By Manny Valdehuesa Jr..
GOOD governance is essential for the progress of our community, providing a strong foundation for our democracy and stability for our republic.
Last time we dealt with the importance of transparency as an indispensable requirement of good governance. This time let us focus on accountability.
It is essential for government to be accountable. Public officials must account for the way they manage the human and non-human resources entrusted to them by the community. And no one should get away with misusing or abusing said resources.
Accountability demands that financial reports be prepared on the budgets officials manage and on the expenditures they incur.
Not only financial reports but performance reports on their duties and responsibilities as stated in their job descriptions are also important. Such reports are to be posted in at least three prominent places within the community, with copies available as needed by constituents and concerned publics.
Officials in general should always be willing and ready to make their activities known to the public, to report on them, and to explain and elaborate on their contents.
On the citizen’s part, the demands of transparency require them to insist that such reports be prepared, made accessible, and readily obtainable. Doing so keeps government on its toes and compliant with the requirements of good governance.
The absence of such reports, and the failure to issue them, enable corrupt officials to defy or circumvent the law when engaged in anomalous transactions.
On the other hand, the public’s failure to expect these reports, or to demand that they be released, encourages laxity or non-compliance by their officials, emboldening them to commit violations with impunity.
For example, the statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) is a very important requirement for accountable officials—so important that no less than the Chief Justice faces ouster today for alleged failure to file same.
Many cases of conflict-of-interest that go unreported, undetected, or unchecked remain unresolved today, sullying the honesty and integrity of public officials on all levels, while weakening the people’s faith in government and democracy in general.
In order to keep government honest and clean, citizens must expect and demand accountability at all times. And doing so should not be construed as questioning anyone’s honesty or trustworthiness, but merely as a matter of due diligence and a means of ensuring compliance with the law.
Far too many occurrences of graft and corruption today spring from carelessness and lack of citizen vigilance, producing a culture of impunity.
Consider: a violation committed in the barangay, if undetected and left unchecked, can be carried on by the offending official to the municipal level where he or his colleague may repeat the same wittingly or unwittingly. The malpractice then multiplies at provincial level, becoming habitual and carried further on up the ladder of bureaucracy all the way to the national level.
Thus a citizen should keep in mind that failing to have his local officials accountable, or to be disinterested about whether they are compliant, in effect allow corruption to be committed in the community. From there the anomaly spreads horizontally to other communities, rising higher all the way to the top until, ultimately, it becomes generalized.
What may appear as a minor, inconsequential misdemeanor in one’s barangay, if unchecked, can grow to larger proportions, tempting scofflaws elsewhere to commit the same.
Take the issue of political dynasties, which afflicts our political system on all levels. To tolerate the establishment of a political dynasty in one’s barangay will soon see it established at municipal level, becoming replicated at provincial and higher levels, until political dynasties fill up the halls of Congress and infest the ultimate seat of power that is Malacanang.
It all starts with a seemingly trivial failure of accountability in the barangay.
The requirement of accountability is not a small matter. It can spell the difference between good and bad governance, which should be grounded on honesty, candor, and openness in the affairs of government.
Citizens who care enough to ensure that his officials comply with accountability requirements are, in a very real way, safeguarding the integrity of the public service—which is of vital concern to good governance at the primary level of our republic.
As the Gising Barangay Movement says: Government is everybody’s business. If you’re not involved, you can’t expect good governance!
(Manny Valdehuesa Jr. is a former Unesco regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, government peace panel during the administration of Corazon Aquino; awardee, PPI-Unicef outstanding columnist. An author of books on governance, he is chairman/convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc.. E-mail: email@example.com)