The Philippines has gone through two (2) People Power uprisings that once held the world in awe of a nation’s determination towards democracy. Despite these shining moments in history, Filipinos have failed to attain the outcomes promised by democracy. National growth measured in GNP increased 11 times for the Philippines from 1960 to 2000. Compared to 39 times for Malaysia, 48 times for Thailand and 172 times for Hong Kong. The distribution of this anemic growth has not become more equitable either. The richer half of families took 82% of total income in 1961. This ratio remains the same in 2000.
These conditions are compounded by the worsening quality of basic services such as health, nutrition and basic education. Filipinos, disenchanted by this post-euphoric reality grow weary of struggling for reforms or have retreated into islands of advocacy where they hope their efforts contribute to change. The tendency to focus on survival-at-all-cost has permeated all arenas and divided families, communities, institutions, and the nation.
The experience and struggle for reform as civil society and the broad countervailing forces have molded groups into experts in reform-agenda building and the politics of negotiation but novices at harnessing political power and political constituencies. These are the forces of EDSA I and EDSA II who have ‘tuned out’ of politics. These are influential individuals and groups with the basic values of reform who can be interested again if a viable arena for political engagement is presented. These constituencies, which are beyond the normal gambit of traditional political machinery, have to be harnessed to reinvigorate the electoral process and imbue political power with a support base for the most urgent reforms the nation will need to face.
The International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov), has chosen to act on its proposed solution: to engage in democratic politics to secure key changes in governance that yield gains in development, and then use these gains to scale up engagement in politics in what we hope would result in a virtuous cycle. In 2006, INCITEGov’s core membership, composed of former senior government officials associated with diverse sectors and areas of expertise, developed this solution framework which it calls ‘connecting the dots between Democratic Politics, Good Governance and Development Outcomes’ or P-G-D. INCITEGov’s work in theory and practice revolves around a central question:
“How can Democratic Politics enhance the practice of Good Governance, which is in turn able to mobilize social effort at a scale and for sufficient duration to attain Development Outcomes at a national level?”
The 3 points – democratic politics, good governance and development outcomes define and encapsulate the broad range of options in the arenas we engaged as reform advocates and groups.
We have built a rich knowledge base about worthwhile social goals. Development outcomes such as the Millennium Development Goals, economic growth, peace and security, social justice, a sense of nationhood, global competitiveness, poverty reduction and others are well defined and broadly supported. Our remaining debates and discussions focus on the hierarchy and sequencing of goals, and have even opened venues for emerging minority goals such as indigenous communities, alternative lifestyles and non-mainstream beliefs.
Around these goals, we have also learned the nature, scope and quality of social effort needed to attain these development outcomes. We designed public-private roles; decentralization for central-periphery roles; and the role of democratizing institutions like civil society. We learned the value of corporate and institutional cultures; of leadership in social effort, of laws and rules; and of information and knowledge. With these learnings, we more or less move in a concerted manner towards our common future.
Collectively, we have defined ‘Governance’ as the management of power and authority with appropriate participation and accountability. Recently, we have increased our knowledge on what characteristics of governance bring about development success (‘good governance’) and failure (‘bad governance’). Good governance is defined and measured as being: corruption-free, transparent, participatory, results-driven, accountable, responsive, visionary, cognizant of the importance of women and so on. These emerging standards enable us to strategically engage and further refine how we manage the power to attain our development goals. These standards give broader constituencies and the citizenry a platform to concretely seek accountability from government.
Compared to development outcomes and good governance, we have learned much less about politics. In the aftermath of two People Power uprisings, dominance of civil society in reform agenda building and serving public interest was offset by the dominance and entrenchment of patronage politics in the political power structures created by the changes in leadership. This resulted in focused but measured reform successes in different advocacies. However, the bulk of national resources and political institutions did not follow suit nor serve the greater public interest . As civil society, we move collectively and with concerted effort except in politics.
What we have today are more dilemmas rather than knowledge on the exercise of democratic politics for public good especially around elections. We seem to have developed blinders to the cycle of cause and effect centered on elections where our main approach has been to hope for the chance blessing of a wise, honest and capable authoritarian for public good. We limit ourselves to the wishing for ‘political-will-of-a-good-leader’ model.
Yet every 3 years, we engage in democratic politics, electing our local and national leaders into positions where they wield power over our development outcomes. We engage politics from the periphery- remain non-partisan, highlight our agenda during elections to the array of candidates then watch and monitor reform from the periphery as the winning candidate takes the reigns of power.
What is urgently needed at any level of political engagement is to define a realistic and time-bound agenda with a defined and influential political constituency supporting it, negotiated early with a committed reform candidate. – Mario Taguiwalo, INCITEGov Trustee