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“In my 17 years in [government] service, I can honestly say and convincingly say that 90% of all public servants are honest and competent.”

Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) President and CEO Atty. Arnel Paciano Casanova said on March 17 the statement before an audience of public servants during the Good Governance for Social Entrepreneurship and Youth Employment forum of the Institute for Labor Studies (ILS).

“Particularly for us public servants, parang laging sasabihin corrupt ang gobyerno. It makes us think always defensive na ‘ok nasa gobyerno ako, nakakahiya iyong ibang kasama ko.’ But are we really corrupt?” he added in his keynote speech in the forum held at The Bayleaf Intramuros.

Atty. Casanova urged the participants composed of employees of ILS and other agencies of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to get rid of cynicism that keeps many in the public sector from reaching their full potential as competent public servants.

“Now we have to break that mindset that we are not capable of doing things. And good governance will provide us the dignity and honor as public servants,” the BCDA executive said.

Shaping lives for the better

Atty. Casanova emphasized that the primary role of public servants is to “shape the lives of people around us for the better” by enhancing public service delivery. But to do it 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 change in paradigm—a paradigm that we as Filipinos can work with dignity, can accomplish greater things, can dream bigger and can 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

Responding to a question during the open forum on what it takes to be a successful social entrepreneur, the head of BCDA, who himself co-founded some social enterprises, immediately referred to grit—the indomitable spirit to push through things notwithstanding repeated failures.

“I think the secret there, actually, I would say (is) grit to be social entrepreneurs—even to be public servants…Alam n’yo ‘yung grit, ‘yung kahit ilang beses siyang mabigo, babangon at babangon at babangon. Kahit gaano kahirap ang trabaho, babangon at babangon at babangon para gawin ang trabaho,” Atty. Casanova said.

“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] also by the kind of sufferings I [went] through,” he said, in reference to his own struggle with failures in attaining his goals in life.

Atty. Casanova cofounded AvantChange in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA together with other alumni-batchmates of Harvard University, with the main goal of promoting the building of social enterprises across the globe. He also sits as board trustee in SOLARENERGIE, a local social enterprise bent on fighting poverty through the provision of sustainable access to solar energy for off-grid villages.

The BCDA chief is also a board member in CARD Inc., so far the largest microfinance firm in the Philippines that caters to clients in the lower socio-economic strata.

Since 2007, he has also been a faculty at the Ateneo De Manila University School of Government, teaching social entrepreneurship.

According to Atty. Casanova, every Filipino should aspire to go beyond being employed into becoming 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 also the human dignity in labor will be protected and promoted.

Annual moral renewal

The ILS forum was conducted pursuant to Malancañang Administrative Order No. 255, s. 2009, which directs heads of government agencies to hold moral renewal activities at least once a year.

Early in 2014, Camarines Sur Third District Representative Atty. Leni Gerona-Robredo keynoted the first iGov Talks forum.

The congresswoman 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, to whose local governance records the 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.