The challenges faced by our country in the recent months have left many of our officials groping in the dark for answers. A string of calamities never before experienced in this magnitude, highlighted the vital role of leaders at the grassroots level. Tons of frameworks pointing to solutions have been presented; with matching orders for them to be followed. This undeniably speaks of sincerity to help and reach out to our brothers in need. It brings to life a mantra that I have taken to heart: There is no shortage of goodness in this world.
While it is comforting to note that there are many who are willing to help, passion and eagerness sometimes overshadow the need to encompass all stakeholders in the consultation. Unfortunately, the voice of those who know the situation best often get drowned out and lost. The League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) National President, Mayor Sandy Javier, calls them “the boots that hit the ground.” He convened the National Directorate of the LMP last January 30, 2014 to discuss the steps that they would take to move forward. This is composed of the eighty (80) Chapter Presidents that represent each province in our country. There was a strong positive response of sixty-six (66) in attendance or 82% who responded to the call.
The LMP invited Secretary Butch Abad of the Department of Budget and Management to be their guest. The mayors wanted answers to their questions. Where do they go for assistance now that the PDAF has been abolished? How do they contribute to inclusive growth? How do we implement the Bottom Up Budget (BUB) that was submitted for 2013 and 2014? The 4th, 5th and 6th class municipalities have very meager resources and rely heavily on the national government for support. The message that the mayors wanted to convey was: they know what to do in their own municipalities but they need help to bring it to fruition.
LMP Sec Gen Jess Burahan, LMP Nat’l Pres Sandy Javier, Sec Butch Abad, LMP EVP-Operations Rey Navarro
Secretary Abad arrived and started with a presentation showing the impressive growth in the economy of our country. Interest could plainly be seen on the faces of the mayors. The nods and whispers of affirmation showed that they wanted to be a part of it. In his speech, Sec Abad said that the problem is not funding of the projects but execution. He posed a challenge to the mayors and asked if they were prepared with the administrative and technical capability to judiciously implement the programs of government to service their constituents. He confidently states that there is three hundred thirty billion pesos (PHP330 billion) ready to assist the local government units (LGUs) in providing adequate public service for the people. Without mincing his words, he said “Pagod na ang taong bayan sa pangongotong. We have to see to it that the people’s money is not wasted.” The mayors took turns in expressing their frustrations at how they had to bear the brunt of weaving through the complications of bureaucracy before any assistance reached their municipalities. Sec Abad responds by encouraging all the mayors to include the various non-government organizations, civil society groups and people’s organizations in the execution of their plans as he underscored the need for transparency and accountability. Needless to say, the challenge holds for the general public to actively participate in government affairs too. Good governance requires good citizenship. This country needs pro-active leaders who are closest to the people. The model of former Secretary Jesse Robredo and Naga City is proof that there are stories of good local governance in our country.
In a nutshell, the message of Secretary Abad was empowerment of the LGUs. The mood in the meeting room was one of readiness to step up to the plate. Many of these local chief executives are the unsung heroes. It is sad that the abusive few tarnish the image of the 1491 membership that comprises the entire league. Very few note the fact that in the last six months, the LMP has been faced with armed conflict in Zamboanga, an earthquake in Bohol, the super typhoon Yolanda and constant floods in various parts of the country. Our people’s first point of contact is the mayor. In many areas, they continue to perform their duties literally without roofs over their heads and dismal facilities in their municipalities. Despite all this, many of them soldier on with the indefatigable will to serve.
In his closing message, Mayor Sandy Javier whose town was ravaged by Yolanda, addressed his colleagues by saying; “Let us show the people meaningful consumption of our resources.” He manifested his gratitude to the members of the league for uniting behind each other in times of crisis. Hardly are there ever words of praise written in the broadsheets about the mayors. But, they draw strength from the mutual understanding of the responsibility to find solutions to respond to daily pleas of help from their constituents in dire need. The LGU plays a very important role in ensuring inclusive growth in our nation. A noted professor aptly describes it as “The vehicle that will move this country forward for it is where the rubber hits the road.”
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