Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Pride of Nueva Ecija

Last week, one of the major news stories that erupted prior to the end of 2008 was an incident involving the abuse of power by a city mayor whose father is also the incumbent Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary. According to an email which has been circulating for days now, Masiu City Mayor Nasser Pangandaman, Jr. together with his friends and bodyguards ganged up and beat up a 56-year old man and his 14-year old son over an altercation at the Valley Golf and Country Club in Antipolo City. As if this wasn’t enough, Mayor Pangandaman, Jr. and his cohorts continued to beat the two of them up while the 14-year son pleaded with them to stop. This happened as DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman just watched and didn’t even bother to lift a finger to stop the incident. Since then many people have condemned this act and have voiced out their utmost disappointment with the kind of government officials that we have in this country. If Sec. Pangandaman and Mayor Pangandaman, Jr. has some decency and delicadeza left in them, I believe they should not only offer a sincere apology to the Dela Paz family but also resign from their posts immediately. Government officials like Mayor Pangandaman, Jr. is the reason why many Filipinos have begun to lose hope with our present administration and our current crop of government leaders.

Yet on the bright side of things, it’s a new year and it’s always good to start the year right with a story of hope especially in the field of politics and governance in our country. While there are abusive government leaders such as Mayor Pangandaman, Jr., we also have local government leaders who have quietly worked towards promoting genuine service and good governance for their constituents. Last year, the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government (ASOG) convened the Kaya Natin! Movement wherein the initial leaders who met were Gov. Eddie Panlilio of Pampanga together with Ramon Magsaysay Awardees (Asia’s Nobel Prize) Mayor Jesse Robredo and Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela. Many people already know the stories of Panlilio, Padaca and Robredo given that these three local government leaders have shown that against all odds they can continue to deliver effective basic services in a moral and ethical manner. Another Kaya Natin! leader is Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija whose leadership in her municipality has transformed San Isidro from a sleepy 4th class municipality to developing 2nd class municipality in less than 10 years! Since Lorenzo was elected in 1998, she has provided health insurance to almost every family in San Isidro despite having a very limited budget. In the field of education, San Isidro has consistently been one of the top performers in the province in terms of the yearly achievement and aptitude tests given by the Department of Education (DepEd). More importantly, under her leadership, she was able to convince many top-level academic institutions and foundations to work with her in improving the lives of her constituents. These include the Ateneo de Manila University and Synergeia Foundation which works with her in the field of improving public education, the College of the Immaculate Conception (CIC) which works with her in promoting good governance and Gawad Kalinga (GK) wherein she serves as one of its main champions in the province. By working with these private organizations, Lorenzo has been able to maximize the use of her resources while being able to uplift the quality of life of the people of San Isidro. As a proof that good governance can mean good politics, Lorenzo ran for re-election last 2007 without buying votes and didn’t even bother to put up any posters, streamers or banners. When her allies told her that she might lose the elections, she told them that they will go house to house and campaign based on what they have achieved thus, the elections will serve as a gauge on whether or not the people have felt the benefits of the programs that they have delivered. When the last ballot was counted, Lorenzo won with the largest winning margin in the history of San Isidro showing everyone that one need not spend millions if s/he would only do his or her job well. Finally, Lorenzo’s efforts have not gone unnoticed as she was also awarded as one of the six inaugural fellows at the Asian Institute of Management’s (AIM) Team Energy (formerly Mirant) Center for Bridging Societal Divides. Her dedication to public service and her being an ethical leader is a testament that not all government leaders are like Mayor Pangandaman, Jr., the province of Nueva Ecija should be proud that it has someone like Mayor Sonia Lorenzo who embodies what it truly means to be a true public servant.

Listen to Mayor Sonia Lorenzo and the other Kaya Natin! leaders speak at the Kaya Natin! Caravan of Good Governance on January 10,2009 (Saturday) at Araullo University in Cabanatuan City and at the University of the Assumption in San Fernando, Pampanga. For more information, you can send an email to or call (02) 426-5657.

Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government (ASOG).

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