EDITORIAL: What can new mayors do in two years?

YOU read it right. The truth is new municipal mayors have only two factual years to perform and deliver their campaign promises. The first year after election is not theirs. The budget, if there is any left, is planned for and by the past administration. The next two years is to prepare for their re-election.

New mayors will have to deal with various issues about their chosen job -- interestingly related to the civil service dictum of “in the interest of the service”. To their surprise, public office will come as alien galaxies, then woe to ambiguity of their pronounced dedication and political will. This is true whether they came in as former Vice Mayors or as members of the Sanggunian Bayan. The operational intricacies will be as crazy as a maze of unchartered roads and pathways, each one becoming more and more frustrating as the new executives deal with workers of diverse perceptions of the new boss and how they will promote their own self interests. The things that they will encounter and deal with in their two to three years of work are monumental and are not limited to the following:

• Knowing and studying the programs, projects and activities of various departments

• Introducing change and the mayor’s own policies and programs

• Adjusting with the existing organizational system, culture and values

• Managing through the in-place bureaucratic rules and regulations

• Learning the nuances of public governance and public administration

• Educating self with past DILG memoranda, guidelines and performance criteria

• Adapting with modern management techniques and strategies

• Making themselves always available to their constituencies

• Dealing with important stakeholders including media and other influence peddlers

• Balancing their new responsibilities with the interest of their respective families

The question therefore is: “Can the new Mayors deliver effectively and efficiently their campaign promises within their incumbency?” From the outset of the implementation of the present Constitution the three-year term with two allowable reelections has already been questioned. True enough, newly elected municipal executives have only two choices: plan and implement programs and projects to prepare them for reelection, or just coast along with policies of those who are in power at the national level. Either way there is lesser focus on long-term local economic and area development policies. Most will be on short-term give and forget projects grounded on the usual social services or welfare programs or on infrastructures which are the fastest strategy of generating financial and political capital.

This brings us to the plot about “Federalism” or “Charter Change”. If this constitutional alteration will ever occur, our position is that the present terms of office of local executives of three years with reelection must be changed into six years with a three-term reelection -- but with a simple process of recall if found ineffective, corrupt or committing crimes against the constitution or our laws. Because the fact is, while policies are crafted at the national level, the actual social and economic development activities are done in the municipalities. Continuity in development can only be achieved if Mayors are given the same term mandates as national elective officials. Meaningful development can be realized if they are also given the trust and confidence in good faith as well as enough time to study, analyze, plan and deliver long-term services in partnership with their constituencies. Local development is nothing but hallucination in three years. RRB