Participatory governance, or empowerment of the people in governance, is once again floated as one track of change that the Duterte administration vows to carry out.
Apparently this seems to be more of rhetorics, a democratic embellishment, for a regime that rapidly veers awar from its campaign promises.
No matter what and how the government hype that it has been striving to achieve participatory governance or empowerment of the people in governance, the reality is quite far from the impression it gives. Generally, the government does not have the conducive and responsive environment to participatory governance in the national, regional and local levels.
In the national level, legislations and policies often ignore people’s basic aspirations, interests and demands; most often subdued by the interests of the corporate interests, political dynasties and multinational corporations. The reason is quite clear, there is no broad democratic consultations on major issues and concerns before they are pass into laws, orders, policies and programs.
In the local level, the Local Government Code (LGC) is inutile in the democratization of power nor in breaking local political dynasties; instead, it even helped in consolidating the land and wealth in the hands of few oligarchs, further marginalized the poor, and even in the decentralization and fragmentation of citizens’ struggles on national issues like the regionalization of wage issues thru the institution of Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board instead of the institution of national wage system and standards.
The Local Development Council (LDC) clearly demonstrates the hesitancy, fear, contempt and tokenism of the state bureaucrats and the elites to bigger and stronger participation of the people. Classic example is the minority membership of people’s organizations (POs) and non government service organizations (NGOs) in the LDC. LDC is often a mere stamping pad of the LGU officials-politicians for their vested political and economic agenda. Those who are given token services are those considered as part of their voting political base, while the “contra-partidos” including the legitimate indigents are often deprived of the support services.
Furthermore, the current campaign of the administration on federalism, if not rightly done by right people, could only resort to perpetuating the old system with a new name, or a new dog with same collar, so to speak.
On the National Line Agencies (NLAs), it is their policy to require POs and NGOs of so many legal, financial and technical requirements and a 3-year track records before they can be accredited and avail of government services and projects. Worse, the numerous and expensive requirements or impositions of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) have only caused the marginalization of smaller cooperatives and the TESDA charges have deprived many poor families and fall to the culture of dependency to local patron politicians.
The present system has only shut the doors for people’s participation and forced them to disengage with the government because they know that at the end of the day they will still be losers and the oligarchs and dynasties the winners.
Strategic solutions. The most effective and strategic positive course to make the government truly conducive and responsive to participatory governance is to re-orient and de-empower or divest itself of all its pretensions, hypocrisies and tokenism vis a vis people’s participation, participatory government or people empowerment in governance – in the national, regional and local levels.
The serious concern however is that the present system from national to local is obviously not only un-ready to re-orientation and de-empowerment, but will surely resist any or all attempts to create a new order. Congress will kill it. The executive branch and all its agencies will follow suit. The political dynasties behind most or all LGUs will do the same. The judiciary may toe the mainstream line to preserve Constitutional integrity.
Under these conditions, the challenge then rests on strength and collective initiatives of organized people’s organizations, civil society organizations, and the non government development service institutions./WDJ