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Over 100 Mayors Sign Manifesto for Good Governance

More than 100 mayors from all over the country came together against corruption in the government, signing the Manifesto for Good Governance on August 24 at the UP Cine Adarna, UP Film Center, at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City. This, as prominent mayors led the launch of Mayors for Good Governance, a movement of local chief executives battling for good governance and an end to corruption.

Mayors Benjamin “Benjie” Magalong of Baguio City; Josefina “Joy” Belmonte of Quezon City; Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro of Marikina City; Felipe “Ipe” Remollo of Dumaguete City; Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan; and Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman of Isabela de Basilan spearheaded the launch of the movement, which encourages all mayors in the country to elevate the standards of governance and put their constituents’ needs at the fore.

During the program, these mayors expressed their views regarding good governance and shared their contribution to such by reporting what they have accomplished for their respective local government units.

“We all have elusive dreams of good governance,” Remollo said as he opened the program. He added that he and the rest of the mayors were there not because they are models of upright governance, but every mayor who signed the manifesto at least promised a personal commitment. In the middle of his talk, Remollo proudly shared his major contributions to Dumaguete, one of which is the construction of two main bridges funded using the local government budget. Thanks to the combined efforts of the city leaders, Dumaguete earned the title “The Best Place to Retire,” given by United News International.

Belmonte, who was not at the venue, delivered a speech through a pre-recorded video. She enumerated services that she provided for QCitizens, social services focused on women and children, an executive order on internal audit, a Freedom of Information (FOI) Ordinance, 100% automated services, and incentives for employees. She ended her message by reminding the public to be active and observant of the activities of their local government, demand exemplary governance, and ensure that the public will hold to account those who do not abide by their oath of service.

Meanwhile, Arnado shared how good governance ended the problem of insurgency in their municipality. In 2000, Arnado witnessed how rebel forces took over Kauswagan. But he found out that the violence was not ideology-based at all, but it was hunger and poor economic conditions that forced people to rebel. During this time, government services were also no longer felt by the residents.

As he assumed office, Arnado promised to abide by the principles of good governance and to do things right. He implemented programs to reshape the municipality, making sure to engage the public. The Arms to Farms program, where they started organic farming, was actively participated in by rebel commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). They became so involved that they eventually agreed with the government to stop fighting. Arnado also expressed pride in eradicating corruption in his town.

Hataman, on the other hand, explained how good governance impacts the people. She mentioned how people perceive Basilan as poor and unsafe, and shared through her speech how improved the town is now. For instance, the stunting rate among children in the municipality dropped to 4.13% this year from 18.12% in 2020. Meanwhile, underweight children make up 1.52% of the population as of 2022 from 12% in 2020. The municipality also recorded zero maternal mortality from 2021 to 2022. When it comes to tourism, Isabela de Basilan welcomed more than 370,000 visitors in 2022 from an average of 20,000 annual visitors in previous years. Hataman added that the municipality also produced local television shows that talk about freedom of information and fighting fake news through a cooking show to make it more engaging. The town is also on its way to having access to stable internet interconnectivity. Hataman also told LEAGUE that they hope good governance should not just be a political term but also a household term that people should feel.

Teodoro gave a short speech by simply explaining what good governance looks like in Marikina City. “Good governance is empowering the people,” he said. One notable thing he did in Marikina was resist the urge to have his name and face appear on the projects of the local government. He reasoned that he chose to do this because he wanted to credit the hard work of the city employees as well, that whatever the children see in Marikina in the near future, the Marikeños can proudly say that they are proud of it. The project of Marikina City is everyone’s project because the people are the city. Teodoro added that Marikeños are proud because they know that they are involved and there is a sense of community.

Magalong was the last one to give his message. He looked back on his first encounter with corruption when he assumed office in 2019. He was approached by some contractors who explained to him how the “system” works in allocating the budget for local projects. He then realized how easy it is for politicians to make money in complicity with the “godfather” contractors who provide mayors with a percentage of the budget for every project. This is what Magalong considered the predicament of public servants. “Are they willing to give up the perks and privileges?” Magalong asked. In the end, he encouraged the mayors to make a choice. The Mayors for Good Governance is a step “to raise awareness of the evils of corruption and benefits of good governance,” he said. Now that the mayors created a spark, Magalong encouraged everyone to make the movement spread like wildfire.

Written in the manifesto is the mayors’ pledge to abide by the principles of good governance. It also serves as a reminder to every signatory to ensure that the best interest of their constituents will always be their top priority. After the individual speeches, the convenors answered a few questions from the audience and the mayors proceeded to sign the manifesto.

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