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Academe can help promote good governance

/ 01:52 AM September 08, 2015
VAN DEN BRINK, Robredo and Magno      Linda B. Bolido

VAN DEN BRINK, Robredo and Magno              Linda B. Bolido

Colleges and universities could and should do more as institutions of higher learning to promote and ensure transparency and good governance.

This was stressed during the recent forum on “Sustaining Governance Reforms for Inclusive Growth” hosted by the De La Salle University Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance (JMRIG).

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Dr. Francisco A. Magno, JMRIG director, underscored the need to “strengthen knowledge networks and knowledge platforms” to empower citizens and enable them to participate actively and monitor more efficiently what the government was doing.

“Citizens should engage local government units” and help identify solutions to problems, he said. Fostering knowledge through the engagement of universities could empower citizens to demand for an open government, he added.

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“Knowledge networks” that could consist of university researchers, think tanks, and civil society groups could demand and analyze government data, Magno said, as he stressed the importance of passing the freedom of information (FOI) bill “to institutionalize open governance.”

A member of the audience said higher education institutions should not just help ease citizens’ access to information but should help keep local government officials, many of whom are not abreast of legislative developments, informed on new laws.

“Perhaps they (officials) can enroll in courses that will keep them updated,” he said.

Magno said there was already a training program for newly elected officials. Citizens could demand that officials, particularly in appointive positions, should be more knowledgeable.

Modern media, Magno said, gives citizens the capacity to monitor how much their officials know.

“Active citizen monitoring may be the push needed to make officials expand their knowledge,” the JMRIG director said. He added that several schools were offering local governance training.

Rep. Leni G. Robredo of the third district of Camarines Sur said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) should require local officials to “undergo training on the use of statistics and information, be updated on new laws and (learn how to) gather information and statistics.”

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As for giving people access to information, she said the system should be user-friendly.

Rogier van den Brink, World Bank lead economist for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, said the academe could be part of a coalition to get things moving.

He compared the current Philippine situation, where corruption and inefficiency mark government service, to the period from the 1880s to the 1920s in the United States.

He said many of the problems Filipinos complain about now were major issues for Americans during that period. But he said reform in one sector “can lead to demand for reforms in other areas. When citizens experience better service, the demand increases for further improvement,” Van den Brink said.

Robredo, the widow of Jesse Robredo after whom the JMRIG was named, said her late husband’s commitment to transparency, accountability and a government more open to the people helped him advance reforms as mayor of Naga City. Jesse was DILG secretary when he died in a plane crash.

Robredo said access to information empowers citizens, who can help find solutions that are better than those arrived at in board rooms.

The forum preceded the inauguration of the Knowledge for Development Community (KDC), a partnership between the World Bank and JMRIG.

A KDC is a school, policy or research institution in the Philippines that promotes knowledge-sharing and citizen engagement on development and governance issues. It is a partnership between the World Bank and the institution concerned.

La Salle president Brother Raymundo B. Suplido, FSC, said, “The KDC shall serve as a knowledge hub for key stakeholders to collaborate and coalesce in addressing current development challenges. [It] provides a unique platform for universities to engage with decision-makers and citizens on policy development and advocacy where the universities’ ability to conduct research, teach courses, apply technology and implement extension services are optimized to foster inclusive development.”

He said KDCs could serve as knowledge hubs in documenting, analyzing and sharing knowledge on reform efforts.

Motoo Konishi, World Bank country director for the Philippines, said that with the La Salle KDC, the communities now total 17 across the country—eight in Metro Manila, four in other parts of Luzon, three in the Visayas and two in Mindanao.

He said the World Bank believes “good governance is critical to achieving our own mission of eliminating extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity.”

Apart from DLSU-JMRIG and the World Bank-KDC in Taguig, the local network includes the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman School of Economics, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, National Economic and Development Authority, Asian Institute of Management, House of Representatives-Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department, Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, St. Paul University Philippines, UP Los Baños, Ateneo de Naga University, Palawan State University, Central Philippine University, University of San Carlos, Silliman University, University of Southeastern Philippines and Notre Dame University.  Linda B. Bolido

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