The votes have been counted and the winners of the electoral contests proclaimed.
Now, the real work begins, when the victors assume their posts on July 1.
For those who want to become effective local chief executives, the Galing Pook Foundation offers some suggestions based on the lessons learned from the best local government programs in the Philippines that it has recognized since 1993.
The foundation was one of the resource institutions that was formed following the passage of the Local Government Code of 1992. Founded by individual and institutional advocates of good governance in 1993, it promotes innovation and excellence in local governance and seeks out and recognizes best local government practices for adoption in other communities in the country.
Vision, mission, goals
Dr. Eddie Dorotan, the Galing Pook executive director, said the first thing that the local government officials should do is to chart and track their governance journey.
This means formulating their vision, mission and goals and the corresponding strategies and performance indicators.
This way, they will have a clear picture of what they want to accomplish by the end of their term, and what they need to do to transform their vision into reality for the benefit of their constituents.
In San Fernando, Pampanga, for example, the local leadership chose a vision statement that defined their goal to develop a dynamic, competitive and sustainable local economy. One of the ways this was to be achieved was by easing the process of setting up businesses in the city, thus increasing the ranks of local entrepreneurs.
Another clearly defined objective was to target the poor in the community as they are the ones who need the most help. This means knowing who and where they are and what they really need to improve their situation.
In the cities of Taguig and Las Piñas, the local governments prioritized housing for the poor through the Condo Living for the Poor and Integrated Shelter and Land Tenure for the Poor programs, respectively.
With their need for shelter thus addressed, poor residents felt more confident and able to free up resources for other necessities like food and education for their children.
In the province of Isabela where shelter is not as much of a problem, the winning intervention was price support for rice and corn, thus ensuring the farmers of a profit from their crops when market prices drop below their production cost.
Dorotan, who is himself a Galing Pook awardee for his achievements as mayor of Irosin, Sorsogon, in the 1990s, said it pays to empower the barangay, the smallest political unit. The barangay is closest to the people thus are in the position to provide the quickest and most lasting help to the constituents, he said.
Empower the barangay
He cited the case of Barangay Luz in Cebu where the women are actively involved in environment programs, such as the recycling of waste into new products like bags from old newspapers.
Dorotan also suggests that the local government officials find ways for different groups to band together so that they can get things done better and faster.
Children in the community can also be tapped to lead the change in the community, he said.
In Marikina City, for example, the mayor spearheaded a program to encourage the children to collect recyclable waste. Then in conflict-ridden Cotabato, children are provided educational materials so they can learn about peace and living in harmony with other people and cultures.
In Parañaque, the city government provides adolescent-friendly health services and in Naga City, the youth are encouraged to take part in an internship program so that they will know how political institutions work.
Don’t be afraid to tax
Dorotan said local government officials should also not be afraid to impose new taxes as long as the proceeds will directly benefit the constituents.
In San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, the city administration imposed a water levy whose proceeds are being used to manage the watershed and ensure a continuous water supply. Quezon City has streamlined its fiscal regime, which has made it among the richest local governments in the country.
Dorotan also stressed the importance of putting in place programs to push transparency and accountability so that the people will know exactly where public funds are coming from and where they are going.
In Pampanga, during the governorship of ex-priest Ed Panlilio, the public was informed of the proceeds from the province’s quarrying operations. In Naga City, during the term of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, information on programs and contract biddings were made available to the public through the Internet under the city’s e-governance program.
The 3 E’s
Indeed, there are many ways for local government officials to truly make a positive impact in their communities. But for Galing Pook, it is vital for the programs to have the so-called 3 E’s. These are: effectiveness, or doing the right thing; efficiency, doing things right; and empowerment, which means education, mobilization of the poor and communal ownership of vital programs.
Thus, it is important to vote for competent and deserving leaders with clear development goals, as doing so increases the chances of a better life for the village, town, city and province, Dorotan said.
In the sixth-class municipality of Limasawa in Leyte, for example, malnutrition among preschool children has been reduced to a minimum and maternal death has become a thing of the past because of innovative programs implemented by the local government.
In San Mateo, Isabela, farmers are earning more because they have learned to plant mongo between the rice-cropping seasons.
In Nueva Ecija, onion farmers are assured of a ready market for their produce and at the right price following their supply agreement with Manila-based fastfood companies.
In Upi, Maguindanao, literacy has increased to nine of 10 children, from just two out of 10 after just six years. In Misamis Oriental, public hospitals are the envy of even their private counterparts because of the superior medical services placed within easy reach of the residents, especially the poor.
Behind these accomplishments are local leaders with a development vision and a will to transform that vision into reality by winning over the participation of the citizens and support of the private sector, national government agencies and nongovernment organizations, said the Galing Pook Foundation.
Vote right leaders
Dorotan stressed that citizens should think hard and put the right people in government, particularly since the Local Government Code that was passed in 1992 has increased the power of local government officials with the devolution of national government functions to the local governments.
“When we decide on whom to vote, we should look at track record and credibility and integrity. Once they are voted into office, track record, whether in government or in the private sector, will determine how they will fare,” he said.
Dorotan, who was the chief of Irosin’s district hospital before successfully running for mayor in 1992 against an entrenched political dynasty, said there is a prevailing view that all local candidates are the same, so it is just easier to vote for the highest bidder.
“Many will say that ‘whoever wins will not really matter to me, I will remain poor’. But voting for the right leader does make a difference as seen in the Galing Pook award-winning local governments,” he said.
Example of Robredo
Perhaps the best example is Robredo, who rose to national prominence because of his accomplishments as mayor of Naga City. During the 19 years that he served as Naga chief executive, Robredo was able to harness the collective strength of the people, NGOs, private sector, aid agencies and government agencies to implement 14 different programs that won awards from the Galing Pook Foundation.
Over the 20 years of the foundation’s awards-giving program, Dorotan said the value of the local government leader cannot be underemphasized.
While the award goes to the innovative program and not to the local leader himself, Dorotan said the programs would not have been possible without high-value leadership, the type that should have been put in office last May 13.