Press Release
February 26, 2019

2ND Asia Pacific Evaluation Association

February 26, 2019
Senate of the Philippines

Thank you so much for having me with you at this gathering. To our Master of Ceremonies Executive Director Merwin Salazar of the Senate Economic Planning Office, to Atty. Myra Villarica, Secretary of the Senate, to Ms. Ada Ocampo and Julia Rees from UNICEF, to Mr. Romeo Santos, President of the Asia Pacific Evaluation Association, and to everyone here, magandang umaga po sa ating lahat.

I think it is fitting, my friends and fellow travelers, that a day after the 33rd anniversary of this country's People Power Revolution, and that as we approach Women's Month this March, we're here today to share our collective experiences, insight and learning into what seems to be a very basic, but not easy, question: how do we really know that our policies work, and that our goals in government, development work, and public service are met?

And I would like to take a moment to share with you that the Senate has achieved some key legislative victories in the 17th Congress, after many previous Congresses of trying. We have for example managed to pass the Expanded Maternity Leave Law - a landmark piece of legislation that addresses the intertwined needs of maternal health and infant care. We have also passed the Mental Health Law, the nation's first true national policy on mental health.

But crafting meaningful and responsive policy means so much more than drafting laws. More specifically in line with this conference I'm talking about the practice of evaluation, particularly policy evaluation. It goes back to the goals of fighting poverty, addressing inequality, and ensuring that any gains that government has made in the past are sustained and improved in the future. The United Nations has outlined its 2030 agenda for sustainable development through 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) in the areas of poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, responsible consumption and production, industry and innovation, and peace and justice to name just a few. These were adopted in 2015 and, in the UN's own words, provide "a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future."

These large scale goals are interconnected, and carry different contexts and histories among the countries that share them. So evaluating the success of these goals presents its own challenge. Let me be direct. It is one thing to agree upon a framework, and a set of goals among nations, and I think this is a good thing. But it is dangerous I think to approach development using a copy-paste, one-size-fits-all approach. And this is where properly designed and carefully considered tools for evaluation are crucial. But what does it mean to evaluate, particularly for those of us in legislation? Is it a simple catalogue of input versus output? Is it a report based on numbers where we count how many bills we've filed or how many laws we've passed? How do we judge the quality of our laws once they have been implemented? And how do we ensure that those who inherit our work can not only sustain what has been gained, but improve upon it?

It is within the spirit of these questions that I propose to file a Bill calling for a National Evaluation Policy, which is consistent with other UN member states that have done the same. This is a measure the country sorely needs because unfortunately, evaluation has not been widely and systematically integrated within government processes and systems. And in those cases where it can be found, it is only there selectively. In 2015, our Department of Budget and Management and the National Economic Development Authority issued a Joint Memorandum Circular establishing an evaluation policy framework. However, the circular only applies to the agencies of the Executive Branch. I believe that all branches of government would benefit greatly from a National Evaluation policy that applies to all branches of government, so that legal and institutional frameworks are strengthened. Offhand, there are at least three benefits to a national Evaluation Policy.

First, it creates clearer language in setting expectations for performance, results and transparency within the different branches of government. It helps flesh out criteria for minimum competencies, value for money, ethics, and effectiveness, among others. Adopting such a policy compels each branch of government to hold itself to greater account and to report its success or failures in a clear manner to all stakeholders.

Second, it helps prioritize spending. One of the ways we know an evaluation proves effective is if it helps us make better decisions, particularly decisions with resources. A National Evaluation Policy can help us prioritize expenses, and better monitor how we have spent public funds in the past.

Thirdly, it serves as a guide in framing other policies. In the same way that we consider how a law can be implemented or funded, we should also consider how a law can be evaluated, so that improvements are easily made in the future, and whether or not improvements need to be made.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the coming days you will hear from global experts as they share the progress they have made, and the lessons they have learned along the way. I look forward to sharing those lessons with you, because the stakes are real. The stakes are about poverty, world hunger, ending conflict and violence, ensuring equality, and caring for both our social and physical environments. And it doesn't just involve government. The participation of business and the private sector are vital, so will the work of international organizations such as the United Nations, and the Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation. This will truly be a collective effort. You know we live in a time of superhero films. And if there was ever any doubt, this is as superhero as it gets, because by working together, we can truly change the fate of the world, for us, and for our children.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat. Thank you for coming.

News Latest News Feed