Impeachment: Hope for the farmersBy Ernesto M. Ordoñez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Delsa Flores, the former court interpreter who lost her job because she did not declare in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth that she owned a market stall, was asked what lessons could be drawn from the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
She replied: “If one wishes to work in government, he or she should be honest at all times.”
While honesty is indeed important, farmers need more.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, in his speech explaining his impeachment vote, said: “The court action, being far-reaching and precedent-setting, is actually rebuilding a new paradigm of transparency and accountability in public office.”
With this new governance paradigm emerging from the impeachment, we now ask the Department of Agriculture (DA) led by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for more transparency and accountability.
Identifying and penalizing wrongdoing is good. But what would be better for farmers and fisher folk is a management system that will automatically catch this wrongdoing.
A system is more consistent, efficient and reliable than people’s good intentions. This is applicable not only for catching wrongdoing, but also for delivering effective public service.
Systems are also more sustainable. When good people leave, good governance will still prevail because the systems are in place to ensure it.
Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano has instituted a good system for agricultural negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
He regularly convenes a task force, which includes private sector leaders, to formulate and help implement the Philippine negotiating position. The results are indeed commendable.
But other DA areas lack such a system.
Despite the Alyansa Agrikultura resolution for private-sector participation in DA budget formulation and monitoring that was approved by the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council (NAFC) last year, a paper trail proves that this has not been done.
In this case, there was no dishonesty. But since there is also no system of transparency and accountability, fund allocation and use is now a big question.
Another area is the Bureau of Customs (BoC) automatic transmittal of the Inward Foreign Manifest (IFM) to the DA.
This system was so effective in catching smugglers that it was dismantled soon after its creation!
The IFM identifies the imported product, volume, source, vessel and date of arrival two days before the shipment comes in. Only BoC knows this, thus depriving DA and the farmers of transparency and accountability. This is the main reason why smuggling prospers.
A unanimously approved recommendation to restore this system was made by the Agriculture Fisheries 2025 (AF 2025) Conference on Feb. 11, 2011. BoC Commissioner Rufino Biazon ordered this restoration only last May 7, 2012, but no action has since been taken.
Since the impeachment has catalyzed a new desire for transparency and accountability, intention should now be transformed into action. Sincerity is good, but results are better. We need DA and BoC to formulate and implement self-monitoring and self-correcting management systems to get results.
The farmers are happy with the efforts to fight corruption. But they are unhappy with the rampant smuggling and slow implementation of the Secretary’s directives, which can be due to some unscrupulous lower level management personnel.
The recent impeachment should spur action to create and implement management systems that will ensure transparency and accountability.
Last May 29 Angelica Viloria wrote: “The long-running telenovela which started on Dec. 12, 2011, is over. What to do from here? To a better Philippines and to more transparent individuals in public service? Hope so. The whole Philippines hopes so.”
The Filipino farmers certainly hope so.
(The author is chairman of Agriwatch. For inquiries and suggestions, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telefax (02) 8522112.)
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