Full Download No.103
Mr. Marvin Saladar, ILDC 2005
Local Government Unit of Bingawan, Philippines
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
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.