WHAT IS GOVERNANCE?
MEANING OF GOVERNANCE
Governance in General
- The word “governance” came from the Latin verb “gubernare,” or more originally from the Greek word “kubernaein,” which means “to steer.” Basing on its etymology, governance refers to the manner of steering or governing, or of directing and controlling, a group of people or a state.
- Governance is essentially related to politics, in that politics is often defined as the art of governance. Just as politics talks about governments, institutions, power, order, and the ideals of justice, governance also deals with the public sector, power structures, equity, and ideals of public administration. Nevertheless, they are distinct from each other in the sense that politics is broader than governance. Traditionally, the study of politics entails the concept of the “good life” and the “ideal society,” which are so broad they include a web of subjects and every possible form of government. The study of governance, on the contrary, is generally attuned to the concept of democracy, and on how the government and the civil society arrive at a decision in meeting their needs.
Definition of Governance
Governance is commonly defined as the exercise of power or authority by political leaders for the well-being of their country’s citizens or subjects. It is the complex process whereby some sectors of the society wield power, and enact and promulgate public policies which directly affect human and institutional interactions, and economic and social development. The power exercised by the participating sectors of the society is always for the common good, as it is essential for demanding respect and cooperation from the citizens and the state. As such, a great deal about governance is the proper and effective utilization of resources.
Governance and Government
- Governance is traditionally associated with government. In literatures, they are often used interchangeably. But in the 1980s, political scientists broadened the meaning of governance as including, not just government actors, but also civil-society actors. Today, governance includes three sectors: the public sector (state actors and institutions), the private sector (households and companies), and the civil society (non-governmental organizations). These three sectors are said to work hand in hand in the process of governance. This new use of the term focuses on the role of “networks” in the achievement of the common good, whether these networks are intergovernmental, transnational, or international. In other words governance is broader than government in that other sectors are included in it.
- Many authors also distinguish the two by associating government with “control and domination,” and governance with “decentralization and relational management.” On the one hand, government refers to a central institution which wields power over its subjects. It is the instrument patterned after the model of “command and control,” the government being in command over the affairs of the people. On the other hand, governance is closely associated with the concept of decentralization of power and the need for inter-sectoral management. Governance is based on the realization that the government cannot do everything for the people, so that in order to survive the state should not only rely on government but also on the other sectors of the society.
- Thus, under the current trend, there is a need to move from the “traditional hierarchical exercise of power by the government” to the new notion of a “dispersed and relational power in governance” – from government to governance. To govern should now mean to facilitate or regulate, not to dominate or command.
Importance of Studying Governance
From the information learned in the discussion of governance, the people, most especially the citizens, will be aware of the need for good governance. Consequently, such awareness should move them to action. For their continued empowerment and sustainable development, they have to know how to fight for their rights by knowing what to expect from Philippine governance. Thus, what will follow is an exposition of the basic concepts of governance, the ideal type of governance, and the status of the Philippines vis-à-vis the indicators of good governance.
PROCESSES AND ACTORS IN GOVERNANCE
Decision-Making and Implementation
Governance entails two processes: decision-making and implementation of the decision. In broad terms, decision-making refers the process by which a person or group of persons, guided by socio-political structures, arrive at a decision involving their individual and communal needs and wants. Implementation is the process that logically follows the decision; it entails the actualization or materialization of the plan or decision. Governance is not just decision-making because decision without implementation is self-defeating. Neither is it just implementation because there is nothing to implement without a decision or plan. Thus, the two processes necessarily go hand-in-hand in, and are constitutive of, governance.
Actors and Structures
- Understanding the two processes requires an analysis of the “actors” involved and “structures” established for making and implementing a decision. An actor is a sector or group or institution that participates in the process of decision-making and implementation. A structure refers to an organization or mechanism that formally or informally guides the decision-making process and sets into motion the different actors and apparatuses in the implementation process.
- Having such a broad scope, governance has different facets and may be applied in different contexts, such as corporate governance, international governance, and national and local governance. In each context, governance has different actors and structures. Depending on the kind of decision made and the structure implementing it, governance may be good or bad governance.
- The government is almost always the main actor in governance, whether it is in the corporate, international, national or local level. The government is called the “public sector.” While it is the biggest actor in governance, it is not the only actor. Modern complex societies, in order to meet the growing demands of development, are managed in different levels by various actors. Even communist governments work with other sectors, especially with international organizations and multi-national corporations, in meeting their communist ends. The main role of the public sector is to provide an enabling environment for the other actors of governance to participate and respond to the mandate of the common good.
- All actors other than the government are called the “civil society.” The civil society includes non-governmental organizations, and other community-based and sectoral organizations, such as association of farmers, charitable institutions, cooperatives, religious communities, political parties, and research institutes. These organizations are private in nature but have public functions or objectives. The Philippine Red Cross, for instance, is a non-governmental organization. It is a private charitable institution the serves the community especially during disasters and emergencies by providing medical assistance and disaster support services.
- The study of Philippine governance, however, includes the business or private sector as an indispensable partner in development. To cope with the ever growing demands of development, the public sector must necessarily tie-up with the private sector most especially in the financial
- In the national and international level, decision-making is greatly influenced by actors like the media, international organizations, multi-national corporations, and international donors. Thus, from the foregoing, it should be clear that governance involves several actors in multi-level structures.
Informal Actors and Bad Governance
- Other informal actors also exist, such as organized crime syndicates and powerful families. Their influence is felt more clearly in local governments, and in rural and urban areas. Most often than not, these actors are the cause of corruption, in that legitimate government objectives are distorted by their illegal and private interests. Worse, they manipulate government officials and agencies, and cause widespread yet organized violence in the community. In urban and rural areas, for example, the rich and powerful families control the economy by controlling the local government officials. They bring about a controlled environment so that decisions must always favor them. Allegedly, even government officials, both local and national, are not just influenced but themselves members of organized crime syndicates with the purpose of using public office and, consequently, public funds for personal aggrandizement.
- When these actors and informal structures disrupt, corrupt and upset the legitimate objectives and ideals of the society, bad governance will result which is considered as the chief problem of the society. Problems deepen and multiply because of bad governance. Inasmuch as economics and politics are interrelated, poor economy is caused by bad governance. International aids and loans, for instance, are scarce in a badly governed country. International donors and financial institutions are increasingly basing their aid and loans on the condition that reforms that ensure “good governance” are undertaken. Recognizing these realities, current economic and political goals of countries all over the world are aimed at “good governance.” It is an ideal so broad and elusive the realization of which is yet to be achieved. More so, the contemporary meaning of “development” is good governance, or more specifically a reform from faulty governance to good governance. What good governance is will therefore be discussed next.
INDICATORS OF GOOD GOVERNANCE
Eight Indicators of Good Governance
- Good governance is understood through its eight indicators or characteristics: (1) Participatory; (2) Rule of Law; (3) Effective and Efficient; (4) Transparent; (5) Responsive; (6) Equitable and Inclusive; (7) Consensus Oriented; and (8) Accountability. They are inextricably related to each other. For instance, without active participation among the various actors in governance, there would be a concomitant lack of responsiveness. Likewise, if decision-making is not transparent, then inevitably there would be no participation, accountability, and decisions are not consensus oriented. These indicators should, however, be understood in the context of good “democratic” governance. Some of the indicators cannot be applied in other forms of government. For example, good communist governance could never be consensus oriented or genuinely participatory.
- It must also be emphasized that good governance and development should not be based exclusively on economic growth. Through global persuasion, good governance and development signify a broader spectrum of things, such as protection of human rights, equitable distribution of wealth, enhancement of individual capabilities and creation of an enabling environment to foster participation and growth of human potentials. As it evolved today, sustainable development necessitates “people empowerment” and “respect for human rights.” After all, economic prosperity or the minimization of poverty and unemployment depends on how the state unleashes the full potential of its human resource by recognizing their vital roles and according full respect for human rights.
- Good governance essentially requires participation of different sectors of the society. Participation means active involvement of all affected and interested parties in the decision-making process. It requires an enabling environment wherein pertinent information is effectively disseminated and people could respond in an unconstrained and truthful manner. It also means gender equality, recognizing the vital roles of both men and women in decision-making.
- More fundamentally, the need for participation is a recognition of the limits of a “verticalized system” of governance. A verticalized system, or the top-down approach, refers to a state or government monopoly both of powers and responsibilities. While the government is still the most potent actor in the process of governance, the participation of other sectors is already a necessity because of the always evolving complexity and ever growing needs of the societies, especially in the financial sphere. What should now be utilized is the so-called “horizontal system” where the government works hand in hand with other sectors of the society. The different sectors are considered partners of the government in attaining development goals. Governance should no longer be government monopoly but government management or inter-sectoral participation.
- Participation in representative democracies may either be direct or indirect, and recommendatory or actual. It could be indirect and recommendatory because in principle the form of government is based on delegation of powers. In the Philippines, which possesses features of both direct and indirect democracy, indirect participation is done through public consultations or hearings, while direct participation is through elections, initiatives and referendums.
- The management of highly complex societies and of their ever growing needs requires a participatory form of governance by diffusing power. The move for decentralization is a response to this as it widens the base of participation and allows local government units to exercise governmental powers directly within their respective districts. Service delivery is enhanced because of the proximity of local government units to their constituents, and because of the linking which happens between the national government and regional concerns.
- Participation is one of the strengths of Philippine governance. The 1987 Philippine Constitution is replete of provisions dealing with relational and inter-sectoral governance. The Local Government Act of 1989 was borne out of the need for decentralization in Philippine governance. As such, these and other related legislations may be considered as normative standards for good governance.
Rule of Law
- Democracy is essentially the rule of law. It is through the law that people express their will and exercise their sovereignty. That the government is of law and not of men is an underlying democratic principle which puts no one, however rich and powerful, above the law. Not even the government can arbitrarily act in contravention of the law. Thus, good democratic governance is fundamentally adherence to the rule of law.
- Rule of law demands that the people and the civil society render habitual obedience to the law. It also demands that the government acts within the limits of the powers and functions prescribed by the law. The absence of rule of law is anarchy. Anarchy happens when people act in utter disregard of law and when the government act whimsically or arbitrarily beyond their powers. In more concrete terms, rule of law means “peace and order,” “absence of corruption,” “impartial and effective justice system,” “observance and protection of human rights,” and “clear, publicized, and stable laws.”
- What the law seeks to promote is justice. When there is dearth of legislation for curbing social evils, or even if there is, but the same is ineffectual or unresponsive, and when there is no faithful execution of the law, then justice is not attained. When the justice system is biased and discriminatory, when it favors the rich and the influential over the poor and lowly, or when the legal processes are long, arduous, unavailable or full of delays, then justice is not attained. Then when the actors of governance can minimize, if not eliminate, these injustices, then there is said to be rule of law.
- Rule of law also requires that laws are responsive to the needs of the society. Archaic or irrelevant laws must be amended or repealed to cater to modern demands.
- The Philippines does not fare well in this aspect of good governance. In spite of being one of the oldest democracies in the region, the Philippines ranked as last among seven indexed Asian countries according to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index. Generally, the reasons for ranking last are “lack of respect for law,” “pervasive and systemic corruption in the government,” and “circumvention of the law.” Lack of respect for law is generally caused by distrust on the integrity of law enforcement agencies. Order and security are compromised and criminal justice is rendered ineffectual.
Systemic corruption has long been a problem in the Philippines that like a malignant tumor it keeps on sucking the life out of the country. Allegedly, it is the key officials in the government who direct the perpetration of this crime. What became clear from a long string of corruption and plunder cases is the true motive of many aspiring politicians – money. The huge amount of money spent during election campaigns are but mere investments for a more profitable return during their term in office.
In addition, the justice system is flooded by legal practitioners who are experts at circumventing the law. Circumvention happens when there is compliance with the letter of the law but violation of its spirit and purpose. Due to technicalities, for instance, highly paid lawyers can find ways for their rich and powerful clients to evade the law. Although apparently there is observance of law, it is only superficial as the real end of the law is forfeited. As such, there is a concomitant violation of fundamental rights of the people and ineffective administration of justice.
- Nevertheless, the Philippines has exerted efforts in promoting the rule of law. The series of cases filed against high ranking officials, previous Presidents, members of the judiciary, and high profile persons for graft and corrupt practices prove one thing clearly: the honest drive of the current administration to clean the government from corrupt traditional politicians. In addition, legislations were made to hasten the legal process. The “Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2004” (R.A. 9285), for instance, seeks to unclog the court dockets by promoting a speedy, efficient, and less expensive resolution of disputes. The “Judicial Affidavit Rule” issued by the Supreme Court in 2013 also lessened to a great extent the time and expenses of litigation.
Effectiveness and Efficiency
- Good governance requires that the institutions, processes, and actors could deliver and meet the necessities of the society in a way that available resources are utilized well. That the different actors meet the needs of the society means that there is effective governance. That the valuable resources are utilized, without wasting or underutilizing any of them, means that there is efficient governance. Effectiveness (meeting the needs) and efficiency (proper utilization of resources) must necessarily go together to ensure the best possible results for the community.
- Concretely, effectiveness and efficiency demands “enhancement and standardization of the quality of public service delivery consistent with international standards,” “professionalization of bureaucracy,” “focusing of government efforts on its vital functions, and elimination of redundancies or overlaps in functions and operations,” “a citizen-centered government,” and “an improved financial management system of the government.”
- Public service delivery, especially of front-line agencies, must promptly and adequately cater the needs of the citizens. Doing so requires simplified government procedures and inexpensive transaction costs. Cumbersome procedures and expensive costs trigger corruption and red tape. “Red Tape” refers to the disregard for timeframes in procedures by government agencies through procrastination in public service delivery or under-the-table or unofficial transactions. To further curb such possibilities, the government agencies must comply with their citizen’s charter and use up-to-date information and communications technology to reduce processing time. There must also be coordination among various government agencies to eliminate redundant information requirements.
- Professionalism in Philippine bureaucracy requires competence and integrity in civil service. Appointments to civil service must be depoliticized and must be based solely on merits. Effectiveness and efficiency also demands that the programs and objectives of the various government agencies are aligned with individual performance goals. The increases in compensation are likewise necessary for the economic well-being, sustained competence and boosted morale of the civil servants.
- Although still insufficient, efforts were made to attain effectiveness and efficiency in Philippine governance. The Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 (ARTA), for instance, was passed to require the setting up of Citizen’s Charter for a simplified procedure and to facilitate governmental transactions. Also, many government departments and agencies pursued a rationalization program to check excessive and redundant staffing.
- Transparency, as an indicator of good governance, means that people are open to information regarding decision-making process and the implementation of the same. In legal terms, it means that information on matters of public concern are made available to the citizens or those who will be directly affected. It also means that transactions involving public interests must be fully disclosed and made accessible to the people. It is anchored on the democratic right to information and right to access of the same. Transparency is necessary not just from government transactions but also in those transactions of the civil society and private sector imbued with public interests.
- The reason why there should be transparency is to promote and protect democratic ideals. When there is transparency, people are placed in a better position to know and protect their rights as well as denounce corrupt or fraudulent practices in the public sector and in the private sector.
- Although again insufficient, efforts were made in pursuit of transparency in Philippine governance. As far as the government sector is concerned, the current administration, consistent with its drive of curbing corruption, promotes honesty and integrity in public service. It is currently pursuing the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill and other related legislations, as well as intensifying people’s engagement in local governance. Transparency in budget and disbursements are, however, still far from being substantially implemented.
- Responsiveness means that institutions and processes serve all stakeholders in a timely and appropriate manner. It also means that actors and structures of governance easily give genuine expression to the will or desire of the people. In other words, the interests of all citizens must be well protected in a prompt and appropriate manner so that each of them can appreciate and take part in the process of governance. While responsiveness is also a characteristic sought from the private sector and civil society, more is demanded from the government or the public sector.
- Gender equality is engrained in the egalitarian principles of democracy. Gender concerns that respond to the women and their community must always be part of the agenda of public sector and civil society. Thus, emerging as important areas in the study of democratic governance are “Gender and Development” and “Gender Responsiveness.” The participation of women in governance within the context of “gendered socialization” rests on how responsive the structures and processes are to their roles and needs.
- Some of the important efforts made to attain responsive governance in the Philippines are decentralization, creation of citizen’s charter in all frontline agencies (as required by ARTA), and gender sensitivity programs. First, through decentralization, local governments, which are more proximate to their constituents, serve more promptly the people, who in turn become more involved in decision-making. Second, every government agency now has it Citizen’s Charter, which provides timeframes for every step in attaining frontline services. Agencies now must also respond to written queries sent by the stakeholders or interested parties within a period of ten days, otherwise there will be delayed service. However, this aspect of governance still remains to be one of the causes for the decline of public’s confidence in the public sector. Although the ARTA has been passed, there is still so much delay in public service delivery. The failure of the government agencies to explain the charters to the stakeholders is one of the main reasons why there is still delay.
Equity and Inclusiveness
- Equity and inclusiveness means that all the members of the society, especially the most vulnerable ones or the grassroots level, must be taken into consideration in policy-making. Everyone has a stake in the society and no one should feel alienated from it. Particularly, those who belong to the grassroots level must not only be the subject of legislation but they must be given the opportunity to participate in decision or policy making.
- Social equity refers to a kind of justice that gives more opportunity to the less fortunate members of the society. It is based on the principle that those who have less in life should have more in law. Good governance demands that the actors must give preferential attention to the plight of the poor. Laws must be geared towards this end and the society must actively participate in the promotion of the same.
- The Philippine Government has done extensive efforts in promoting equity and inclusiveness. The Constitution makes it as one of its state policies the promotion of social justice. Pursuant to this, the Congress has enacted social legislations like the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law which aims at freeing the farmer tenants from the bondage of the soil. Also, representation in the Congress, under the party list system, is constitutionally mandated to have sectoral representation of the underprivileged. Gender and Development programs are in the process of being integrated with the various structures and institutions in the country. But legislation is one thing; implementation is another. It is in the faithful implementation of these laws that the country failed. Inequality is especially felt in the justice system, electoral system, and even in the bureaucracy itself.
- Governance is consensus oriented when decisions are made after taking into consideration the different viewpoints of the actors of the society. Mechanisms for conflict resolution must be in place because inevitably conflict that will arise from competing interests of the actors. To meet the consensus, a strong, impartial, and flexible mediation structure must be established. Without such, compromises and a broad consensus cannot be reached that serves that best interest of the whole community.
- Fundamentally, democratic governance is based on the partnership of the actors of the society in providing public services. Decisions-making must therefore entail recognition of their respective interests as well as their respective duties. The essential of governance could never be expressed in a unilateral act of policy making by the public sector or other dominant sectors. Public hearings or consultations in arriving at a consensus are therefore inherently necessary in the process of governance.
- Among the things done by the Philippines in promoting a consensus oriented governance are: (1) creation of a wide-based of representation in the Congress; (2) a two-tiered legislature or bicameralism which subjects legislation to the evaluation of national and district legislators; and (3) necessity of public hearings or consultations of various governmental policies and actions.
- Accountability means answerability or responsibility for one’s action. It is based on the principle that every person or group is responsible for their actions most especially when their acts affect public interest. The actors have an obligation to explain and be answerable for the consequences of decisions and actions they have made on behalf of the community it serves.
- Accountability comes in various forms: political, hierarchical, and managerial accountability. Political accountability refers to the accountability of public officials to the people they represent. Hierarchical accountability refers to the ordered accountability of the various agencies and their respective officers and personnel in relation to their program objectives. Managerial accountability refers to employee accountability based on organization and individual performance. A system of rewards and punishment must be in place to strengthen the processes and institutions of governance.
- The Philippines in the recent years had endeavored to comply with the requirements of accountability. It had put in action the concept of political accountability as it held answerable erring public officials involved in graft and corruption and for acts contrary to the mandate of the constitution. It had also strengthened parliamentary scrutiny through legislative investigations and creation of special committees exercising oversight functions. The Office of the Ombudsman, considered as the public watchdog, has become ever so active in investigating and prosecuting graft and plunders cases. Citizen’s Charter, as required by ARTA, was also an important tool in promoting professional public service values. In this area, Philippine governance has done relatively well.
CURRENT STATE OF GOVERNANCE IN THE PHILIPPINES
- The Philippines is plagued by bad governance. Based on the six dimensions of governance in the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI), it ranks in the lower half of the percentile. In 2010-2011, the Philippines ranked only 85th in the Global Competitive Index (GCI), lagging behind most of its Southeast Asian neighbors. The decline of trust on the actors of governance and the consequential poor economic condition were brought about by the systemic corruption among and between public officials and private organizations. In 2013, it ranked 94th among 177 countries in the Corruption Perception Index. Among the key institutions in the Philippines perceived to be most corrupt based on the Global Corruption Index are “political parties,” “judiciary,” “police,” “public officials and civil servants,” and “legislature.” This means all branches of the Philippine government are now challenged.
- As perceived and experienced by the common Filipino masses, the foremost indicators of bad governance in the Philippines are the unending cycle of poverty, the huge gap between the rich and the poor, the deep-seated tradition of corruption, mistrust on formal government institutions, yawning cynicism on the true motive of political actions, instability of the economic environment, constant threats to the authority of the established government, and questions on accountability and transparency. These are the usual content of everyday broadcast media, so common that there perceived to be the normal state of affairs in the Philippines.
- Bad governance is the root cause of all evils. It is what prevents the Philippines from achieving its Millennium Development Goals. Rising above such state of governance is a political imperative and the ideal solution to a wide range of politico-economic problems. While the Philippines has already created “islands of good governance” in some national agencies and local government units, its overall state is still miserable.
- Who are the actors in the process of governance? How do they interact in coming up with, and in implementing, decisions?
- How are the indicators of good governance related to each other? Give a concrete example of your answer.
- How does governance transform into bad governance? Give concrete examples.
- What is the status of governance here in the Philippines? Support your answer.
- Give your recommendations on how to improve Philippine governance.
 Anne Mette Kjaer, “Governance,” (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004), p. 3.
 Ibid., p. 4.
 Yap Kioe Sheng, What is good governance?, (pdf version, < http://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/good-governance.pdf>)
 This trend gave rise to the so-called “rights-based approach.”
 Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, pp. 215-220.
 Before government records are tied using red tapes, and after being tied they just stay in the offices without being acted upon. This has become a source of corruption because government officials and civil servants may require brides from the stakeholders to accommodate their requests.
 “Islands of good governance” refers to isolated or partial areas where there is good governance based on the indicators of good governance. It is not good governance per se because for governance to be good it must refer to the overall state of the country.
 Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, p. 206. (pdf version of Chapter 7, Good Governance and the Rule of Law, < http://www.neda.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/CHAPTER-7.pdf>)
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