Democracy and development

>> Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ike Señeres

Many of us would think of democracy in terms of our right to vote. While that may actually be true, there are many other rights that are vested upon us as citizens of a democratic country, rights that we would tend to forget and ignore. However, given the fact that democracy is a social contract, it is actually a two-way street, in other words there is a price to pay for these rights, and the price for that is the exercise of our duties. That two-way street could for example be demonstrated in our right to vote, which is actually our duty to. Here in the Philippines, we do not have jury duty, but if we had it, that could also be interpreted as our right to participate in our justice system.
In a tripartite system of government like the Philippines, it would be good to participate in the processes of the three branches of government, but unfortunately, we do not have the rights to do that, because the only right we have is to elect the people who will make our laws and who will implement those laws. Sad to say, we are completely shut out in the justice system that interprets those laws, and that is why it would have been good to also adopt the jury system here. Somehow, someway, the public consultation of the Senate and House committees could provide the opportunities for the people to participate in the lawmaking process, but it seems that there is really no organized system for doing that, that is perhaps the reason why not too many people get invited.
Perhaps not really by intention or design, the issuance of Executive Order No. 2 (Freedom of Information) by President Rodrigo RoaDuterte has opened the opportunities for the people to participate in the executive side of governance, assuming that they would want to. Perhaps it is really not just a coincidence, but the issuance of Executive Order No. 6 (Citizen’s Complaint Center) by President Duterte seems to have completed the loop, because the people could now call up any government agency to complain about anything, backed by the information that they are now able to gather, now empowered by EO 2. As I understand it, the government is now making provisions so that the people could not only call, but also send text and email messages, aside from being able to use mobile apps and social networks.
It seems that participatory governance is now a buzz word that is coming out of the Duterte Administration. Perhaps the earliest sign of this is the issuance of Executive Order No. 1 (Attainment of Development Goals) by Duterte, declaring poverty reduction as its primary goal and providing for consultations with the Local Government Units (LGUs), clearly implying that the Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) will also be involved, especially at the local levels. It is worthwhile to note that depending on who is using the term, participatory governance is also called participatory democracy. I really have nothing against the latter term, but it seems to be redundant, because in the first place, democracy is supposed to be participatory.
As stipulated in EO 1, the Office of the Cabinet Secretary (OCS) shall now have supervision over the 12 agencies that are directly involved in poverty reduction and the attainment of our development goals. That being the case, it is understood that the OCS will now be consulting directly with the LGUs and indirectly with the NGOs. By force of necessity and in compliance with the Local Government Code (LGC), the LGUs would now have to actively consult their own Local Development Councils, in case they are not doing it now. As provided for in the LGC, certain accredited NGOs are supposed to be represented in these councils, thus ensuring participatory governance, as it is supposed to be.
Although it is only the Philippine Development Plan that is mentioned in EO 1, it is clearly implied that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations are included in the scope of responsibilities of the OCS, because these two sets of goals are definitely interrelated with each other. As of now, there seems to be no government agency that is directly responsible for the monitoring and reporting the status of achieving the SDG goals. By logical inference however, the entity that could do that is the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), although strictly speaking, it is not really a government agency.
I recall that during the period of effectivity of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it was not also clear which agency was really responsible for monitoring and reporting the status of achieving the MDG goals. That is water under the bridge now, because we did not achieve most of those goals in time for the 2015 deadline. Looking forward now, we now have the chance to achieve the SDG goals in time for the 2030 deadline. With 14 years ahead of us, we still have the time to organize our system of coordination, hopefully bringing in the PCSD into the loop. Since climate change is a challenge that could also affect the achievement of our goals, we should also bring in the Climate Change Commission (CCC) into the loop.
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