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Walking the talk

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A lot of people think that when they rant online against the irregularities in government and other institutions, or misdeeds of those in power, their duties as vigilant citizens of a nation have been performed. It is not enough. Those who are sincerely and genuinely concerned about what is happening in government and the society MUST BE DOING WHAT THEY ARE FOR. That is what true activism is.

Activism is the practice of taking direct action to achieve political and social goals.  The public and some government officials may notice your rants on social media but your posts do not guarantee that you will be able to generate widespread or well-targeted public attention around specific issues or demands.

This was among the points of discussion between Political Science and Public Administration students, academicians, government officials and PA practitioners during the first Public Policy Summit held in the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City. During the open forum, a Political Science student from Carlos Hilado Memorial State University asked resource speakers what students can do so that they do not remain fence-sitters when it comes to issues surrounding government.  A fence-sitter is a person who does not make a stand or decision on an issue. In response to the question, Bacolod City Councilor Israel Salanga urged those in the audience who were students from CHMSU, USLS and STI West Negros University to take part in activities like Sangguniang Kabataan and Barangay assemblies so that they are not only aware about what is happening in their communities but most importantly, they can also speak up whenever necessary. Hinoba-an Sangguniang Bayan Member Jason Tupas for his part told students how important it is for them to take part in activities where they can articulate their position on issues, and at the same contribute their ideas for the good of the community whether as youth leaders or as members of the civil society.

Political Science students from CHMSU and USLS Bacolod and Public Administration students from the School of Graduate Studies of STIWNU at the Public Policy Summit 2023.*
Atty. Maki Angel Ascalon, Sangguniang Panlalawigan secretary presenting the Executive-Legislative Agenda (ELA) of Negros Occidental during the Public Policy Summit 2023.*

Being one of the resource persons from the academe, I emphasized that the youth’s vigilance and activism as expressed in their social media posts must not remain on soc-med but must be converted into concrete actions that are geared towards good governance because good governance is not only the job of those in government. Citizen and civil society engagement are critical in demanding and promoting good governance. According to the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Government Brief, “Development and policy makers are recognizing that engaging citizens and civil society can complement government efforts to promote good governance.”

Bhargava (2015) stressed the growing evidence that citizen engagement improves development outcomes, reduces poverty and encourages peace by promoting social inclusion. Additionally, ADB pointed out that internet connectivity and round-the-clock instant communications, and social media make it easier and faster for government to engage more extensively with citizens.

In an interview with former Negros Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela in a separate event, he said a citizen cannot be mere ‘miron’ or fence-sitter the reason why Paghimud-os Negros, Inc. was founded, a non-government organization (NGO) that aims to drive change towards the right direction by building a strong civil society.

The resource persons Dr. Jonathan Lobaton of CHMSU, Negros Occidental SP secretary Atty. Maki Angel Ascalon, SB Member Jason Tupas of Hinoba-an, EB Magalona SP secretary Atty. Ryan Montoro, Dr. Yasmin Pascual Dormido of the MPA/DPA Program of STIWNU, Bacolod City Councilor Israel Salanga and Josel Osal, CHMSU MPA chairperson (l-r)*
Student leaders and campus journalists trying their hands at online tools to fact-check media reports and other online content during the “I-fact Check Mo!” Seminar-Workshop in NOHS.*

“But it doesn’t mean nga we will only be miron, because that might be the perception. We have a term in Synergia Foundation, “mga dakilang miron”. We need to tell government what we think or how we think we should be governed but we also need to contribute. Positive engagement is what we’re looking for. But if necessary, we will raise our voices against misgovernance. So, we’re hoping that Paghimud-os becomes the civil society coalition that will give voice to the people,” explained Coscolluela.

Walking the talk, according to the former governor and Paghimud-os chairman means deciding on an action agenda that will actually put citizens and the civil society in direct contact, engagements with local government and local communities. They will be launching a local governance awards program.

“We will define the meaning of good governance at the local level, and measure local governments on the basis of these criteria. At the same time,if the public knows that this is what good governance means, then they will know how to measure their own local government. So hopefully, we will be able to raise the bar in local governance. But the approach is positive. We‘re looking for the good, the excellent. Those who know they did not pass the bar then they will know where they fall short, they will try to improve,” he added.


I returned to my alma mater, Negros Occidental High School, to conduct a fact-checking seminar-workshop with students belonging to the Special Program in Journalism, staff of the school publications The Reflector and Ang Aninag, and officers of the Supreme Student Government a couple of weeks ago.

After the lecture, the students were given fact-checking exercises using different online tools.  Jose Mari Dalisay, SSG president, believes the importance of history must be aligned with the relevance of combating disinformation.

“We conducted “I-fact Check Mo!” because we do not only aim to make campus journalists, student leaders and our fellow learners aware of disinformation and the need to fact-check, but also in order to equip them with the necessary skills and teach them about tools available online for verifying information,” said Dalisay.*


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October 2023

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