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    Q&A at the 2017 Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chair for Public Service and Governance Lecture

    15 March 2017

    Ateneo Rockwell, 14 March 2017

    Q: The leadership model we are discussing today champions public participation and empowerment. How can we, 1) initiate such high levels of engagement from the public and 2) sustain it?

    VP Leni: Ako I’m going to answer it in the light of the reactions of our two reactors. One, I think the second reactor was telling us of, ewan ko lang kung good student ako, paternal…paternal…paternal…paternalism. Parang you were talking about a paternalism kind of leader. And you know I, I, this will be, this will be included in my answer in the sense that I always recall the words of my husband. When he was trying to push for empowerment. When he was trying to push for the creation of a people’s council. When he was trying to push for the institutionalization of the Naga City Citizen’s charter. Parati niyang sinasabi na, the temptation to be a strong-arm leader is always there. It’s always very attractive. Ang, ang exact words na ginagamit niya, pero dadaan lang kasi tayo. Iyon ang exact words that he used. Pero dadaan lang tayo. We will not be here for a very long time. Even if we succeed in our, in this administration, what is the guarantee that things will be sustainable? So babalik tayo doon. And, and my husband thought that treating constituents not as beneficiaries but as partners in development, as stakeholders, will be the answer to sustainability. And the, the example of Naga is good proof of that. My husband has not been mayor for the past 7 years, he ended his term 2010. And the innovations have been institutionalized already. The, the programs he introduced, because they have been institutionalized with ordinances are still in place. Even if my husband is not there anymore, the mindset has continued. The culture of excellence and good governance has continued. Pero bakit ganoon? Kasi nasa tao na eh, wala na sa isang leader. So iyon ang sagot ko sa pangalawa. Pero gusto ko din, um sorry kung medyo hinahabaan ko, pero I don’t want to miss the point of our first reactor. Parang he was saying, and this is connected also with the question, he was saying it’s difficult. Parang if, once we are leaders, people, makes things easy for us. Totoo iyon, Sir, pinag-aawayan namin iyon parati ng staff ko lalo ng security. Araw-araw kami nag-aaway. Pero kasi, mag, mag-paparinig din ako sa kanila. Kasi it, it’s, it’s the one thing they can’t understand. Why we need to refuse, um, for them to make things easy for us. Because it’s the one barrier to empathy. It is the one barrier to being a real servant leader. Iyong sinasabi naman na how do you sustain helping. Sa akin, if you really bring yourself to the ground, kahit pumunta ka lang doon para pumasyal, wala kang balak tumulong, once you realize difficult life is for them, you cannot not do anything. Parang, parang empathy gives you that feeling of not allowing you not to help. Kaya ang akin, parati kong sinasabi sa staff. Halimbawa, um, I require them to schedule a visit to a community at least 2 days every week. Halimbawa, when we go to a farming community, sobrang layo, pupunta ko doon ang meeting namin sa munisipyo, sa basketball court. So nagagalit ako. Gusto ko pupunta kami doon sa community, ang sasabihin, kasi Ma’am maglalakad kayo ng ilang oras e. So you know, there is a big difference in holding the meeting in a basketball court, na convenient for us, than going to where they actually live. Kasi, iyong … parang, parang, when you hear their stories, it’s a good thing, but it’s a greater thing to hear their stories and actually observe how they live. So, the partnerships we’re doing under Angat Buhay, that’s what we’re doing. Um, making sure that we bring ourselves as close to the ground as possible. Um, dalawa iyon: When you go, you bring hope. When you go, parang your empathy grows in you. Iyon iyon. Iyong tanong mo, how do you, how, parang, how do you introduce this in a wider, wider, to a wider audience in a wider sphere, mahirap. Because I attempted to do that when I was in Congress. I, I introduced a bill, it’s actually called a People Empowerment Bill, but it did not even get passed sa Committee. Naalala ko, the comments that I got from my colleagues in Congress, “Bakit iyan kailangan? Parang naghahanap tayo ng bato na ipupokpok sa ulo natin.” You were already given the mandate, why share that mandate with the people? Magiging magulo iyong usapan. Totoo, talagang mas magulo ang usapan pag marami kayong nag-uusap. But that’s the beauty of it. You give voice, you give, you give, um, seats at the table for more people, you give voice to the voiceless, in, in most instances, the best solutions do not really come from you. They come from the people who actually go through the problems which need solutions. Parang tayo kasi, sabi nga ni Sir, parang nagmamagaling kasi tayo eh. We think because we’re educated we’re better off than the others in terms of decision making. But that’s not, most of the time, that’s not the case. Most of the time ang totoo, the best solutions come from people who undergo, um, the worst problems. So in Naga, that is what happened. Um, power was given back to the people, people have a seat at the table, they participate–there’s a representative from the people’s council in all the executive and legislative committees in the city, we’ve had better ordinances, we’ve had better solutions, people are generally more cooperative to the government. Dati, very critical ang tao. Critical, sometimes with a reason, sometimes, unreasonable, they just don’t understand. But when they were asked to, you know, when they were asked to participate in decision making already, they became more collaborative. Because they understand. They understand why we need to raise taxes, they understand why this has to be the policy of government, the decision making process takes a little longer. Pero ano naman iyong time, diba? Mas mabuti iyong nakukuha. But you know, the real challenge is how do you convince local government units to open itself up to people’s participation? We have very dynastic, dynastic politics, local politics. Um, na, minamana, minamana iyong mga posisyon. But you know, halimbawa, may mga lugar, mayor, vice mayor, magkapatid. Mayor, vice mayor, magasawa. Mayor, vice mayor, mag, mag, mag, ano iyon? Mag tatay, nanay. Ako sigurado ako sa Naga, hindi iyon mangyayari, kasi hindi papayag iyong tao. Pero in some places, even in progressive cities, they allow it. Diba? They allow it. Halimbawa, napakahusay ng mayor, but iyong paternal, bad student na ako, parati ko nakakalimutan, pero iyong sinasabi ni Sir na very authoritarian iyong leader, sabihin natin, he succeeds. But when he is gone, what happens? Diba? So really, iyong sa akin, tsinelas leadership is the way to go. Because you share power with the people, you recognize the value of, of each and every one, people feel they are part of government, uh, people feel that they are not, parang, outsiders looking in, um, they get, they get to pariticpate in everything from the planning, monitoring, evaluation, budget deliberations, um, you get a very cooperative and collaborative constituency. And I think, reforms will be sustainable.

    Q: Thank you, Ma’am.

    Posted in Transcripts on Mar 14, 2017