I know good governance isn’t sexy but…
I know good governance isn’t sexy but…
By: Harvey S. Keh
Ever since I’ve graduated from college in 2000, I have been very much involved with two major advocacies that I feel very passionate about, the improvement of access and quality of education in our country and the promotion of good governance. I have always believed that both of these elements should be attained by our country in order for us to eventually move out of poverty and become a first world economy.
Pathways to Higher Education
I started Pathways to Higher Education-Philippines in 2002 together with Fr. Ben Nebres, S.J. and Dr. Milwida Guevara, both of whom I look up to as mentors and as great Filipino servant leaders. Pathways helps academically-gifted but financially-disadvantaged public high school students gain access to college and eventually finish their college education. Since we started Pathways in 2002, more than a hundred students have already graduated from college many of which come from families who earn less than P 150.00 a day. Raising funds for the scholarships of our participants wasn’t very hard since many generous Filipinos were more than willing to “adopt” our scholars. Even large companies such as Universal Robina Corporation, Healthway Medical, Diamond Hotel, RCPI and Smart Communications have partnered with Pathways in helping bring opportunities to more deserving young Filipinos. Those who may want to consider helping our Pathways participants can call (02) 426-6001 local 4048.
In 2006, Mr. Hector Tagaysay and I worked together to establish the Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation, a corporate foundation of Filway Marketing, Inc., that aims to help build well-equipped public elementary school libraries all over the country. Since then, we have helped refurbish more than 40 libraries in Marikina, Quezon City, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, La Union and Pangasinan. Like Pathways, AHON does not find it very hard to get book donations and grants from individuals and organizations who believe in providing quality basic education to every Filipino child. Just recently, AHON got a grant from Target Sourcing Services which will allow us to provide Filipiniana storybooks and other reference materials to our beneficiaries. Two weeks ago, another multi-national company got in touch with us and committed to helping provide books to another public elementary school in Pasig. Those who may want to help AHON bring books to more Filipino children can call (02) 434-1458.
Good governance’s struggle for support
Unlike Pathways and AHON, the biggest challenge for me in terms of raising funds and support has been in Kaya Natin. The Ateneo School of Government together with Among Ed Panlilio, former Gov. Grace Padaca and DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo launched the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership in 2008 at a dinner meeting at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan. Since then, we have evolved to become not just a movement that promotes good governance but also as a leadership sanctuary that supports effective, ethical and empowering government leaders in our country. We believe that the only way for good people to prevail against graft and corruption is if they synergize their efforts and work together. Yet, despite the great need for good governance in our country given that billions of pesos are lost every year to graft and corruption, it has been quite tough for us to raise resources for our programs and activities.
One major reason for this is that many Filipinos still shun away from getting involved in anything political especially major companies which have their own interests to protect. Another reason that I see is that unlike Pathways and AHON where you can concretely see where your money goes (in the form of a scholar or a library), good governance is vague and it doesn’t yield results immediately. Finally, I discerned that by espousing good governance and ethical leadership, you are forced to take a side thus by choosing to advocate for what is right, you automatically gain enemies which are those who live and perpetuate graft and corruption in our society. Whereas in other advocacies such as education, healthcare and shelter, you don’t have to step on anyone’s interests.
Looking at the bigger picture
Yet, if you look at the bigger picture in the Philippines, isn’t it supposed to be the role of our government to ensure that quality education is provided to all? Isn’t it the role of our government to be able to provide equitable opportunities to every Filipino to be able to own a house? My point here is that if good governance is practiced by our government leaders, the impact would be greater and much felt by more Filipinos in a faster way. Yes, a movement that promotes good governance isn’t sexy but in the end, it also needs to be supported lest we want our country to be continually run by corrupt leaders.
A story comes to mind as I write this piece. There was a man who saw another man drowning in the pool so he jumps into the pool and saves the drowning man. Right after he brings the man out of the pool, he sees that there are two other men who are now drowning in the pool as well. He then jumps into the pool and saves both of them. This process happens again and again and again until the man grows tired because the man fails to see the bigger picture and address the root cause of the problem which is the presence of an evil man who continuously throws people into the pool.
Making a commitment
One could reflect on this story as a story of our country today. While there are so many good people who are doing their own share to contribute to nation-building, many Filipinos continue to still live in poverty. The greater challenge now is how we can engage our government and its leaders so that they can become champions of good governance who can effectively respond to our growing social problems. By doing so, we make our leaders accountable for their actions or inactions and in the end, better delivery of basic services to every Filipino can happen.
In conclusion, donating or volunteering for a cause is a personal choice which I hope many Filipinos especially those who live comfortably will make. Whether it’s helping provide a scholarship, donating books or supporting champions of good governance, the important thing is you have gone out of your comfort zone, made a choice and more importantly, a commitment to get involved and contribute to making our society a better place for all of us. Genuine and lasting change will only happen if every Filipino will not just stop at complaining about our present problems but also start to become a proactive changemaker in his or her own small way.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org