“When reforms do not transform, what do we do?” We’re up to our gills with aborted reforms. Are our options boxed into picking between Barrabas or Barrabas? Or scrambling for a visa?
Sociologist Gelia T Castillo led with this reform-transform dilemma in her address at the launch of Philippine Human Development Report.” PHDR today is a key reference on complex issues. The 2008/2009 edition focuses on institutions and politics – and impact on daily life..
“This is a country where there are so many things kailangan ayusin, former UP professor Castillo noted. But “the negatives are the opportunities; the positives are bonuses.” HDR identifies “institutional anchors for constructive engagement in…a manner which will enable reforms to transform.
“Let’s stop racing to the bottom,” she added. “It must be a determined climb… to where we’d rather be. Institutions are our common ground. They must not be our battleground.”
UN publishes the global “Human Development Report”. Since 1994, the Philippines produced a national counterpart – one of the few countries to do so. National Economic Development Authority secretaries Solita Monsod and Cielto Habito oversaw the first PHDR issues. Both are also Inquirer columnists.
PHDR has analyzed people’s participation in governance, status of women, education, employment, armed conflict and security. Reports use the innovative “human development index” HDIs go beyond traditional yardsticks like gross national product, etc.. They gauge the human condition. .
HDI 2009 found five conflict-ridden provinces in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) tailenders in development. Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi , Basilan, and Lanao del Sur trailed Sulu..
Inquirer published PHDR findings on a bloated bureaucracy. It examined how incentives can impact performance. Seven other papers cover under-performance in education, health services decentralization, ombudsman institutional weakness, the budget process, plus life table estimates by province and sex
When reforms floundered, over the last 25 years, Filipinos whipped in EDSA I, II, III, protestas, impeachment and resign movements, coup d’etats, borderless investigations without closure. That even made heroes out of non-heroes.
‘If we can laugh at ourselves, we can change,’ a Kenyan song goes. ”We are still laughing at ourselves,” Castillo says..”But we’ve not changed”. We merely substituted laughter for transformation.
The Bantay fad: followed: Bantay Election; Bantay Gobyerno to Bantay Dagat. These watchdogs did deter — somewhat. But sino ang nagbabantay sa bantay?, Castillo wondered. “Quis custodies ipsos custodes,” the ancient Romans asked.
Persistent extra- institutional measures empowered, wittingly or unwittingly, presidents, mayors, even presidentiables. Wala pa ding pagbabago! Ethical illiterates, if empowered, turn into threats. “To be duly elected is to be legal; but legality of power does not add a whit to official IQ.”
Here, people go to a “vibrant media for public service requests and redress of grievances. This, produces celebrities who embed themselves in political power. “ Being a “noisy” democracy is a blessing. A silent one is a dictatorship”.
Deeper than policies and larger than individuals, institutions structure behavior, “We can’t organize people power against institutions because institutions are us,” Castillo comments. “Institutions do not resign. They simply persist.”.
Improved governance is causally linked to better development outcomes. PHDR tables document higher incomes and lower infant death rates. The number of “no-read-no-writes” also shrink.
The “development dividend from good governance is about 300 percent increase in incomes per capita in the long run,” Castillo notes. Payoffs for social development are equally hefty..
PHDR 2009 pinpoints “institutional anchors” for reforms from civil service, budgeting to schools and career executive systems.. “To an optimist, they all look “reformable”: Proposals include : Government Classification and Compensation Act, Freedom of Information Act, the Intelligence and Oversight Act, Budget Reform Act, etc.
“These have not seen the light of day,” Castillo admits. “Can we find the proverbial needles in the legislative haystock, a few statesmen or women who’ll take them on as their flagship of responsibility?”
But what if Congress bogs down? It just skid into the con-ass quagmire. Vital “rule changes are available, PHDR says. They do not require legislation,
One example is open voting in the Judicial and Bar council. This boon can be buttressed by an independent search mechanism for qualified candidates. Another is simple changing of qualification and recruitment for principals and school superintendents. “
From “soft Ph.Ds” to qualities of intellectual integrity and managerial competence for school officials could be a step forward” Castillo says. But throughout the study, “ the image of the politicians did not shine very bright”.
The Education Department is often seen as “a reform-resistant institution” But the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda emerged as “our seeds of hope. Castillo underscores that seven awardee provinces offer a pointed lesson: “It is not necessary to be rich to progress in human development.. But for the richer provinces, it is a ‘sin’ not to progress in human development.”