Four local leaders shared about Proximate Leadership in action in Module 5 of PSLC.

Held last December 12, Module 5 of the Course on Reflections and Conversations about Public Service and Leadership discussed the importance of proximate leadership underscoring the Tsinelas Leadership of Sec. Jesse. 

The session has  Usec. Philip “Boyet” Dy, Former Chief of Staff of the Department of Local Government under Sec. Jesse Robredo and current Office of the Vice President Chief of Staff; Mr. Kenneth Isaiah “Ken” Abante, Research Faculty at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in Ateneo de Manila University, also he is the Coordinator of #MoveAsOne Coalition for Public Transport and Citizens’ Budget Tracker; Ms. Rosanna “Dessa” Quesada-Palm, the Founder of Young Advocates for Theatre Arts, Board Member of Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation of Women, and Former Chair of NCCA National Committee on Dramatic Arts Philippines; and Gov. Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao  a Human Rights Lawyer and current Governor of Dinagat Islands as the panelists of the discussion.

During the discussion, panelists shared their call to service and a major highlight of their life in public service. Ken shared that his call to service started when he realized that he owes the country for everything, and eventually it grew when he learned about the struggles of his fellow Filipinos. Sharing his public service highlight was his first project in government; increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol. Usec. Boyet shared his personal passion for public service as he came from a political family. On the other side, this passion is driven by the hope, desire, and firm belief that we can have better leaders and we can be a better country. Working with Sec. Jesse and VP Leni were the highlights of his leadership journey. Ms. Dessa shared her engagement with PETA and what she does for the young people is her way of thanking her mentors through the years. She believes that it is important to provide creative places for young people. Lastly, Gov. Kaka shared her personal experiences in politics as a former member of the House of Representatives and a Governor allows her to compare the requirement of governance. 

Usec. Boyet discussed the challenges of proximate leadership and how these challenges effectively address. He shared that proximate leadership is built through experiences. He gives the deep context of proximity which is not about immersing yourself in the community, however, it is mainly living and breathing yourself with the people on a regular and sustainable basis. He underscored that participatory governance requires a high transaction cost. It needs high engagement and good communication with the people. He also highlighted that proximate leadership is the next stage of governance, that is why it is important to ensure that services are available and people are organized before going to this stage.

Economic empowerment precedes political participation. Unless you’ve addressed the economic needs of people, hindi mo sila mae-engage for voice and political participation because mesyadong immediate ‘yung needs na kailangan nilang tugungan. Therefore, it takes so much more to get to next stage participatory governance. 

Usec. Philip “Boyet” Dy

Gov. Kaka also clarified the concept of proximate leadership. Proximity is not just a space, physical activity, or being with the community. She shared that proximate leaders should know how to handle people’s opinions. She believes that communication and grassroots participation are the basic elements of governance as people themselves are the one who knows the solutions to the problems. Proximate leaders should understand the issue, do the self-evaluation, learn how to solve it in their own ways, and that solution should be validated by the people. 

Hindi ka makakaisip bilang lider, bilang gobernor, bilang public opisyal ng mga tamang sagot sa mga tanong ng mga mamamayan mo kung hindi mo sila maririnig. 

Gov. Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao

Ken shared, on the other hand, the key lesson he learned with his experience leading the budget tracking efforts, and that is to ask help for the people and they will respond. He underscored their efforts in #MoveAsOne Coalition where they ensure that they are with the transport workers unions and the cyclists because for them this is what politics is supposed to be. He also highlighted the importance of being open in criticisms to provide a safe space for the people to tell their concerns and be part of the conversations. 

Actually, kaya nga hindi ako naniniwala doon sa mga narrative na walang disiplina ang Pilipino, na hindi sila tutulong, na tamad sila. Hindi eh, hindi rin ’yun ang experience ko, pag binigyan mo sila ng oportunidad para tumulong, tutulong talaga sila, and we never lost help. 

Mr. Kenneth Isaiah “Ken” Abante

Lastly, Ms. Dessa shared her experience in the transformation of young people has to be central to all that we do, and her so much belief and faith that the young people are the leaders. The premise is that they are not the future leaders but they are the leaders of today. She emphasized also the importance of connecting the grassroots with the governance of culture. 

We needed to create a theater that is urgent and relevant so we also had to listen to people’s stories . We also then began to develop partners… eventually the young people started to work with teachers, with DepEd. 

Ms. Rosanna “Dessa” Quesada-Palm

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