Happy New Year! The effects of the old year are still with us, and that is the challenge we face as the New Year comes. 2013 was not quite the benign year we expected considering that it was not an election year, or the beginning of crucial changes like duty-free Asean trade or the heating up of the political pot that comes into play in times of elections.
Natural and man-made calamities of last year must now be exorcised by organized hard work and the will to learn from how they happened so as to progress. Lessons must be taken to heart from any mistakes. If we learn from mistakes, we will have turned them from debit to credit.
Let us be prepared to have the peace process bear fruit after the signing of the memoranda of agreement with the MILF. Let that those promises come through as planned and worked for with deliberation and open-minded pragmatism. It will bring Mindanao closer to Luzon in spirit and practicality making for unity and common goals. Indeed, it will be nation-building.
Higher levels of service
One lesson to learn is for local government officials to have higher standards of service. There can be no coasting on the job of managing communities in fair weather or foul. Local government officials who have opted to be elected, worked to be elected and are now in place, must ever remain in their posts in an organized and anticipative mode where they can be leaders come whatever affects their constituents and territories.
People are demanding higher levels of service. Even relief agencies whether government or private, know that unless the local government is organized properly and effectively, not so much as a political entity but as a local service entity, their assistance will not have the maximum quality results that they are looking for. Furthermore, community cooperation for maximum and effective use of relief and rehabilitation will come only when people see their local officials identifying with them and putting them first. Politics in periods when elections are not in play must be kept in the back burner. Service delivery must come before political campaigning. In fact, service pure and simple, non-partisan and inclusive, will be noted positively come elections without the need to point it out.
Other demands that local government officials must attend to are better basic services. With the Education Department given the funding for better schools and more innovative programs for more effective schools, it behooves local officials to see to it that their communities get their fair share of attention for the education of their children. Equally so with infrastructure such as typhoon-proof buildings in the typhoon belt, better and more roads for communication and trade. Medical facilities must be kept at the optimum level and that can only come with the vigilance and pro-active stance of local government officials. I am not talking about hospital buildings but what is inside those buildings in terms of competent and compassionate personnel, availability of drugs, cleanliness and order. Too many hospitals in time of calamity are not prepared, understaffed, with no inventory of critical drugs, or already decrepit in supplies and sanitation. These conditions make them travesties of medical facilities. We have seen what incompetence and unpreparedness resulted in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda—preventable deaths occurring, dismal hospital standards, absence of staff who attended to their families first.
Local government officials may claim that the above—schools and hospitals—are national government responsibilities, but they must share in those responsibilities by observation and action when they fail or are about to fail and thus, the national government agency in charge must be notified, prodded, and engaged to set things a-right. Who will give most effective information of their state if not the local government officials who know and live in their community?
Failure of foresight is failure on the job
Local government officials must be far-sighted when it comes to environmental concerns, especially as they are related to their community. It was disappointing to note how towns along the MacArthur Highway just allowed the DENR to permit road contractors to cut ancient trees in the name of road-widening. Local government officials seemed to have just stood by saying nothing while these trees were decimated. I wonder if they at least requested new trees to be planted as part of the regular landscaping that all new roads must have. For that matter, are local government officials in coastal areas concerning themselves with overfishing, anti-environmental fishing, building on beaches and riverbanks? If alert and knowledgeable, they would not let inroads to be made against their environment by carelessness, greed or even penury. None of these should override environmental protection. The environment is the future and any local government official that fails to see the future, fails in his job.
People also expect to see their taxes translated into public good as in better and more roads, stable and inexpensive water supply, power facilities, transport and communication. While the national government seems to be taking their time to provide the above, local government officials should prod it to deliver just as their constituents are prodding them to deliver.
Let us include in the environment and the basic services, the needs for leisure spaces and activities. Sports facilities and open spaces, parks and public libraries are not extravagances but necessities for good standards of living.
And that is what it is all about, people from all walks of life, not just the educated and the articulate, or the influential or prominent but ordinary, hardworking, humble citizens are now aware that they should have better standards of living and their officials must deliver them by working with the national government, organizing their own communities, fixing their budgets and how they manage them, being honest with taxpayers’ money.
Information, communication, exposure to the outside world has come to us and now we know what we want. Those who have importuned us to elect them must now deliver.