Before becoming the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Jesse M. Robredo (JMR) was a Mayor in Naga City. Once a city settled with the previous administrations’ ambiguous and problematic actions, during JMR’s term as Mayor, Naga was introduced to the image of accountability, transparency, and citizen participation.
JMR once said, “good governance happens not only when leaders are honest and accountable, but also when constituents are encouraged to be active citizens—active in deciding on what is good for them, for their children, and the community.” This is defined and translated into the Naga City Good Governance Model, formed by JMR and acting as a guide for the City’s people’s participation-driven initiatives—that through progressive perspective, partnership, and participation, sustainable good governance can be realized.
Towards the end of 1995, the legislation of the People Empowerment Ordinance gave way to the establishment of the Naga City People's Council (NCPC)—the first of its kind in the Philippines. The ordinance focused on partnership-driven governance through the involvement of organized groups and people’s organizations in proposing policies, participating in discussions, and voting at the committee level of the Sangguniang Panlungsod. JMR shares in the 4th PMAP Annual Conference on September 30, 2004,
“As an empowered body, the NCPC had opposed a planned golf course citing environmental concerns. In another instance, the NCPC, along with the local chamber of commerce and industry, concurred with the city’s desire to raise realty taxes to meet infrastructure development and service delivery objectives. They, too, supported the city’s construction of a highway, in partnership with a private landowner, provided that the rights of settlers are protected and accordingly compensated.”
Through Republic Act No. 7160, also known as the Local Government Code of 1991, Local School Boards (LSB) were created to mainly fulfill the duty of allocating the annual supplementary budgetary needs of the local public school system, among others. For cities, the LSB is composed of the mayor as its head, co-chaired by the city schools superintendent who is appointed at the national level, and as its members, (1) the chairman of the education committee of the sangguniang panlungsod, (2) the city treasurer, (3) the representative of the "pederasyon ng mga sangguniang kabataan" in the sangguniang panlungsod, (4) the duly elected president of the city federation of parents-teachers associations, (5) the duly elected representative of the teachers' organizations in the city, and (6) the duly elected representative of the non-academic personnel of public schools in the city.
JMR expanded the composition of the LSBs with help from Synergeia Foundation—adding parents and teachers as members. Together with this initiative was the task of educating the community about the most pressing needs in the schools, which resulted in a much larger role played by the local communities in the prioritization of needs and allocation of funds in every school. This manifested into better quality textbooks and improved student performance as attested by the scores in standardized tests.
The innovative approach of reinventing the LSB was recognized as one of the ten (10) outstanding local government programs in the Philippines in 2004 for having contributed to the development of basic education in the country. “There is heightened awareness about the crisis facing the Philippine educational system, with more sectors contributing additional resources to community-based efforts in improving public schools,” JMR said. With the national government acknowledging the need for strengthened local governance towards education, LGUs are now becoming passionate in addressing the needs and improving the lives of children by embracing the reinvention of the LSB.
Further seeking to overcome the walls of City Hall, JMR explored more avenues to involve not just organized groups but the individuals, as well. During the 53rd Charter Anniversary of Naga City, the i-Governance Program was launched—a program that stands for information openness, interactive engagement, inclusive governance, and innovative management.
Two (2) main tools were used to carry out the program’s goals: 1) the Naga City Government Website (naga.gov.ph), an online platform that features details on local government services, compliant forms, current budgets, and accomplishments reports, as well as local job openings, community news, and important announcements, among others; and 2) the Naga City Citizens’ Charter, a printed guide that explains step-by-step procedures, requirements, responsible government officials, and the duration of a transaction at each office or department at City Hall, for more than 150 government services. JMR says,
“It is a paradigm shift. It not only recognizes the citizen’s right to know, but also encourages them to engage their government by freely providing them with information on what their elected leaders are accountable for.”
By implementing such a program, the local government begins to clear out opportunities for petty corruption—saving taxpayers the bribes and tokens paid to fixers to speed up government services and transactions.
With the development of information and communications technology, the i-Governance program was able to improve local finances by increasing local revenues, reduce government procurement costs, and more effectively and efficiently deliver public services by streamlining processes and digitizing applications.
On August 18, 2012, we lost JMR to an unfortunate accident. But despite his passing, he continues to inspire leaders and empower the ordinary citizen. JMR made the people aware of their right to be involved in local affairs—emphasizing the need to protect public trust in government and placing great importance on community-ownership in governance. By institutionalizing and legislating policies that promote accountability, transparency, and citizen participation, we continue to pass on Jesse M. Robredo’s legacy of good governance from one generation to the next.