Yesterday morning, the local news inbox on my computer contained a whammy of a news item, big news least for those closely following the political developments in the province of Surigao del Sur which counts this town as one of its own. For the current political leadership at the provincial capitol in Tandag, however, it is certainly not the kind of news report they would welcome and it could not have come at a more inopportune time.
It seems that the Philippine Daily Inquirer has reported that the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) which is the government's highest policy making and coordinating body on statistical matters has tagged this province as No. 6 on its list of ten of the country's "worst governed" provinces. Oh my God! That certainly got my full attention.
Maguindanao (of course!) headed the list followed by Camarines Sur, Masbate, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Camarines Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Albay and Romblon. The list was compiled based on an NSCB survey in 2005 which used economic, political and administrative indicators to formulate a good governance index (GGI) which is used as a basis for the ranking of the aforementioned provinces. The statistics used were sourced from official government agencies foremost among them the Department of Health, the Department of Education and the Department of Interior and Local Government. (Read the complete news article here.....)
No matter how one views the news report, it cannot be construed except as a slap on the face of the political leadership having control of provincial government since 2001. Governor Vicente Pimentel Jr. has always maintained that his nine year stewardship of the province has been exemplary and that it would continue to prosper under the leadership of his brother, Johnny Pimentel, the current provincial administrator who is eyeing to succeed his elder sibling as provincial governor in the coming May 2010 local elections. The release of the BSCD findings at this time when local politicians are gearing up for the approaching campaign period and the May elections must come like a surprise rabbit punch to the chin for both of them.
The fact that a government statistical agency, using government statistics, has determined that this province has been essentially misgoverned must be now giving Pimentel detractors and their political opponents ample reason to jump up with delight and chortle with glee. And for sure, in the coming official campaign period, the NSCB findings will provide them with more than sufficient ammunition for embarrassing the current provincial administration and putting them on the defensive in what may yet prove to be a bruising slugfest of a campaign.
One aspect of this controversy is intriguing local political observers here. The Pimentel political clan is closely allied with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Lakas-Kampi-CMD which happens to be the dominant political party in the country. Thus, the release of the NSCB report which obviously would be politically embarrassing and damaging not only to the Pimentels but also to the political leadership of the other provinces mentioned in the report seems rather a surprising development.
A report like that or a news item based on it could have been controlled or killed easily. Is the Inquirer news item a message or warning of sorts or merely an indication that not all is really well within the ranks of the party leadership?
What does former senatorial candidate, Prospero Pichay Jr. (presently chairman of the Local Water Utilities Administration) and his brother, Cong. Philip Pichay, have to say about this issue? The Pichays have been closely allied with the Pimentels in the past yet rumors are rife here that that may no longer be the case. The publication of the NSCB report could be, some are speculating, the result or the first overt confirmation of an impending parting of ways in what used to be a solid political partnership.
Of course, the question of whether the negative political and publicity fallout resulting from the Inquirer news report will really matter in the end remains to be seen. After all, the Pimentel political machine is a lavishly funded, well-oiled juggernaut that may prove to be very difficult to overcome by their political opponents even in the light of such negative publicity.
To illustrate that point, Dr. Romulo Virola, the secretary general of NSCB was also quoted in the news report as saying that the fact that eight of the poorly managed provinces in the list eventually re-elected their governors (or their relatives) who were already in power in 2005 when the survey was made, is indicative that many Filipinos "do not vote for good governance". It does seem that the people of Surigao del Sur (who re-elected their own governor in the 2007 elections) like most Filipinos either did not agree with the NSCB's findings or used a different set of criteria (or no criteria at all) in choosing their political leaders.
Filipinos also apparently do not appreciate good governance even when it is exists. In the 10 best governed provinces (which includes Batanes, Rizal, Benguet, Siquijor, Bulacan, Apayao, Laguna, Cavite, Nueva Vizcaya and Pampanga), three of the governors incumbent in 2005 were not returned to office. So not only do Filipinos not vote against bad governance, they also, in many cases, do not vote for good governance when they have it. No wonder the country is in such a mess!
So, the NSCB report in the final analysis, even if taken at face value, actually says nothing new about how Filipinos in general or Surigaonons in particular vote for or choose their leaders. It merely restates formally and statistically what is already common knowledge.
We have no confidence, trust and respect in our own government. That is the case because we have, in the first place, no confidence, trust and respect in ourselves as a people and as an electorate. So we elect choose and elect leaders we mistrust and despise while we gripe, grumble and complain about how oppressed and exploited we are.
If we are, then it is clear that we deserved to be.
If we are, then it is clear that we deserved to be.