9:03 PM

Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo, Ako ang Simula ng Pagbabago

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

There are fixed bounds to every human thing. When the branches of a tree grow very large and weighty, they fall off from the trunk. The sharpest sword will not pierce when it cannot reach. And there is a certain distance from the seat of government, where an attempt to rule will either produce tyranny and helpless subjection, or provoke resistance and effect a separation. John Witherspoon, 1776.

John Witherspoon wrote the words above, and delivered his stirring speech, The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men. He spoke eloquently of how he sees a corrupt and unethical government being disconnected from its people.

He spoke of corruption, greed, partisanship, and how each party was avengeful of the other. The more the parties competed against each other, the more ambivalent the people became towards them.

From Scotland, he came to America and became Princeton University’s president. From among his students at Princeton emerged 37 judges (three of whom made it to the US Supreme Court), 10 Cabinet officers; 12 members of the Continental Congress, 28 US senators, and 49 United States congressmen.

According to Wikipedia and The Patriot's Handbook written by George Grant, Aaron Burr, a student, became vice-president and James Madison became president. His influences on them and many others paved the way for the three branches of government in America during the 18th century, a form of checks and balances.

Fast forward to the 21st century in the Philippines -- the headlines on newspapers are mostly about greed, corruption, partisanship and about how each party took snipes at one another. They mirror the issues of America before the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

It is as if the Philippines is still colonized, except that the colonizers have been replaced by few incumbent government officials who exercise control over the citizens and who breed a culture for corruption and greed. The more these few government officials exercise their dominion and control over the people, the more the citizens disengage themselves through resistance or apathy.

While partisans sparred with each other -- from the halls of Congress to the Malacañang Palace -- Filipinos have catalyzed several movements for change.

People Power I, in 1986, removed an oppressive dictator and elected the first woman president who dismantled the dictatorship institutions, released the political prisoners and rebuilt a democracy.

People Power II, in 2001, removed a blatantly corrupt president who was found guilty of committing plunder while in office.

The grip of dynasties is being dismantled, slowly at the local levels by courageous governors and mayors. They are deviating from the traditional governance, delivering, instead, accountable and transparent public service. These reforms are now emerging in Isabela, Pampanga and Batangas.

How? A vote from the energized electorate changes local governance. The local treasury has revenues alloted for infrastructure projects, schools, and cemented roads, even Phil Health for residents. Quality of life is slightly better for folks in these provinces, as the public treasury is solely dedicated for public use, as it should be.

I believe that corruption can die naturally, as local and national governance is changed for the better.

Come to Bohol and experience a seamless coming together of citizens, determined to care for their forests, their rivers, and showcase the best of their province to eco-tourists.

They have cemented roads, clean surroundings, zero crime rate, and a high sense of pride for what they have achieved since 1997. Public transport drivers speak highly of their local officials for what they have done: man-made forests to save the rivers, conservation of natural wonders like Chocolate Hills and road-building. Soon, a new airport will accommodate daily seven flights from Manila to Bohol and vice versa.

Wear a Bohol t-shirt in Manila or Los Angeles, and it will elicit a spirited conversation with a Boholano who is proud of the serenity, simplicity and good governance of his or her province.

More provinces are on their way, like Nueva Ecija, Naga City, Isabela, Ifugao, Pampanga and Camarines Sur, to name a few are experiencing qualitative changes with their local government being headed by a governor or mayor who are intent on delivering first class public service to the citizens they serve.

As local citizens become responsible and more engaged, they elect governors and mayors who put the business of the people ahead of their self-interests, and allow reforms to happen. They are not perfect, but they are starting to put the people's interests first, ahead of their self-interests, and they have more miles to reach as yet.

Since the inception in Feb. 2009 of Kaya Natin, a Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, Ilocos Norte, Laguna, La Union, Bulacan, Rizal, Zambales, and Davao have joined, 12 localities thus far, in making a pledge towards good governance and ethical leadership.

The youth has initiatives as well. “ Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo, Ako ang Simula ng Pagbabago." Students are registering as voters and are making public contracts in their campuses and universities. Their footprints are on banners, promising to monitor their ballots when cast. All are pledging to be accountable for their entire campus. They recognize that the future of their country is in their hands, and when they are involved, engaged, and participative, social change begins. Ako ang Simula ng Pagbabago (Change starts with me) is their top of mind.

When John Witherspoon signed the Declaration of Independence, he signed up for democratic change in America during the 18th century. Today, in the 21st century, we can sign up as overseas voters and ensure that we vote for folks who stand for good governance and ethical leadership. Our votes will become mightier than bullets in initiating reforms. Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo, Ako ang Simula ng Pagbabago!

Like the 80 million Filipinos, with 10 million of them scattered around the globe, there is no greater joy for me than to see the Philippines at the helm of good governance, ruled by ethical leaders who put the country’s interests first and alleviate poverty for 40% of the country's population.

Just as Gawad Kalinga has now paved a way for us to stamp out poverty and to bring back dignity in every Filipino home, the best is yet to come for our nation. If each Filipino citizen will choose to vote wisely and participate in the movement for good governance, ethical leadership and social enterpreneurship, we can prosper here and now! It starts with our active participation in registering for our right to vote.

As Senator Ted Kennedy once said, “ Hope never dies, the dream lives on. "

Nota Bene: My husband and I took our oath as dual citizens on June 28, 2009. We also registered to vote for the May 2010 Philippine presidential and national elections.

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