Posted on March 29, 2021
By Pauline Fernandez
The rise of a populist and autocratic leader in the country has normalized a style of governance that promotes the withering of democratic institutions and processes. As the nation struggles to win back its soul, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales reminds the Filipino people: Don't be silent amid abuse.
These words prompted US Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG) to host its first online town hall meeting, Loida Nicolas-Lewis, USFGG president, said. Co-organized with INCITEGov, the activity provides a space to problematize the country's foremost governance issues of widespread and continuing corruption, blatant lack of accountability, absence of the rule of law, and breakdown of the justice system, among others.
Carpio-Morales discussing the different elements of good governance.
Carpio-Morales cited a Social Weather Stations survey conducted in November 2020 and released on March 19 which revealed that 65 percent of Filipinos find it "dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical" of the current administration.
"Filipinos are silenced by the lack of opportunity for introspection amidst daily struggles to bring food to the table, by the overwhelming false claims and misinformation, by intimidation and laws that terrorize expression, by extrajudicial execution. Silence is a threat to democracy," she said.
Despite this culture of silence, Carpio-Morales enjoined the audience to clamor for good governance. "It is our moral responsibility to call out the government on its shortcomings. Better quality of life is a result of good governance and this is what we demand," she said.
To do so, Carpio-Morales identified the different elements of good governance: accountability, transparency, participation, rule of law, efficiency, and inclusiveness.
Accountability refers to the government's capacity to answer to its people. Carpio-Morales cited the rise in the number of slain lawyers in the country in the last five years of the Duterte administration and the government's non-response to the issue as a clear example of lack of accountability.
Meanwhile, transparency complements participatory governance. "Citizens and the electorate may create meaningful participation if equipped with the information necessary for crafting and casting their decisions," she explained. She added that a government that is elusive to affairs of national concern is detrimental because it robs the citizenry of its capacity to make decisions and participate in governance. Transparency is also one way to address chronic corruption within government.
The rule of law also serves as the bedrock of democracy. "The legitimacy of any law or jurisprudence would either sink or set sail, depending on the strengths of the sea of ethics upon which it relies buoyance and reliance," said Carpio-Morales.
Ensuring efficiency reflects a government's conscious effort to deliver essential services with urgency and with respect to the needs of its citizenry. "Government has to continuously study, innovate, and engage citizens to collate the best possible option for a program or predicament."
Lastly, inclusiveness acknowledges the existence of different sectors and "the imperative inclusion of their issues and perspectives in the design of governing a nation."
US Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG) members engaging in an open forum with Carpio-Morales strong.
She said the lawyers and legal professionals are one sector that should lead by example and be more aggressive in mobilizing engagement on good governance issues. Carpio-Morales added that this can be done by educating the youth through fora and holding public consultations.
Carpio-Morales ended the town hall meeting by encouraging the members of USFGG and other Filipinos living abroad to engage in collective efforts and be empathetic to their fellow men suffering in the Philippines.
"Don't forget your country. Love your country. Connect with your countrymen, with your country."