Empower citizens, prepare LGUs
MANILA, Philippines – Newly elected Camarines Sur representative Leni Robredo called on non-government organizations (NGOs) to work closer together with local governments as representatives from both sides discussed the need for "people power governance" at a forum on Wednesday, July 24.
“Ngayon kasi adversarial, hindi collaborative,” said the widow of former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo. (Currently, the relationship is adversarial instead of collaborative.)
According to Robredo, this relationship hinders the two from harmoniously working together in implementing policies that favor both sectors.
Robredo spoke at a forum arranged by the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), a nationwide network of civil society organizations.
Also present were CODE NGO Executive Director Sixto Donato Macasaet, Dinagat Rep Kaka Bag-ao, Bingawan Mayor Matt Palabrica and Naga City People's Council (NCPC) Chairperson Ramiro Samar.
What is people power governance?
According to Macasaet, people power governance is a state where citizens actively participate in policy making and local governance.
CODE presented successful case studies of local government units that adhered to a people-centered governance model.
Sandino Soliman, Advocacy Officer of CODE NGO, presented the case of Naga City and the Pamangkutanon sa Banwa: Kwentahan hindi Kwentuhan (Citizen's Query: Accountability, not Lip Service).
Through this initiative, local candidates were asked to sign a Performance Evaluation Covenant. The elected candidates commit to attend performance evaluation forums twice a year.
In the forum, citizens could raise their questions and suggestions to the local government officials.
Soliman said this intitative aptly addressed the city's need for accountability, transparency and a feedback mechanism.
Rep Kaka Bag-ao, who was appointed by the President as the caretaker of Dinagat Islands province in January 2013, said there was little citizen participation in the province under the previous administration.
Only 3 NGOs actively participate in matters of government.
“Kung ang mga POs at NGOs ay di allowed o kung hindi man kinikilala, paano tayo mag-uusap ng participation?” said Bag-ao. (If POs and NGOs are not allowed nor acknowledged, how can we even discuss participation?)
Bag-ao won the congressional seat in the May 2013 elections.
Work in progress
Robredo and Bag-ao stressed the importance of institutionalizing people power governance at the national level. The government, they said, should create avenues that empower NGOs and people’s organizations (POs).
“Ang mabigyan ng espasyo ang mga NGOs ng suporta para maging representative ng mga mamamayan para makilahok sa pamamahala,” Bagao said. (NGOs should be provided with space so they could aptly serve as the representatives of the citizens)
Robredo added that now is the best time to institutionalize such reforms since the current administration is actively taking initiatives to push for greater people participation.
Macasaet said initiatives such as bottom up budgeting and the alternative budget initiative provided avenues public engagement. He admitted, however, that these projects need to be refined.
"Lahat ng mga binanggit na mga initiatives ay may learning curve. Minsan sasabihin minadali 'yong proseso." (All the initiatives have learning curves. Sometimes, people would say these intitiatives are rushed)
Macasaet added that these obstacles should not stop CSOs from advocating for greater public engagement.
“Sana para tayong ilog kung saan may harang man, iikot lang at magpapatuloy pa rin.” (Let us be like the water along the river where we circumvent and find our way through where there are obstacles) – Rappler.com