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Empowering Youth as Keyplayers in Development (July. 2018)

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Pamangkutanon Sang Banwa (Citizens Query)
Kwentahan Hindi Kwentohan (Accountability Not Lip Service)

 

 Mr. Marvin Saladar, ILDC 2005

 Local Government Unit of Bingawan, Philippines

 

 1. Background


  Local  politicians  promise to deliver several good programs once they get elected.  However, these are often empty promises.

 

Republic Act  7160  (Local Government Code of 1991 or LGC 1991) mandated LGUs to ensure representation of basic sectors in the Local Development  Council  (LDC) and other special bodies wherein sectors choose representatives from among their groups.

People’s  participation has opened  opportunities  for  innovation  to develop a more responsive and accountable local government structure. Though in practice, local elected officials choose  only  their  allies  to  sit  in  the  council  and local  special bodies, ignoring  genuine  inclusive people’s  participation  in  public  administration  and governance. 

 

 In  effect, LGU  responses to the  needs  of  the community are sometimes ineffective resulting  to unnecessary spending of its meager resources. The real  voices  of  the legitimate  representatives  of  the vulnerable sectors are not heard and included in the development planning, programming and budgeting as  well  as  in  the  implementation,  monitoring  and
evaluation of programs and projects.

 

The Bingawan Working Youth Federation (BWYF) is  a  Federation  of  Youth Organizations  in  four barangays  of  Bingawan  Municipality,  Iloilo,  with 250  members.  I  was  a  youth  organizer  in  the federation.  It  is  a  non-sectarian,  non-political organization  organized  in  1995  and registered  as Rural Workers Association under the Department of Labor and Employment.  A  federation  member organization was awarded as Outstanding Working Youth Organization in 1997 and 1998. 

 

BWYF is accredited and an organic member of the Municipal Development Council  (MDC) in Bingawan  and  was  able  to  access  funds  from  the Local  Government (LGU) in 2003  to  support  the Tilapia (freshwater fish) Production Project.

 

The  BWYF members are development advocates and  co-organizer in barangay and  municipal level undertakings  like  voters  education  campaign, conduct of barangay transparency and accountability program, and established partnership with different stakeholders  such  as  NGOs, POs, religious,  and  business  sector. At  present, majority of  the  members  are  now  employed  in  the  LGU  of Bingawan in sustaining the advocacy of transparent and accountable good governance, at the same time facilitating the bi-annual conduct of Pamangkutanon Sang  Banwa  (PsB),  with  other  existing PO in the municipality as Project Management Team (PMT).

 

Last election of 2016 the elected municipal mayor and vice mayor came from the working youth over a landslide  victory  against  their  opponents. A  dream come  true  as  part  of  my  plan  of  action  during  my 2005 ILDC training.

 

2. Objectives and Solution

 

The PsB: “Kwentahan hindi Kwentohan” (Citizens’ Query: Accountability, Not Lip Service) is a multi-sectoral  participatory  governance  program  which aims to promote transparency and accountability in local  governance.  It  establishes  a  venue  to  assess performance of elected leaders and public officials and to raise issues, concerns and recommendations on the delivery of basic services. It tackles various issues:  (1)  lack  of  feedbacking mechanisms, transparency and accountability systems; (2) unclear leadership agenda; (3) limited people’s participation in administration and governance, and; (4) reactive management of service delivery. 

 

The program is a trail-blazing practice of assessing the  performance  of  executives, legislators, village leaders and civil servants through regular municipal assembly.  It commences  during  election  period wherein candidates are asked to sign a Performance
Evaluation Covenant (PEC) that when elected into office will submit themselves to public performance evaluation once in every six months. It binds public officials to their words and promises and serve as a goad that drives them to perform their mandates as civil servants and not masters of their constituents.

 

During  the  PsB,  local  officials  personally  and publicly  present  their  reports  of accomplishments for the past six months to the people. After which, there is an open forum  to  cater  questions, clarifications  or  recommendations  regarding  the report  or  other  governance-related  issues. Concerned  officials  are  obliged  to  give  responses and  actions  to  be  taken to answer the queries immediately. Likewise, they can propose  policies or  measures  to  be  considered  in  the  next development planning and budgeting cycle.

Through  this  municipal  assembly,  the  community could  publicly  express  the  services  they  need  by writing questions based on the actual realities at the grassroots level. Involving the electorates in the PsB compel  local  officials to effectively  improve planning programming,  budgeting  as  well  as project, program  and  policy  implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

 

 

By  massive  information  dissemination,  baseline information  gathering, strengthening  of  local governance  structure  and  LGU  policy  formulation, this  public  feedbacking  and  reporting  mechanism tracks down,  appraise  actions and  performance  of local  officials  and  LGU  personnel.  With  this performance-based  leadership, transparency  is promoted  and  access  of  electorates  to  public information is provided; enhancing a pro-active role and  participation  of constituents  in the delivery of services and other governance processes.

 

3. The Initiative

 

The  LGU-Civil  Society  Organization  (CSO)-PO partnership  investments, institutionalized  the  PsB Executive  Committee  through  a  Municipal Ordinance and the PMT through Executive Order in 2017.  The  said  order  granted  the  PMT  with  the authority to formulate plans and facilitate in regular basis the conduct of PsB.  The PMT is comprised of
representatives  from  different  sectors:  farmers, youth, elderly, cooperatives, academe, business and transport  group,  women,  persons  with  disability (PWD’s) and religious sector, LGU representatives from the executive and the legislative departments, and the league of villages. It spearheads and decides on  every  aspect  of  the  program implementation except  for  venue  identification.  It  selects  from among the sectoral representatives the members of screening  committee,  panelist,  documenter  and
timekeeper who will serve as facilitators during the PsB.

 

The executive committee is composed of the Local Chief Executive, Chairperson of the Committee on Good  Government  of  the  Municipal  Council, representatives  from  Parish  Pastoral  Council  for Responsible  Voting  (PPC-RV)  and  NGO/PO,  and Municipal  Local  Government  Operations  Officer (MLGOO) of the Department of the Interior and Local  Government  (DILG)  –  a  national  agency.  It determines the venue for every conduct of PsB. About  500  participants  attend  per  conduct  of  the activity. They came from the general public, various CSOs, POs, students, pupils and religious  groups. Regardless of gender and status in the community all  participants  have  the  same  opportunity to raise relevant  governance questions, clarifications and recommendations.  Moreover, the result of the program could benefit about 15,000 people of the municipality.

 

4. Initiation, Implementation and Resources

 

The  Iloilo  CODE  NGOs  (ICODE), Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible  Voting  (PPC-RV), LGU, local POs, and the academe are the major designers of PsB. In 2000, Iloilo CODE NGOs, a provincial network of NGOs has been conducting community organizing activities in the municipality to promote people’s participation in governance and empowerment of  local  communities.  Prior  to  2001 election,  the  Jaro  Archdiocesan  Social  Action Center (JASAC), a social arm of the Archdiocese of Jaro, Iloilo, Philippines invited CSO  community organizers  to  a  seminar  on  voter’s  education conducted  by  the  PPC-RV. It is a  Commission  on Election  accredited  citizens’  arm  responsible  for educating electorates and poll watching to ensure a fair,  honesty,  orderly  and  peaceful  election.  This started the ICODE-PPC-RV partnership.

 

They  spearhead  voters’ education  and  candidates’ forum, advocate and campaign for transparency and accountability and mobilize people’s participation in governance.  With  the  support  of  the  local  PO  and acceptance of the LGU, the initiative to establish a Performance  Evaluation  System  for  elective officials  was  conceptualized.  This  led  to  the establishment  of Pamangkutanon  sang  Banwa (Citizens’  Query):  Kwentahan  Hindi  Kwentohan
(Accountability Not Lip Service).

 

 

 

As  the  program  progresses,  the  LGU  strengthened its  support  through  legislative  actions.  The Municipal  Council  enacted  a  Municipal  Ordinance establishing  the  Pamangkutanon  sang  Banwa  and providing funds for its implementation.  It mandates
reporting  of  plans,  programs  and  accomplishments to  the  public,  and  provides policy  support  for  strengthening and replication.

 

Meanwhile,  the  CSOs,  POs  and  the  academe  lead the  advocacy  and  community  awareness,  assist  in the  conduct  of  voters  education  for  electorates, conducts role playing of students during the Youth Week Celebration, disseminate information to local
media  and  replicate  to  the  villages  and  other municipalities.

 

The  PMT  facilitates the overall conduct of the activity. Invitation and announcements  are  made through LDC meetings, streamers and social media postings, public address system,  in  church  masses and  worship  services  and  in  schools’  flag ceremonies. Pre-activity meetings and consultations are held to plan, prepare, and select members of the screening  committee,  panelists,  documenters  and timekeeper to ensure smooth flow of PsB.
 

The  2-hour PsB is divided into two parts: the reporting  and  the  open  forum.  Mechanics were established for proper guidance. The mayor delivers the accomplishment report of the  executive department  while  the  report  of  the  legislative department  is  presented  by  the  vice  mayor.  The financial  report  is  also  presented  by  the  municipal treasurer or the municipal accountant.

 

For the open forum, questions are written on a piece of paper and placed into drop boxes circulating the venue.  In order to accommodate questions from the public who could not attend the actual conduct, drop boxes are distributed  in advance  at  the  villages, churches,  schools,  public  market  and  other conspicuous places. These questions are also raised and addressed during the open forum. 
 

In lieu of direct oral questioning, it is agreed and established by the stakeholders that queries should be in written form to avoid irrelevant, personal and below-the-belt questions. Written questions serve as official reference document for re-planning and re-
programming of community development projects.


All questions pass through the screening committee before  forwarding  to  the panelist  to  avoid duplication, and to ensure that  only relevant governance questions are raised.  Unrelated questions yet require immediate actions are referred to concerned agencies. A letter is sent to the agency concerned  clearly  stating  the  prescribed  response time  or  action.  If  the  issue  does not fall under the current  priority  programs,  it is considered  in  the next budget planning. The panelist directs a specific question (read twice) to concerned elected officials, with a response time of 3 to 5 minutes.

 

An external, competent and credible moderator who understands the context of governance of the locality is invited to smoothen the flow of question and  answer  process  during  the  open  forum.  This ensures  neutrality  and  objectivity.  The  moderator helps clarify questions to generate specific answers. 

 

For all qualified questions  that  could  not  be accommodated due to time constraint, they are read in the assembly by the panelist  informing  and assuring  the  public  that  these  queries will be forwarded to the PMT for consolidation  and presentation  to  the  municipal  council  for appropriate action.

 

Since 2004 to 2016, Php 20,000.00 ($385) per year is allotted in the annual budget of the LGU for the program. The LGU also provided free transportation for  the  participants  to  and  from  the  venue.  Host village  also  gives  counterpart  for  the  snacks  in varied amount or in-kind depending on its capacity. All involved in the program implementation except the  moderator  are  volunteers.  In  2017, the budget increased to Php  30,000.00  ($578)  that  enabled them to give an allowance of 300 pesos ($6) each of the  11  PMT  members.  Budget  for  snacks  and logistics also increased.

 

5. Community Impact and Sustainability

 

Peoples’ right to vote is expressed through election. By virtue of their mandate, elected officials are the representatives  of  the  people.  Therefore,  their governance decisions and actions should reflect the people’s needs. The PsB is a mechanism to promote
performance-based politics.


The  LGC  of  1991 mandated LGUs to have a comprehensive  multi-sectoral  development  plan initiated  by  its  Municipal  Development  Council (MDC). As provided, NGOs shall constitute not less than one-fourth of MDC membership. To be qualified as regular member, NGOs should undergo accreditation process in the municipal council. The POs cannot comply the tedious process, and lost the opportunity to be part of the planning process.   


Through  PsB,  all  community  people  could participate in local governance processes. They can air their needs, issues and concerns, for inclusion in the local development agenda. It gives feedback on the implementation of programs and projects as part of monitoring and evaluation. 

 

To be specific, very poor road network is a chronic problem  of  the  whole  municipality.  Recurrent  and significant  number  of  questions  regarding  this concern  is  raised  every  conduct  of  PsB,  that connotes urgency in addressing the  issue.  In  turn, the  LGU  and  the  community  give  premium  to  the problem as highest priority project.

 

For 10 years of implementing Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive  Integrated  Delivery  of Social  Service  (KALAHI-CIDSS) Program in the
municipality,  a  community-driven  project  of  the Department of Social Welfare and Development, 31 road  projects  out  of  46  total  sub-projects  were completed. The CSOs also prioritized road projects under the Bottom-Up-Budgeting (BUB). The LGU
accessed  various  funds  for  rehabilitation  and concreting  of  roads.  Significant  improvements  of road networks in the municipality is observable. Improved  road  networks  benefits  the  whole community  particularly  the  farmers,  women  and children,  elderly  and  persons  with  disability  and
other vulnerable groups. It enhances accessibility of far-flung  areas  and  eases  mobility,  reduces  travel time by a half, lessens transportation cost, improves delivery of services, and facilitates easy transport of products to the market.

 

The  quality and frequency  of  questions  regarding certain issues raised during the PsB  measures  the effectiveness of the responses and actions taken.


Public service is a public trust. PsB is a mechanism that helps protect the sacredness of votes because it makes  popularity,  traditional  3Gs  (guns,  goons, gold)  and  empty  promises  of  non-performing incumbents  and  undeserving  aspiring  candidates
irrelevant, to guarantee victory in the election.  


To  ensure  accountability  of  winning  candidates, they  are  asked  to  sign  a  covenant  in  front  of  the public,  that  when  elected  they  will  submit themselves to a public performance evaluation. The program  obliged  elected  officials  to  fulfill  their duties  as  public  servants  and  not  public  masters. Their  performance  gauge  their  chances  for  re-election which is proven true  in  the  case  of  four non-performing candidates seeking to be re-elected but  lost.  It  educates  the  people  that  performance-based politics is a parameter in selecting candidates to be entrusted of public service. Institutionalization of  PsB  ensures sustainability and transferability of the program. It gained  a  legal  identity  through  the enactment of a Municipal Ordinance for its creation. The establishment of PMT to facilitate planning and overall conduct of PsB sealed its strength.

 

In  2007,  the  PsB  was  packaged  by  the  BWYF  as entry to the 2 nd  Philippine Development Innovation Marketplace Panibagong  Paraan  sponsored by the World Bank. BWYF got a grant of, one million pesos ($19,000) from The Asia Foundation (TAF) to be used for advocacy, promotion and replication of PsB. The 14 villages in the locality adopted  and replicated the program with their own names.

 

Due to the positive impacts of the PsB, the LCEs of other municipalities invited Bingawan to present the program to their municipal councils for replication. To date, the  Municipalities  of  Concepcion  and Calinog  in  Iloilo,  Philippines  have  replicated  the program. It  is also  presented  in  various  local, national and international fora.


In  2010, it was awarded by the Galing Pook Foundation of the Philippines as one of the Ten Most Outstanding  Local  Governance  Programs  in the  country for its exemplary  contribution in promoting people’s participation in advancing transparent and accountable governance. In 2016, the  program  again  was  packaged  by  the  LGU  of Bingawan  as  entry  to  the  United  Nations  Public Service  Awards.  It  is  the  only  entry  in  the  whole Philippines selected by the United Nations panel of evaluators before it reaches the final nomination and awarding at the Hague, Netherlands.

 

6. Lessons Learned

 

Problems affecting local communities, need local solutions with proper interventions. This is the essence of PsB which upholds people empowerment through  people’s  participation.  Traditionally, there was limited venue for planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring  and evaluation  of government projects and programs. 


The vulnerable  sectors  in  the  community  are deprived of opportunities to impart their knowledge and skills to local development. Since they are the most  disadvantaged,  their  deprivation  and vulnerability  cause  them  to  face  the  challenge  and look  for  creative  ways  for them  to be  counted. Finding  strength in their collective efforts, they stand  up  to  seek  solutions  in  changing  the  status quo. 


As  electorates, they were able to realize  their strengths that can be exercised during electoral processes. One term of office of a local politician is equivalent to three years. Election period is not too long but for the electorates they have only one day to  cast  their  votes,  while  the  local  politicians  got three years. Yet one day on the electorates’ side is
powerful. Indeed, there is hope to change the status quo. Thus, PsB was conceptualized and exercised.


The  PsB is a pro-active and multi-stakeholders approach of evaluating the  performance  of  public officials  and  quality  of  basic  services  delivery.  It emphasizes  performance-based governance. Mr. John Joseph Cordova, the moderator of the 27th PsB said: “Public service is a public commitment, to offer your life that’s commitment, to offer your service that’s your commitment, to offer your all to God that’s your commitment.”


Thirteen years rolled since the PsB was established, and it has proven that the poor and vulnerable are relevant  partners  for  effective  and  efficient  local development. 

 

 

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