March 30, 2022
Writers: Marian Lorrice Apostol, Jerwin Regala
Researchers: Marian Lorrice Apostol, Jerwin Regala
Editor: K Ballesteros
Moderators: Gie Lenna R. Dela Peña, Marc John Paul Agbuya
Spaces Moderators: Richardson Mojica, Azie Marie Libanan, Alvin Joseph Mapoy
The past weeks have been very festive since February 8 as the political campaigns of those who are running for national posts kicked off their proclamation rallies. While some Filipinos have placed their bet on a candidate, some are still discerning who will lead the country better. Part of this discernment is the platforms and ideals of the candidates who promise good governance. Filipinos desire someone who knows the struggles of the people and is able to lead them towards a better status. Positive outcomes and a healthy society occur when good governance is carried out justly and effectively. It is in this line of thinking that we can say that a healthy society can promote and sustain good mental well-being. Therefore, good leaders and good governance are also good for our mental health.
Characteristics of Good Governance
According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, good governance has eight major characteristics :
Participatory: The participation of citizens is the cornerstone of good governance which respects the people’s freedom of association and expression.
Consensus-oriented: Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in society to reach a broad consensus in society on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how this can be achieved. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development.
Accountable: An organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions.
Transparent: Transparency means that decisions are taken and their enforcement is done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement.
Responsive: Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.
Effective and Efficient: Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal.
Equitable and Inclusive: A society’s well-being depends on ensuring that all its members, especially the vulnerable and members of minority populations and communities, feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society.
Follows the rule of law: Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. It also requires full protection of human rights.
Filipino Perception of Good Governance
According to Romero (2019): “Voting isn’t just our right, it’s our power” . Through voting, people are not just exercising their rights, they are also an instrument in shaping the future of the country. With this, the question of the qualities and characteristics of a good leader arises. According to Manila Times (2022), a survey administered by Boses, Opinyon, Siyasat at Siyensya para sa Pilipinas (Boses Pilipinas) reported that 69% of Filipinos prefer strong leaders, 55% aims to have an honest public servant in the government, while 42% voted intelligence as one of the characteristics they are looking for . Moreover, the survey revealed that Filipinos defined good leadership in terms of accomplishments, compassion, and moral values. Aside from mentioned qualities, below are some of the qualities that a Filipino looks for in a leader:
- Leaders with clean personal background: In electing the right leaders of the country, Filipinos check for the candidates’ contributions and their credentials. Feliz Mactal, a utility worker, expressed that Filipinos must evaluate the candidates’ family and personality backgrounds before casting their votes .
- Leaders with true passion and commitment to serve: Filipinos consider a leader who has a genuine passion to serve their people. They need candidates who are for the people, show compassion for the poor, and understand the daily plight that each Filipino faces. They hope for a leader that will give them a voice, who will fight with them and for them .
- Leaders with vision and plans for the country’s development: Actions and platforms are also important things a Filipino looks for in a leader. Filipino youth also hopes for a leader that addresses issues and problems regarding quality education, environment, and employment. .
Good Governance Towards Mental Health
Research demonstrated that a pro-people government is linked with the mental health of its citizens. Otto (2011) showed that the quality of government and happiness in nations are highly correlated , because governments are mandated to respect and care for the welfare of its citizens. Consequently, a government that provides platforms to address issues such as economic freedom, gender equality, healthcare, and safety indirectly affects the happiness of people. Beeri, Uster, and Vigoda-Gadot (2018) mentioned that performance management or strategic planning are positively related to satisfaction of citizens to local government services . This indicates that established decision-making skills and strategic leadership increase the satisfaction and trust of citizens. Similarly, Mansoor (2021) explains that perceived responsiveness, accountability, and transparency affect how much citizens trust their government .
An ideal government is possible with the participation of its people. Through a healthy discourse about different issues faced by the country, the quality of governance might be transformed. Young people represent a powerful, active sector engaged in socio-political issues , and aspiring for leaders to acknowledge that “[they] are engaged, optimistic, the next breed of changemakers – and [they] want to help”.
Strengthening government actions on mental health
Considering the mental well-being of every Filipino, it is also important to take some notes on some government interventions on mental health. It was on June 20, 2018, when the first Mental Health Act (Republic Act no. 11036), sponsored and authored principally by Senator Risa Hontiveros, was passed in the Philippines . The Act seeks to establish access to comprehensive and integrated mental health services while protecting the rights of people with mental health disorders, and their family members . However, even after the passage of the RA 11036, mental health in the country is still poorly financed, with few resources. The Philippine WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health conducted in the early part of 2020 shows that 3.6 million Filipinos suffer from at least one kind of mental, neurological, and substance use disorder . The pandemic only worsened mental health issues, as affirmed by the incumbent Health Secretary, there are fewer than one mental health worker for every 100,000 Filipinos, and many are currently unable to gain access to service . The National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) has responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic through the establishment of its toll-free crisis hotline for the public as an add-on to the other mental health programs that it is already running . There are also private sectors and non-government organizations (NGOs) that are providing psychosocial services in different means to Filipinos who require these kinds of services.
Mental health, just like any other concern in the country, is a real concern and a serious matter. Therefore, it is crucial to give additional attention and a specific place to it in the response of the government. Quality Mental health services should be available and accessible to all Filipinos. Programs about mental health should be designed and implemented in a timely and efficient manner. Increased investment in improving the training and hiring of nurses, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, and other persons specialized in this concern, should be approved. Most important of all, strengthening mental health advocacies in eradicating the stigma and culturally-sensitive mental health interventions should be supported and be given due course.
Anna Uy (2020) wrote that we, Filipinos, must come to realize that mental health is a concern of every Filipino. It takes the compassion, understanding, level-headedness, commitment, and self-discipline of every Filipino, and their mutual caring for each other to make a difference. We should turn to each other for comfort, consolation, cooperation, and unity  as we continue to call for and demand good governance from our leaders.
- How will you characterize good governance?
- What is the relationship of good governance to public health and mental health?
- How can we work together to make the Philippines a mentally healthy country?
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