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Monday, September 8, 2008

Be Careful in Making Promises

Grace Padaca has been the governor of Isabela since 2004 when she won over a long-entrenched dynasty under the battle cry "Free Isabela."

She received the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service on Aug. 31 for empowering voters to reclaim their democratic right toelect leaders of their own choosing.

Be careful in making promises
By Grace Padaca
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: August 28, 2008
Upon becoming a governor after years of being a broadcaster—switchingfrom being an observer to being the one observed—one of the first things I learned was why people in government were often accused ofmaking a lot of promises and not keeping them.

One possible reason is the sheer number of people who come to you, needing various things, often seeing you as their last and only hope. In my case, I was the answer that finally came to Isabela, afterhearing almost nothing from those who came before me.We have so many needy people in our country, and when they get thechance to talk to a mayor or governor any place, they will not let theopportunity pass.

One time, a lady who had just received Holy Communion saw me as shewas returning to her seat. With the holy host still in her mouth, shestopped to tell me of a need in their barangay. I told her, "Manang,bumalik ka muna sa upuan mo at tapusin ang iyong dasal. (Older sister,return to your seat first and finish your prayer.)"

Our poor people hang on to every little hope for their big needs. Ihave learned to be sparing of my gestures and expressions because eventhe slightest of smiles or a nod or two, as you listen to them, may betaken as approval of their requests, raising their hopes.

With the very limited resources of government, not every clamor can begranted. And even if one is able to grant a hundred requests, thereare still a thousand waiting for a "promise" to be fulfilled.

Urgent needs

When the request is not delivered when it is needed (and it is alwaysneeded right away!) a promise is once again broken by a politician.

One reason I ran for government office (even if I can hardly walk) wasthe way many of our people had become constituents of "BarangayVeinte": Give them P20 and they are fine. Give them free medicines andthey are okay even if you do not address the problem of why so many ofthem are getting sick in the first place. Build them schools and bighospitals, as is SOP. Allow them to sleep, dream and wake up to bet onjueteng three times a day for a little chance to have a better life.

This was the recipe for perpetual poverty.

Having been physically handicapped since I was three, I have learnedthat life is not worth living if you are dependent on others. I havelearned that despite tremendous limitations, physical or otherwise, noone is ever too inadequate to cope, to adjust and even to shine.

The lessons I have learned, I am now teaching to my apo Isabelinos. Itell them, "Use me as your visual aid." Perhaps the Lord gave Isabelaa governor who is physically weaker than most of her constituents sothat, when they see her, they will realize that one can rise aboveone's difficulties as long as one chooses to do something about thesituation.

I have to tell our people constantly that the battle is not yet over.We may have defeated the dynasty but there are other things we have tofight. We also have to free ourselves from our own wrong attitudes,our misplaced values, our bad habits.

After four years as governor, thankfully I have learned not to say yesmindlessly to the droves of people who come to me for the things they need.

We have devised systems like my weekly People's Day or Ugnayang Bayanthat gives me the chance to listen to them patiently and assess theirsituation objectively. I explain to them the need to prioritizebecause of the limited resources of government, especially if theycontinue to have big families by failing to practice responsibleparenthood.

More importantly, I always remind them, challenge them: Mas masaraptulungan ang mga taong marunong tumulong sa kanilang mga sarili. (It'sa greater pleasure to help people who know how to help themselves.)

I know that our poor people, including the jueteng kobrador(collector) and illegal logging bogador (laborers), know how to helpthemselves. But what they are doing to support their families is not easy.

It is the duty of leaders to direct their energies, their devotion totheir families and all their sacrifices towards what is right,sustainable and dignified.

Those of us in government should learn to be careful in makingpromises and deciding what to keep. We should also remember that thereis, in every Filipino, the promise of becoming an honorable,self-reliant citizen if given the chance, as well as the respect,he/she deserves.

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