Peace and Security

Pursuing Good Governance in Mindanao

Sultan Kudarat, Philippines - A province of Mindanao with a Muslim governor and a majority Christian population, Sultan Kudarat is known for its commitment to serving the needs of its people. Sultan Kudarat, on the southwestern coast of the Philippine island of Mindanao, is the only such province in the Philippines and is now running through two generations of a father and son administration. The province formerly had a Muslim majority, but Christian migrants now outnumber the Muslims and indigenous people.

People hope for governments at all levels that are honest, competent, and caring. According to the UN, good governance has eight characteristics: consensus oriented, participatory, follows the rule of law, effective and efficient, accountable, transparent, responsive, equitable, and inclusive.

In Sultan Kudarat, good governance is defined in the acronym SMILE. On a tarpaulin above the time clock in the provincial capitol of Isulan it is spelt out for visitors to see: S is for “sincerely serve,” M is for “maintain transparency and impartiality,” I is for “integrity,” L is for “live modestly,” and E is for “efficiency and economy.”

This is not just a nice idea; it is a vision that drives this government and it starts at the top. Cathy Trinidad, the Chief of Staff of Gov. Suharto Teng Mangudadatu, put it like this, “Our policy is to try to give back the taxpayers’ money to the people.” Money is given back in tangible social projects like good roads (some of the best in Mindanao), a free hospital, and a mobile medical unit.

Gov. Teng’s father, the former governor Sultan Pax, set a unique example. “Most people look for a hospital. But we have a hospital that looks for people.” Since its inception nearly ten years ago the mobile medical unit has treated over 700,000 patients. Pax says it’s the only free medical mobile hospital in the Philippines.

With its focus on strengthening marriage and family as the fabric of society, the Interfaith Peace Blessing Festival in Sultan Kudarat on March 31 complemented official programs that promote well-being and development. For details click here.

Note: The name Sultan Kudarat given to the province conveys a legacy of good governance; it is derived from Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat, who reigned over the Sultanate of Maguindanao on the island of MIndanao from 1625 to 1671. He was respected as a virtuous leader who embodied the idea of basic unity, oneness, and freedom among the diverse people scattered throughout the Sultanate.

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