Speech of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines 5th Spring Rain Asian Philanthropic Development Conference
Government’s Role in Resiliency
Hello to the officers and members of Spring Rain Global, and to all the participants from around the world who are joining the 5th Asian Philanthropic Development Conference. It gives me great comfort to see that despite the challenges of the pandemic, you continue to find ways to explore how we can better build resilience in our communities.
Today, we talk about the role of government in building resilience—a role that the pandemic only emphasized; after all, it is government that has the mandate, the reach, and the resources to make the biggest impact and to help the most people, especially during times of crisis. However, we often think of governance as a vertical process—government sees a problem, formulates a solution, and brings a project down to a community.
Building resilience, however, entails cultivating a culture. The process involved entails deeper dynamism so that the spirit of resilience can be fully appreciated, imbibed, and practiced. The call is to collaborate; to listen for real; to give people a say in coming up with solutions. It calls for giving people spaces where they can participate and be heard—where they can talk about their concerns, the risks they face, and the issues they think we should be paying more attention to. In the process of constellating and harmonizing those views, concerns, and contexts, the most innovative and effective pathways to resilience emerge.
This is something I learned from my experience having seen my husband Jesse lead as Mayor of a provincial city, and also from my own experience of governance in Congress and now in the Office of the Vice President. Resilience can only be truly built from the ground up. It starts in the grassroots, and must be nourished by constant participation so it grows and bears fruit. This kind of approach—that leans to the ground, that listens, that is built on collaboration—is what can allow a government to harness an entire ecosystem of governance.
To do this—and this is something we have learned at the Office of the Vice President—government must constantly work to strengthen its credibility among stakeholders. Trust is the currency of governance. This is the animating philosophy behind many of the efforts that do not seem as "newsworthy" or "viral" than others. We focused on obtaining an ISO certification—to show people that we have professionalized all our processes, that we mean business, that we’re serious about the work we do. We worked hard to achieve an unqualified opinion from the Commission on Audit, its highest audit rating, which we recently received for the third straight year. We make sure that what comes out in our statements and messages have solid data-based ground to stand on, and that every promise uttered is in fact a commitment. We acted with honesty, transparency, and integrity—and so we built trust, which in turn has allowed us to help more Filipinos in need despite a limited mandate and one of the smallest working budgets in the bureaucracy.
We’ve seen firsthand what this can do. It enabled the OVP to be a center of gravity for those whose values align with the Filipino people. It allowed us to harness bayanihan, or the spirit of communal responsibility. Our COVID-19 response initiatives became successful only because we were able to bring together and lead Filipinos from all walks of life, from big companies to ordinary citizens, who were ready to pitch in and help out—whether that’s in providing PPE sets for frontliners, Bayanihan e-Skwela for teachers, parents, and students, our free medical consultation initiative Bayanihan e-Konsulta to help decongest hospitals, or our Vaccine Express and Swab Cab initiatives to bring testing and vaccination closer to the Filipinos who need it the most. I mention this because from where I stand, it is clear: It is the same spirit of communal responsibility, the same premium on trust, integrity, and accountability, that our leaders and communities will need to better build resilience.
The challenge for us now is to foster collaboration on a wider scale, even beyond government, even beyond our usual circles. Engage different groups, from both public and private sectors, to create meaningful change across the board. Look for ways to link up, find commonalities, and work on advocacies and projects together. Expand your networks and deepen your connections so that we can fill more gaps and be bridges where we can. Engage more people and give them pathways to contribute. Above all: In every action, prove ourselves worthy of trust.
These extraordinary times ask so much of us, but always remember: The challenge may be great, but the opportunity is always greater—to do more good, to engage, to collaborate. With you leading the way, I have no doubt that we can build a truly better normal—a world that is safer and fairer, that is truly empowering and resilient.
Maraming salamat, mabuhay kayong lahat!