‘The change that we seek’
When a new President takes over the helm of the affairs of the nation, public expectation soars. The pressure must be extraordinarily high especially on the present administration as its presidential campaign hinged on the slogan, “Change is coming.”
Many remember the campaign promise that crimes will be eradicated in six months, which is frankly not realistic, considering the essential reforms that must first be in place, not just in the court system, but on all pillars of justice, including the community. While a strong political will is a must, a President cannot do it alone, by mere reliance on the executive department agencies to implement the laws and move forward with policies. The executive, judicial and even legislative branches of government must synchronize their acts, with the indispensable collaboration, of course, with civil society organizations and the private sector.
The alarming spate of extrajudicial killings happening the past weeks is perhaps a visible attempt to show that concrete steps are being done towards fighting criminality. But they should never be tolerated and must be condemned as each person has a right to be treated with honor and dignity. It should be emphasized that we have legal processes under our criminal justice system that have to be respected and followed, if we are to have peaceful communities and political stability. A slide to barbarism is definitely not the change that Filipinos want to see, now and in the future.
With such a strong promise by the Duterte administration to make tangible improvements in the daily lives of our citizens in the next six years, each cabinet Secretary must now be looking at strategies to be able to effectively deliver doable goals, with the blessings of the President, of course. Vice President Leni Robredo, as concurrent Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council head, is tapping private sector to help her ease off a backlog of over a million housing units. Secretary of Agriculture Manny Piñol commits to reforming agriculture and fight illegal fishing and needs the necessary inputs from all the stakeholders.
The appointment of staunch pro-conservation advocate Gina Lopez, as top honcho in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has understandably generated a lot of mixed responses, depending on where one is coming from: definite excitement from civil society advocates and concern from the mining sector specifically. Secretary Lopez is committed to effect compliance with the laws for the protection of the environment and at the same time improve the socioeconomic situation of our people.
The presence of civil society leaders in the briefings conducted by heads of bureaus for the new DENR Secretary invited by the environment secretary herself was unprecedented and signaled a more visible and much welcome participation of civil society in decision-making in DENR. This is a readily visible change that many have wanted to take place in the agency – a participative, transparent, and responsive.
I am reminded of this proposed innovative system at the DENR that then Naga City, in Bicol, mayor Jesse Robredo, championed: the creation of much-lauded People’s Council, where representatives of people’s organizations had the opportunity to be part of governance and ensured that the mandates of the difference departments in the City Hall are performed well. Trust in government will definitely be restored if this is institutionalized.
We look back and hope that the days when the complaints of the public on the agency’s issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificate without public consultation, obstinate refusal to release copies of the proponent’s Environmental Impact Statement justifying that is a confidential document, and the delay in responding to queries and response from citizens, will be over.
It should be mentioned that, as an advocate who relies on the power of the law to exact delivery of service from public officials, and using the provisions of the empowering R.A. 9485, the Anti-Red Tape Act, as pillar of support, I am no longer faced with such issues as I am provided the documents that are requested.
But, that is the point. The prompt and efficient service should be delivered to all, without fear or favor, irrespective of who the requesting party is.
We are confident that with the plan to mainstream public participation in governance at the DENR, the agency will transform its image into one which has the interest of the planet and the people as a top-notch priority. This is the kind of change that we like to be a legacy under any administration.
Of course, there are many public officers and employees at the DENR and other public sector offices whose heart for service and dedication are beyond question. They are champions in the quest for good governance and sustainability. Unfortunately, some are stymied by the ill effects of patronage politics that still prevails. Thus, they welcome and appreciate the support that citizens from all sectors willingly and visibly show to them and the agency. In that way, they are spared from the clutches of the game called politics.
Finally, we should learn to look at ourselves as nation-builders and not rely solely on government to do its job. US President Barack Obama’s thoughts on this are worth reflecting upon today, and each day. He said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
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