Watching the government from within

A friend once told me that watching the government from the inside requires three H’s:

Of the three, the “hands” offer the most perceptible ways to take part in the exercise of watching the government from within. 

As a state worker, I offer my hands through these simple yet concrete actions:

1) No to patronage politics

I used to work for a Cabinet Secretary, briefly for a then-senatorial candidate, and now for a district representative.

A number of relatives, friends, and acquaintances have come up to me and asked to be introduced to my principal to seek a padrino (a.k.a backer) for employment, contracts, appointments, promotions, among many other requests.

But I denied all their requests.

I refuse to engage in the padrino system or to be used as an accessory to earn it.

These favors were probably small, but these seemingly insignificant partialities could lead to bigger acts of corruption in the long run. (READ: 'Why I have faith in our government')

2) Speak up

My principal is a lawmaker. As a legislative officer, I raise a red flag whenever I see incongruences and inadequacies on proposed pieces of legislations, even if the proponent of the bill is my boss’ political allies.

Quality legislation should not be about the number of bills filed or the number of co-authored measures, but about the soundness of proposed policies.

3) Give feedback

Frontline public service providers usually (must) have a feedback mechanism, which most of us choose to ignore because it is easier to vent disdain on social media.

Yes, those surveys and comment forms eat my time.

Plus there’s even a great chance that my comments would not be read, but I take them anyway.

I take them because I will never know when I will actually be heard, when my humble suggestions can pave the way for innovations in the old, inefficient system.

4) Educate others

In my own way, I make it a point to educate family members and friends on government processes – from the simple ones like demanding receipts for every paid transaction, to the broader ones like those embodied in Anti-Red Tape Act or ARTA.

Knowing the proper procedures make it easier to urge them not to employ fixers and not to give out bribes.

5) Be a part of the solution

Good governance is not the sole responsibility of government.

In the study of Public Administration, the convergence of government, business, and civil society is a model of good governance. Hence, it is everyone’s duty to continue to demand for good governance from all three sectors. (READ: Open data for a more transparent government'?)

Apathy and indifference has no place in good governance.

Anyone can be part of the engagement. Social media has made it easier for every citizen to take action.

6) Know what leaders are doing

I may not know all the district and sectoral representatives in the country – there are 290 of them at present – but I make it a point to let my friends know how their district representatives are faring in the halls of Congress.

I let them know whether their representative is known for their outstanding performance (i.e., perfect attendance, superior analytical skills) or for their notoriety (i.e., absences, Committee on Silence).

I know I won’t be able to change the mind of all voters, but if I am able to influence just one, that is more than enough for me. (READ: 'Prosecute! Abolish! Transform!')

7) Vote

This, probably, is the single most important exercise that every citizen must do for the country. I believe that by going out on Election Day and casting my vote, I am already guarding the interest of the public and the nation.

As the “boss,” I demand unquestionable integrity from the people we voted for. They should be viewed as the public's "employees." (READ: 'Be the boss')

I want them be accountable, transparent, and responsive. I require only the best performance and outputs from them. And if they fail to perform well, I do not want to "re-hire" them come the next elections.

Demand yourself

In return, I have set high standards, too, for the work that I am delivering. I strive to be more efficient and more effective. I work not merely to clock in hours, but to deliver results.

I promise not to be eaten by the system of corruption. I promise not to turn a blind eye when I see wrongdoings. And, I promise to continuously watch the government from within like any vigilant watchdog would. (READ: 'Things I learned in fighting corruption')

Watching the government from within is a hard act to balance, but it can be done.

These actions aren’t much, not heroic, not even notable. But they are simple enough to be practiced by government employees and the public alike. –

Aireen Keith Macalalad is a full-time government employee, part-time law student, forever wonder-seeker and wanderer.