Weighing in; Rainy Days and Mondays

Manila Bulletin, September 3, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Weighing in; Rainy Days and Mondays


Byline: PAT STO. TOMAS

IT is Monday, August 27 and it is raining tik-a-tik where I live. Tik-a-tik is Tagalog for lazy rain which means not typhoon proportion but enough to keep you indoors. As Pagasa says, this is just an LPA (low pressure area) and no storm has yet entered PAR (Philippine area of responsibility). But I am writing this column one week ahead to (over) compensate for a nearly-missed deadline last week and a sick leave that, depending on the efficacy of antibiotics, hopefully ends tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I speak before a group of newly elected congressmen on raising standards of governance and improving public service delivery. This column therefore is a dress rehearsal for that.

I speak from a bureaucrat's point of view. My government career started as a clerk in Senator Manuel P. Manahan's office, mainly carrying folders and sharpening pencils for the Senate Committee on Scientific Advancement. I also clerked for Congressman Luciano Joson of Oriental Mindoro. To this day, I continue to look at legislators with a certain degree of awe and fear.

Governance refers to the set of policies, laws, rules, regulations and judicial decisions that guide day to day management. Management implements all these so that results are achieved. More simply, those who are elected usually govern. Those who are appointed usually manage. There are people who do both. There are also people who rule - but that is for another rainy day.

When things are OK, we seldom hear anything. When something gets out of kilter, a frenzy arises. What is at fault? Is this a governance or a management issue?

Bureaucrats have their own explanations. There is the compensation theory of failure which basically says you do not pay me enough and therefore (1) you get the service that comes with pay (2) you pay peanuts, you get monkeys (3) I have to make a living elsewhere. These do not need further explanations. But there are also other theories. There is also the Influentials Theory. In essence, it says: The Devil Made Me Do It. For Devil, you may substitute President, Senator, Congressman, Governor, Mayor, Barangay Captain, You get the drift. When I was Secretary of Labor, I assumed jurisdiction over labor-management cases that did not yield to conciliation approaches. When violence erupted in the picket lines, I was brought to court for murder! Whoever said governance/management is easy?

The fact is that when it comes to governing a nation, all of us are stakeholders. Whatever the explanations are, whether we are bureaucrats or politicians, we are affected by the failures, inadvertent or willful that happen in our country. Elected officials probably have an even bigger stake.

How then do we improve governance and service delivery through legislation?

There is the path of regulation and accountability. On some of the things that matter - procurement, hiring, auditing - we are probably over-regulated. The bad news is that bad guys know how to subvert the system.

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