This interview features Dexter Yang, a student at the University of the Philippines - College of Law and the Executive Director of GoodGovPH.
How did you become a youth leader in good governance?
My story began years ago as a student leader. For over three years, I was deeply involved in an NGO called the Children’s Museum and Library, Inc. (CMLI) which advocated for youth empowerment — this experience molded my belief that young people can lead the change using their leadership, talents, and advocacy.
On the other hand, good governance was a concept that I learned to appreciate when I took up my Public Administration degree at UP Diliman. I took a special course on the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals and realized the necessity for good governance and sound public policy for us to do our part in the 2030 Agenda.
Putting youth empowerment, good governance, and sustainable development together, we spearheaded the Philippine Good Governance Summit in 2018. We convened over 150 youth leaders nationwide to discuss the youth’s role in rights-based governance and sustainable development. With the passage of the SK Reform Law, we witnessed newly elected youth leaders committing to lead the enactment of local policies and programs for sustainable development.
Inspired by their work, we continued this initiative which led to the establishment of GoodGovPH right before we graduated from college. Since then, we’ve worked with hundreds of youth leaders nationwide to prove that the Filipino youth can champion good governance and pave the way for a more sustainable society.
What are the most pressing issues that concern Filipino civil servants, professionals, civic leaders, and students involved in the fields of governance and public policy and how do you address these issues?
First, the upcoming 2022 Elections. Whomever Filipinos choose to lead the country will significantly affect the direction of Philippine democracy and our government. It is therefore important that everyone — civil servants, professionals, civic leaders, and students alike — should pitch in their opinions on the platforms and track records of both local and national candidates. By sharing our opinions, we help inform other voters about the credibility of these candidates and help them choose the right ones to elect.
Second and closely related, pandemic response. Everyone has a stake in addressing the pandemic. As civil servants, especially those involved in the health sector, it means effectively implementing programs/policies to protect people against COVID-19. For civic leaders and students/practitioners, it’s about engaging government agencies to improve government services. For young people, this includes engaging our SK officials, Local Youth Development Councils, and our LGUs.
Third, the state of democracy and human rights. Over the years, the health of our democracy has declined. Some state policies have threatened human rights, opposition and media practitioners are being harassed, arrested, or killed. It’s important that we become vocal about these issues and demand accountability from our government officials, both at the national and local levels. As citizens and with the elections coming, now is the best time to pressure our candidates to commit to rights-based governance.
As a youth leader in good governance, what characteristics are you looking for in a national and local government candidate? How would these characteristics enable the candidate to address the issues that you mentioned?
My checklist includes the following:
Principles and Integrity — First on the list is to gauge whether or not a candidate is principled. Principles and integrity matter because these would show their character, regardless of the political side they belong to, and that enables trust.
Platform — Their plans for governance should include good governance initiatives. They should promote citizen participation, transparency, accountability, inclusivity, responsiveness, the rule of law, and sustainability.
Track Record — Their experience as public servants matters. What are their background and expertise? What impact have they made as an individual before running for office? Are they involved in resolved or unresolved controversies (whether graft, corruption, incompetence, etc.)?
As a youth leader in good governance, what policies and programs do you want national and local government candidates to support? Which of these do you want to be prioritized?
To widen citizen participation, it’s important for us to enact a Freedom of Information (FOI) Law that will expand access to public information to other branches of government. This will allow citizens to be more informed about the functions of their government officials, contribute to the development of policies, and even hold erring officials accountable.
As a youth development advocate, amendments to the SK Reform Law are necessary to fulfill the promise of youth participation in governance. Barriers to youth participation, such as lack of incentives for key youth-led positions, must be addressed through law. Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms at both national and local levels must also be improved so that we can maximize youth development.
Should candidates with these characteristics and priorities succeed in #Halalan2022, how do you envision the Philippines and the lived realities of Filipino civil servants, professionals, civic leaders, and students involved in the fields of governance and public policy in 6 years?
I imagine that these candidates will inspire Filipino citizens to carry good governance as a shared responsibility. If they do exhibit principles of good governance, Filipino citizens and various stakeholders will truly become part of nation-building. We can improve checks and balances, promote collaboration, and be more responsive to the needs of Filipino citizens, especially the marginalized. In the long-term, this will also inspire younger generations to get involved in genuine public service.