WITH recent events unfolding in the country’s political scene, it is not unlikely for Filipinos to feel tired of and hopeless about the instability and anomalies that plague the bureaucracy. Some find it easier to simply give up and be apathetic towards the public sector altogether. More often than not, Juan and Juana fall into the trap of generalizing about government employees as people who are incompetent, dishonest, and self-seeking due to the tarnished reputation of the Philippine government. Having a negative attitude, even subconsciously, about government is a cultural phenomenon about which Filipinos cannot be entirely faulted.
Prior to my employment at the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA), I was one of the many who didn’t look kindly on our government. I started to think that the deep-rooted ills were incurable, and many times I found myself wanting to abandon what I thought was a sinking ship. Having harbored such adverse sentiments towards the government, never did I imagine that I would fall in love with working with national government agencies that strive to reform the public sector. Being a fresh graduate with little work experience and minimal knowledge about the intricacies of the bureaucracy, I was intimidated upon learning that I would be assigned to coordinate with the military sector. My perception of the military has been heavily prejudiced by the country’s experience with martial law, as well as the notorious rigidity of military culture. When I first encountered the Philippine Air Force (PAF), I was pleasantly surprised at how accommodating, humorous, and committed they were to clean up the system, and my prejudices against public servants were completely shattered.
In its pursuit of genuine transformation, PAF crafted the Flight Plan 2028 back in 2014 using the Performance Governance System (PGS), ISA’s flagship program for government reform. Flight Plan 2028 designed a strategy that focused on the revitalization of the PAF and the efficient fulfillment of its mandate. Under Flight Plan 2028, PAF has achieved milestones in its acquisition of aircraft and equipment in support of territorial defense, provision of training to enhance the competencies of its airmen, upgrade of bases and base facilities, development of doctrines essential to their operations, generation of resources to financially support its activities, cultivation of good governance culture through the advocacy of values, and engagements with internal and external stakeholders to secure support for this endeavor among many other things. PAF’s accomplishments have been very significant and timely for the entire nation, especially in light of the growing tensions in the West Philippine Sea.
Having passed the third stage of the PGS Pathway, proficiency, the PAF has shown exceptional progress in its transformation journey in a relatively short time. This can be credited to PAF’s strength in terms of planning, which the organization takes pride in. PAF also places a premium on their cascading efforts to instill the proper understanding and appreciation for the Flight Plan down to the lower echelons. Despite this, the PAF still has a long way to go in achieving their vision of becoming “A Professional and Competent Air Force responsive to National Security and Development” by the year 2028. With the success of their strategy heavily reliant on the procurement of equipment, the PAF needs to play a more active role in resource generation, as well as in engaging influential stakeholders that will support their cause.
Here at the ISA, we believe that governance is a shared responsibility. The PAF, along with over 50 PGS practitioners, have been doing their share in addressing the ills of the system through various initiatives that seek to increase the transparency and accountability of their organizations. It is high time that we as external stakeholders do our share in fostering a culture of good governance. Instead of weighing down our government further by complaining and being pessimistic, we need to uplift their morale through our active and substantial participation in public affairs. If the government has done something unacceptable, call them out and hold them responsible for their actions. If they produced results, laud their merits and give proper credit. If they pursue an activity that will benefit the country, rally behind it. For the country to progress, let us not pull down the aircraft; let us be the wind beneath the wings that becomes instrumental for its successful takeoff.
Arrielle Tugade is a graduate of AB Diplomacy and International Relations with a specialization in East and Southeast Asian Studies from the Ateneo de Manila University. She is program coordinator assigned to help implement the Institute for Solidarity in Asia’s (ISA) governance reform programs in national government agencies in the Philippines. To learn more about her work with the institute, visit isacenter.org.