“For us public servants, we are always put on the defensive when others often say, “Corrupt ang gobyerno.” But are we really corrupt? In my 17 years in (government) service, I can honestly and convincingly say that 90 percent of all public servants are honest and competent.”
Thus declared Atty. Arnel Paciano Casanova, chief executive officer of the the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, or BCDA, when he appeared as keynote speaker at the Good Governance for Social Entrepreneurship and Youth Employment forum of the Institute for Labor Studies (ILS), held at the Bayleaf Intramuros recently as part of the Institute’s moral renewal advocacy.
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz has commended the ILS for organizing the forum, which she said is grounded on the DOLE’s Integrity Development Initiative.
“We at the DOLE strongly supports the moral renewal agenda of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, who ahd mandated it through Administrative Order No. 255, s. 2009. Under our own Integrity Development Initiative, ethics training, spiritual formation, and moral recovery programs are part of the doable anti-corruption measures strategy,” she said.
Mary Grace Riguer, ILS executive director, said she invited Atty. Casanova to the forum to help the ILS spread the values of good governance, as well as promote and support social entrepreneurship and youth employment.
As speaker, Atty. Casanova was out and out candid. Before an audience composed of DOLE and ILS employees, as well as representatives of other government agencies, he verbalized what others just speak in whispers.
“Now we have to break that mindset that we are not capable of doing things. Good governance will provide us the dignity and honor as public servants,” he said, urging the participants to get rid of cynicism that keeps many in the public sector from reaching their full potential as competent public servants.
Shaping lives for the better
Atty. Casanova emphasized that the primary role of public servants is to “shape the lives of the people for the better” by enhancing public service delivery. But to do it, according to him, will not be easy as it ultimately depends on one’s ability and willingness to shift his or her way of thinking.
“It all boils down to a change in paradigm—that we as Filipinos can work with dignity, can accomplish greater things, can dream bigger and accomplish bigger for our country,” the BCDA chief reiterated.
“You’re probably looking at me as a successful individual. But I say my success would actually be measured in terms of the lives I have changed. If I have not changed any life for the better, then I would not consider it a success,” he said.
Grit: key to social entrepreneurship
In the often forum that followed his message, the BCDA chief, responding to a question on what it takes to be a successful social entrepreneur, said it is grit, or the indomitable spirit to achieve notwithstanding repeated failures.
The BCDA chief, who co-founded AvantChange in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, together with alumni-batchmates at Harvard University, said: “I think the secret to be a successful entrepreneur, even to be a public servant, is grit. Alam n’yo ‘yung grit, ‘yung kahit ilang beses siyang mabigo, babangon at babangon. Kahit gaano kahirap ang trabaho, babangon para gawin ang trabaho.”
AvantChange’s main goal is to promote the building of social enterprises across the globe. Casanova also sits as trustee in SOLARENERGIE, a local social enterprise bent on fighting poverty through the provision of sustainable access to solar energy for off-grid villages. He is also a board member in CARD Inc., the largest microfinance firm in the Philippines that caters to clients in the lower socio-economic strata. Since 2007, he has been teaching social entrepreneurship at the Ateneo De Manila University School of Government.
“I’m not academically excellent as compared with my peers. I am not as talented as some of my peers. But no one, I think, could measure the kind of grit that I have, and that grit was [formed] by the kind of suffering I [went] through,” he said, in reference to his own struggles with failures in attaining his goals in life.
Atty. Casanova said every Filipino should aspire to go beyond being employed by becoming and employer who creates jobs with a social mission. This way, he said, not only will the country’s employment problems be alleviated, particularly among the youth, but human dignity in labor will also be protected and enhanced.
Annual moral renewal
The ILS first conducted the forum, dubbed “iGov Talks”, early in 2014. Rep. Leni Gerona-Robredo (Camarines Sur, 1st District) keynoted it. The woman lawmaker is is with Atty. Casanova in Kaya Natin!, an advocacy group for good governance and ethical leadership in Philippine politics. Her late husband, former Interior and Local Government Secretary and Naga City Mayor Jess Robredo, was one of the founding leaders of the movement, and to whom the local governance’s ideal twin leadership traits of “matino at mahusay” is ascribed.
The Institute for Labor Studies (ILS) is the policy research and advocacy arm of the Department of Labor and Employment. For more information on this story, please contact Ronell J. Delerio of the Advocacy and Publications Division of ILS at telephone nos. 527-3490/527-3447.