Fulfilling our civic duty beyond election day

Published May 14, 2019, 12:07 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Atty. Joey D. Lina Former Senator
Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

It’s now the day after elections and it’s time for emerging winners to get real, to sort out the do-able from the impossible in the array of many too-good-to-be-true promises that fueled campaign rhetoric to entice voters.

With the heated and divisive 2019 elections behind us, we need to close ranks and give our chosen leaders all the support they need as they start focusing on how to hit the ground running when their term starts on June 30.

And as soon as the new members of both Houses of Congress and local government officials begin their fresh mandate, we need to hound them towards the pursuit of excellence in the performance of duties and functions they have been elected for.

Indeed, the civic duty of responsible voters does not end on election day. Enlightened voters who aspire for excellence in governance feel that victorious candidates should be held responsible for promises made. These newly elected public servants must be under constant scrutiny to see if they do their utmost in crafting concrete and viable ways to fulfill doable promises.

And our civic duty also entails going after violators of election laws. Former Sen. Heherson Alvarez, who withdrew from the congressional race in protest of massive vote-buying in Isabela, did right in filing a case before the Comelec.

“I had hoped that this election would have been my last effort to render public service after several decades of cumulative experience… Unfortunately, the massive and overwhelming
vote buying in my district and hometown makes this electoral process a sham,” Alvarez lamented.

“Vote buying is vote killing and is as destructive to our democracy as illegal drug is destructive to our physical well-being,” Alvarez said. “We must renounce it, denounce it, and withdraw our tolerance to it, or our democracy will wither away.”

Those fed up with rampant vote-buying in many areas of the country must rally behind Alvarez and exercise the civic duty to document and expose cases of vote-buying and present pieces of evidence that would greatly help in prosecuting violators and prevent erring politicians from taking over the elective posts. If we are to have meaningful change in the aftermath of the 2019 elections, it is essential that these violators face the full force of the law.

Meaningful change shall also come about if our newly elected leaders have a clear grasp of the dire situation our country is in, and the solutions to pressing problems and challenges – widespread poverty, chronic underdevelopment, shortage of jobs and livelihood opportunities, among many more.

Poverty incidence is widespread in the countryside. About two of every three poor Filipinos are in rural areas and are largely dependent on agricultural income and employment. Underemployment in agriculture is a persistent problem.

Thus, it is imperative for our elected leaders to intensify pursuit of agricultural modernization. It certainly is key to achieving food security, job creation and poverty-eradication in the countryside, as well as balanced rural-urban development. Countryside development will lead to the rise of new growth centers outside of congested Metro Manila which would then cease to become a magnet for rapid rural to urban migration.

There’s no doubt that employment generation can solve a lot of problems, particularly on poverty and homelessness. Indeed, the root cause of homelessness is poverty due to joblessness. Without jobs, there’s no income. And if there’s no income, there’s no purchasing power to afford decent housing.

Along with those in the national government, the ball is in the hands of local officials, especially in rural areas, to create the conditions to get full support of the private sector to indulge in job and livelihood generating activities.

The possibilities are limitless for local government units that endeavor to be self-reliant as envisioned by the Local Government Code (LGC). Not only can LGUs complement national efforts to alleviate poverty; they can even plan and push their own local development programs on job creation, tourism enhancement, and various agro-industrial and infrastructure

Local officials can fully utilize Section 16 of the LGC that authorizes them to use their vast powers in undertaking activities “essential to the promotion of the general welfare.”

The general welfare clause specifically mandates LGUs to, “enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants.”

Under the law, LGUs are clearly tasked to address joblessness and promote livelihood activities that will enhance economic prosperity in the communities.

If all LGUs adequately perform their vital role to promote the general welfare of constituents, many of our nationwide problems would be solved or reduced significantly. Fulfilling our civic duty beyond election day by keeping a close watch on our newly elected public servants should ensure they not only perform adequately, but strive for excellence.

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