By Joy Aceron
TODAY, I will attend a funeral of a youth leader who worked concretely for reforms in the 2004 elections by campaigning for a presidential candidate who he thought embodied the hope for a new Philippines. I saw Malvin Ordeniza (1980-2009) worked earnestly in the 2004 campaigns because he believed that without reforms in 2004, he and the rest of his fellow youth would be a lost generation. Five years ago, he saw for himself how a flawed system of elections that is personality- and patronage-based ruled by money and violence robbed him of his future. Five years after, the governance the resulted from that flawed elections took away his life when he was not given his needed medical attention because he did not have the money to pay for it.
Reforms in 2010 are not ideas that are up there. Change that needs to happen in 2010 is not an abstract concept. It’s real. It costs and will cost lives of people. We must make change happen in 2010 or the likes of Malvin who believed in change and worked hard for what he believed in will perish; and our country will not only lose another generation, it will lose hope.
The Citizen Reform Agenda 2010
In the Philippines, we probably have the broadest, most dynamic and innovative reform work in the world; yet it is also probably the most ineffective in bringing about structural change, particularly these recent years. It is unfair to say that the reform movements are at fault. They are doing all they could but the prevailing political order, the patronage-based politics, is just too deep-seated in society. To have a chance of making a dent, the reform movements need to be a formidable force and they can only do so if they recognize their common interest and common agenda; and work together to transform politics.
This is a formidable task and it requires a lot from us. The Citizen Reform Agenda 2010 is our humble contribution to this cause. There is no way that this space alone can transform the reform movements into a formidable force, but it is a key process in making that happen. The agent, the person, the one who will be the leader, is critical, especially for us Filipinos. But the reform agenda we want, the issues we find most critical, that's the soul of our struggle. That's what will endure. Hence, efforts like this must be undertaken, though it is hard and tedious.
This is a space and a process for bringing together the reform groups and linking their advocacies to a key political process, the elections in 2010. It also serves as a mechanism to fill up the gap of underperforming political parties that are supposed to be doing the interest-aggregation and agenda formulation. It also aims to promote issue-based and platform-oriented elections in 2010.
First, we had to look back to the past and know the previous reform agenda and issues. Second, we had series of consultations and consensus-building inviting the broadest possible representation of the reform movements in the Philippines. We had the process of review and finalization of key agenda and issues involving the participating citizen organizations. Finally, we presented the reform agenda and issues of the citizens to the public.
The next phase for CReforms 2010 is to engage the candidates and political parties; as well as the public. But to effectively do this, we must also engage a critical player that mediates the message and the messenger, the media. The ASoG has partnered with the biggest networks in the country to aid in the dissemination of the citizen reform agenda and issues and in promoting issue-based politics in 2010.
The CReforms 2010 was able to engage about a hundred citizen organizations. They are from different persuasions ideologically, politically and even meta-physically. They are working on different development themes of CReforms 2010. There were some of these groups who would never attend the same event, but they were able to get pass that. These are reform-oriented and progressive groups with different background and varying perspectives.
The outputs of this process are the key reform agenda and issues on Anti-Corruption, Political and Electoral Reform, Environment and Sustainable Development, Local Governance and Human Development (Education, Employment, Housing and Health).
These development areas do not at all encompass the entire development or reform areas; but we selected these for a simple and practical reason that the School and our key partners have solid work and expertise in these areas. Furthermore, other groups are very active consolidating the agenda on other areas like poverty reduction, economic development and peace.
These key reform agenda and issues identified during the consultation and consensus-building process are developed into Agenda Papers, which the participating groups and organizations would hopefully use in engaging the platform-development of candidates and political parties. Finally, a covenant for reforms entitled “We Will Make Change Happen in 2010” on an audio-visual presentation (available through YouTube) is prepared to be an instrument for CReforms 2010 to engage the candidates and political parties in the 2010 elections by soliciting their commitment to the covenant and response to the key agenda and issues in the CReforms 2010 Agenda Papers.
Key Reform Agenda and Issues
The agenda on anti-corruption calls for the promotion of a culture of transparency and openness in government by providing the public access to information and avenues to participate in governance. It also calls on the professionalization of the bureaucracy, the strengthening of the autonomy and accountability of local government units and the reforms in the justice system.
The agenda on political and electoral reform include the implementation of the constitutional provision banning political dynasties, the strengthening of the political party system and the reform of the Sanggunian Kabataan (SK) as vehicle for youth participation in democratic governance. It also includes the call to consider Constitutional reforms such as federalism to expand local initiatives, shift to a parliamentary system to broaden people’s participation in legislation and governance and limiting the role of COMELEC to election administration by defining a separate system to handle election protests.
Key reform agenda on local governance that would ensure substantive decentralization include four main points: (1) More devolution and autonomy from the national government through a policy review on the Local Government Code of 1991; (2) Installation of a more equitable system of local finance management that effectively equips local governments of resources for their service-delivery and administrative needs; (3) Substantive constitutional reform that explores federalism as a viable political framework in empowering local government units and decentralizing political power; and, (4) Strengthening transparency and accountability mechanisms for local government units that equal the power that is devolved to them.
The agenda on human development calls for a development of a strong domestic economy that respects labor rights; the installation of quality and accessible education; public access to healthcare services; and the improvement of housing program implementation with emphasis on the respect for human rights.
Lastly, the agenda on environment and sustainable development calls for the adoption of Philippine Agenda 21 as an alternative sustainable development framework; structural reforms on environmental laws and implementing government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; a sustainable ecological management that will enable the restoration of forests and biodiversity; and the development of a comprehensive plan to address the impact of climate change.
We call on the public to engage the candidates on these issues and the others they find most critical. Let us “reclaim our future by making the 2010 elections center on issues and platforms, not personalities; on principles, not money politics; on reforms, not patronage.” Most importantly, let us all work for reforms in 2010 because it means saving lives and giving hope a chance once more.
Joy Aceron is Instructor at the Political Science Department of the Ateneo de Manila University and concurrently the Associate Director of Center for Social Policy of the Ateneo School of Government heading Government Watch and Political Democracy and Reforms (PODER).