It has been almost a year since the May 2007 local and national elections and a lot of my friends and acquaintances from outside Lianga have been asking me how the municipal government under the administration of Mayor Vicente "Belos" Pedrozo is faring in getting the town back on the path of progress and development after years, decades actually, of economic decline.
Pedrozo had won a convincing electoral victory in 2007 over then incumbent mayor, Felino Pantaleon, Jr., by running under a political platform promising honest, corruption free, responsive and proactive governance in contrast to a then incumbent political administration he characterized as corruption ridden and unable to provide the impetus for positive change and progress for Lianga. He also brought with him to power a couple of young, new faces in the Sangguniang Bayan or municipal council that a lot of local voters thought would provide new perspectives and approaches to the host of problems plaguing the town as well as infuse new blood and vitality into the local legislative process.
It is therefore sad to note, and this is a view shared by many here, that the high expectations engendered by the change in the local political administration last year has to this date been largely unfulfilled. That is not to say that nothing has been actually done by the new political leadership. Some changes, particularly in the areas of tightening fiscal control and instituting procedural changes in the town hall's fiscal processes so as to eliminate if not minimize the abuse and misuse of government funds have been implemented with some positive results.
Yet many of the old problems remains, foremost among them is still the prevailing lack of a clear and coherent vision of what the future should be for Lianga. This lack of a rational, concrete and well-studied blueprint for the future progress and development of the town goes beyond the periodic yet merely formulaic and standardized developmental planning usually initiated by "expert" outsiders from both national and provincial government agencies. It should evolve from thorough consultations with the local people and be based on a clear and unbiased assessment of the town's specific economic strengths, weaknesses and peculiar characteristics.
What we have now in the municipal government is a cacophony of voices and interests all voicing their own solutions and visions for the municipality. All sound and fury, grandstanding and eloquent (and not so eloquent) rhetoric, often signifying nothing substantial, useful and practical. Those few who do speak out with clear voices and sound ideas are often drowned out in the babble of nonsense, lost in the sea of noisy mediocrity and selfish interests, political or otherwise.
What exists is a governance of trial and error, of reactive and certainly not "proactive" politics. And that is exactly why Lianga is going nowhere. It is like a patient just out of intensive care and recovering from a deadly illness but neither getting worse or better but just "middling". And just getting by is simply not what the voters here wanted when they gave their mandate to the Pedrozo administration last year.
What Mayor Pedrozo must realize is that good governance goes beyond mere houscleaning and streamlining of the town government. For a local government to be effective, it must not only, at least in the case of Lianga, provide the environment for positive change and progress but also initiate and nurture the impetus for change as well. That is the essence of being "proactive", a word currently much used and abused in Philippine politics.
The mayor has been quoted many times are being focused on leaving a "lasting legacy of good governance" for Lianga. A clear, unequivocal and definite statement of his vision for a progressive Lianga in the years ahead and concrete steps towards the achievement of that vision would be the centerpiece of better legacy he can leave behind.
It is also a legacy he must start putting in place as soon as possible because time is essentially running out. By this time next year, everyone's focus will shift to preparations for the 2010 national and local polls. In the noise and distractions, wheeling and dealing and shifting political loyalties of a pre-election period, no such undertaking requiring undivided focus and attention will be feasible or sustainable. Now is the time for him and his administration to get their act together and get down to work.
Enough of the slogans and half-measures. In truth, Lianga has had more than enough of both for a long, long time already.