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abel d soto
abel soto IT WAS more than two years ago (March 13, 2010, if I remember the exact date right) when we, the students at the graduate school, were asked to attend a seminar sponsored by the GEACCUP with the theme, "Good Governance: A Challenge to Graduate Education."

One of our professors, a lawyer, asked us in his class to come up with our reaction paper on the main lecture of the seminar, still with the aforementioned theme.

And below is what I wrote then, which I would like to dedicate now to the late Sec. Jesse M. Robredo and likewise to the late Prof. Romulo Hernandez, who are both embodiment, not of perfect public servants, but of excellent ones. This column of mine is sincerely dedicated to both of them as my gesture of salute to the rarity of their exemplary brand of "good governance" and to their dedication and commitment as outstanding servants-leaders.


What is good governance?

This was the overarching question during this whole day seminar of the GEACCUP, and I must admit to the fact that there is no single and exhaustive definition of "good governance," neither is there a delimitation of its scope, that commands universal acceptance.

The term is used with great flexibility (and here in the Philippines, with a great deal of comedy and superficiality); this is an advantage, but it is also a source of some difficulty at the operational level. Depending on the context and the overriding objective sought, and depending most especially on who is defining "good" in good governance, good governance has been said at various times to encompass: full respect of human rights, the rule of law, effective participation, multi-actor partnerships, political pluralism, transparent and accountable processes and institutions, an efficient and effective public sector, legitimacy, access to knowledge, information and education, political empowerment of people, equity, sustainability, and attitudes and values that foster responsibility, solidarity and tolerance.

However, there is a significant degree of consensus that good governance relates to political and institutional processes and outcomes that are deemed necessary to achieve the goals of development. It has been said that good governance is the process whereby public institutions conduct public affairs, manage public resources and guarantee the realization of human rights in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption, and with due regard for the rule of law. The true test of good governance is the degree to which it delivers on the promise of human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The key question is: are the institutions of governance effectively guaranteeing the right to health, adequate housing, sufficient food, quality education, fair justice and personal security? Hmmmm... Silence... Blank... And the marines are even listening!

The lecturer in the seminar provided key attributes of good governance. These are: transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation, and responsiveness.

By linking good governance to sustainable human development, emphasizing principles such as accountability, participation and the enjoyment of human rights, and rejecting prescriptive approaches to development assistance, the resolution stands as an implicit endorsement of the rights-based approach to development. (The question is whose rights are more recognized and who are we talking about here? Well, you know what George Orwell wrote in one his classic novels, Animal Farm , "All men are created equal, but some men are more equal than others.")

Experts expressly linked good governance to an enabling environment conducive to the enjoyment of human rights and to "prompting growth and sustainable human development." In underscoring the importance of development cooperation for securing good governance in countries in need of external support, the resolution recognized the value of partnership approaches to development cooperation and the inappropriateness of prescriptive approaches. Funny, isn't it? Funny, but true. Indeed, more often, fact is stranger than fiction.

Now here's the Million Dollar Question: How can graduate education make a difference, in its own little ways, in the promotion and sustenance of good governance?

In the general perspective when education and educators in the graduate school continue to be on the level of mediocre standards and choose to be complacent, there will be no sufficient intelligent answers to be found to address the challenging question (loaded with both subliminal and obvious meanings) and to initiate significant actions.

The saying goes: "The only way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

If we keep on doing what we've been doing in the graduate education, since it was conceived to be a part of continuing education for professionals, then chances are we will simply rest on the comforts and discomforts of complacency. (Painaua ta namu ping parati caring mangalanat a bulung laurel na ning que-alang paniulung.) If we are so indifferent and lazy to make a difference and refuse to leave our century-old comfort zones, then we are doomed to be just simply where we are right now as where we were before. Talagang hanggang dito na nga lang siguro tayo.

Passivity is one of the most fatal illnesses of our society that remains uncured until today. And this illness is contagious like a deadly virus. For if the majority is doing it, regardless if what is being done is wrong, the "good minority" is easily swayed by the winds of "if you can't beat them, then join them syndrome." That is why many in the graduate school do not choose to be involved and would rather remain in the realm of passivity. We love to play it safe in all our academic undertakings and endeavours... and even in our involvement in our respective communities, most especially. Good is enough for us to go on living, not realizing the fact that GOOD is the enemy of BEST and that "A minute of heroism is better than a thousand useless lives" (Ninoy).

Who would want to go against the strong waves of passivity and complacency? Who would want to question the higher-ups? For example, who would want to question the school authorities in Bulacan or in Tarlac or in Nueva Ecija, and dare risk ask these school authorities on where does the internet fee of their graduate students go when no internet connection is provided them most of the time, if not at all, during their school hours? Who would have the courage to ask the school authorities in a certain school in Pasig on why for heaven's sake are the graduate students being charged for athletic fee when it is so obvious that they are not supposed to be charged for such a fee?

Well, obviously, no one would. Because no one has the courage to, because no one would want to make a difference; for those who try to make a difference "die" young without seeing anymore what they have died for, because many others are still afraid and continue to live in fear. In a country where heroism of someone great who died for noble causes is still subject to dirty legislature, no one would definitely think of shouting again these two mottos stated in Latin: Facite diferentem! and Carpe diem! on the streets of EDSA.

That is why until now the saddest of all questions still remains unanswered and thus still has to be asked: Quo vadis Philippine society?

Not even Secretary Jesse and neither Sir Mulong would be able to help us in finding the right answer to that pressing and perennial question. So help us God!


(Maxwell Moment: "One of the greatest generals in military history was Napoleon Bonaparte. Made a full general at age twenty-six, he utilized shrewd strategy, bold cunning, and lightning speed to his advantage to win many victories. The Duke of Wellington, one of the general's most formidable enemies said, 'I consider Napoleon's presence in the field to equal forty thousand men in the balance.' 'I will tell you the mistake you are always making,' Napoleon said, addressing an opponent he had defeated. 'You draw up your adversary's plans the day before battle, when you do not yet know your adversary's movements.' Napoleon recognized in his losing opponent a weakness that he himself did not have: lack of adaptability. If you are willing to change and adapt for the sake of your team, you always have a chance to win." – Dr. John C. Maxwell, from his book The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player.)

[About the author. Abel D. Soto took up his certificatory double major course in Creative Writing and Performing Arts at Centre for Arts Foundation, Inc. in Quezon City. He also finished the Managing the Arts Program at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City. He is a resident of Bacolor, Pampanga.]

-Posted: 12:30 AM 8/26/12 | More of this author on eK!