Luzon participants’ “wacky” pose
The Second Phase will be conducted in both areas (Mindanao and Luzon) six (6) months after the conclusion of the First Phase. It will revisit the programs implemented by the participants, evaluate and implement the best practices and target the problem areas.
US-AIR Mindanao is now flying high for Mother Earth. US-AIR Luzon is also now transporting hope for this country through its thrust in political transparency and good governance. We fervently hope and pray that we can sustain the momentum. We eagerly await a safe and productive landing until we fly again!


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e-mail:liceolegalaidcenter@gmail.com
twitter: twitter.com/liceolegalaid
facebook: fb.com/liceolegalaidrn

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FB: fb.com/ndulac
twitter: twitter.com/ndulac
Instagram: instagram.com/ndulac
email: ndulac@gmail.com

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