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Philippines

Citizen Participation in Local Government (PH0056)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Philippines Action Plan 2019-2022

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM)

Support Institution(s): National Government Agencies and Local Government Units United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Paulina Lawsin Nayra PhilDHRRA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Civic Space, E-Government, Fiscal Openness, Freedom of Association, Gender, Legislation & Regulation, Local Commitments, Marginalized Communities, Public Participation, Public Participation in Budget/Fiscal Policy, Social Accountability

IRM Review

IRM Report: Philippines Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

What is the problem the commitment will address?

The legal framework in the Philippines is conducive to citizen participation in governance. The country is host to thousands of non-government organizations that are already engaging with the government at the national and local level, in different phases of the governance cycle. Articles II, X, and XIII of the 1987 Constitution put emphasis to the promotion and protection of the rights of the people and civil society organizations and platforms for "effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision-making." The Local Government Code of 1991 and the annual General Appropriations Act also supports and highlights the need to provide spaces and appropriate policies for citizen engagement in governance at the local level.

However, a number of civil society and even government stakeholders have raised that the spirit of these legal frameworks, laws, and policies are not adequately reflected in actual practice, or if so, the outputs and outcomes of meaningful citizen engagement are not adequately and appropriately documented and/or measured.

Despite the establishment of various local, regional and national structures and mechanisms to promote and mainstream meaningful citizen engagement in governance, recent policy discussions, stakeholder consultations, and several studies in this governance area have identified the following governance gaps between policy issuance and effective policy implementation both at the national and local levels of government:
1. There is a weak system in documenting citizens participation in national and local governance;
2. The use of technology in governance, particularly in the area of citizens engagement, is not fully maximized;
3. There is a need for providing more platforms to inform the citizens of the state of local governance in their respective local governments
While there is recognition of the accomplishments of government in promoting transparency and establishing functional citizen feedback mechanisms, global governance data on corruption and participatory governance indicate persistence of corruption and shrinking space for civil society as continuing main challenges to the promotion of genuine democracy in the Philippines.
To address these challenges, existing open and participatory governance mechanisms need to be designed and implemented in such a way that it can lead to more concrete and transformative outcomes

What is the commitment?

The commitment is mainly to strengthen citizen participation in governmental process. This shall be attained through various initiatives on improving local governance and fiscal openness program being implemented under the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Budget and Management.

In particular, the commitment shall contribute to addressing the public problem identified above by way of the following:
1. Issuance and implementation of National policy on civil society participation in governance;
2. Implementation of Civic Technology for Governance Innovations through Citizen Feedback System (Development Live);
3. Conduct of Town Hall Meetings (Regional, Provincial and Municipal Level)
4. Oversee local governments in promoting the establishment and operation of people’s and non-governmental organizations

The commitment implementation will advance all OGP values of access to information, public accountability, civic participation, and leveraging technology for better governance.
The commitment shall support the fulfillment of the major milestones set in the PGC Resolution No. 1 s. 2019. In particular, this commitment shall contribute to the achievement of the following governance priorities:
1. Ensuring that a portion of the National and Local Budget is intended to support the participation of citizens and civil society in various governance initiatives;
2. Issuance of a National Policy on Civil Society Engagement in Governance;
3. Enforcement of NGA and LGU compliance to pertinent provisions of existing laws related to peoples’ participation in governance; and
4. Implementation of Civic Technology initiatives in government at the National and Local level.

See Action Plan for milestone activities.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

1A. Local Government Fiscal Openness

"The commitment is mainly to strengthen citizen participation in governmental process. This shall be attained through the various initiatives on improving local governance and fiscal openness program being implemented under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)."

Main Objective

"In particular, the commitment shall contribute to addressing the public problem identified above by way of the following:

  1. Issuance and implementation of National policy on civil society participation in governance;
  2. Implementation of Civic Technology for Governance Innovations through Citizen Feedback System (Development Live);
  3. Conduct of Town Hall Meetings (Regional, Provincial and Municipal Level); and
  4. Oversee local governments in promoting the establishment and operation of people’s and non-governmental organizations."

Milestones

  1. National policy on civil society participation in governance is issued and implemented.
  2. Conduct of Town hall meetings.
  3. Oversee local governments in promoting the establishment and operation of people’s and non-governmental organizations.
  4. Implementation of Civic Technology for Governance Innovations through citizen feedback system (Development Live).
  5. Ensure gender-responsive and inclusive implementation of commitment activities.
  6. Established partnership with DILG and TFPLG on citizen-led monitoring using Development Live (DevLive).
  7. Capacity-building on citizen-led monitoring using DevLive.
  8. Actual citizen monitoring of DILG/LGU projects in 18 municipalities using DevLive platform implemented.

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, along with the updated version submitted in the revised action plan, please see the Philippine action plan at https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/philippines-action-plan-2019-2022/.

Commitment analysis

This commitment seeks to strengthen citizen participation in local governance through the generation and provision of citizen feedback. Using a technology application of the citizen feedback system, Development Live (DevLive), local government units (LGUs) can become aware of and take action on challenges to implementing nationally funded programs and public service improvement. This requires revisiting and issuing appropriate national policy for civil society participation, deploying DevLive as a citizen- feedback system, and conducting town hall meetings across regional, provincial, and municipal levels to promote citizen participation in local governance.

The Philippine constitution has several provisions for citizen participation, especially at local levels. Beyond the constitution, Republic Act (RA) 7160, or the Local Government Code, specifically mandates and supports participation through Local Development Councils (LDCs) and Local Special Bodies (LSBs) for health, peace and order, and education. However, despite these measures, there is a major gap in the disclosure of, access to, and capacity for utilizing local governance data for more meaningful engagement by civil society representatives and citizens at large. [1]

A National Policy on Civil Society Participation (Milestone 1) will strengthen an already robust framework for CSO-participation in governance. In 2019, 11,000 CSOs were registered as members of local development councils. CSOs generally provide disaster preparedness and response, social protection, and monitor government projects. [2] However, past experience suggests that even-implementation of the policy across government might be challenging. A 2017 assessment found that some local government units only engage civil society as a box-ticking exercise while others only work with CSOs who agree with their agenda. A perception survey of CSOs rated relations between local government and CSOs at 3.37, where 3 is undecided and 4 is good. In addition to local government exclusion, CSOs highlighted capacity constraints as an obstacle to meaningful participation. [3]

Currently, CSOs must register with one of four government agencies to become a legal entity. Most CSOs register and annually update their registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission. As of 2019, administrative burdens for CSO operations increased with additional requirements to disclose funding and programming. [4] DILG issued memoranda on the accreditation and membership of NGOs at the barangay and local levels. [5] The intention of Milestone 3 is unclear. However, if this milestone eases CSOs' registration and participation at subnational levels of government, it may improve civil society's overall operating environment.

Initiatives to promote and increase information disclosure at the subnational level have been a recurring commitment in the Philippine OGP national action plans. Under Philippines’ 2015–2017 action plan, provinces, cities, and municipalities increased disclosure of financial transactions through the full disclosure policy (FDP) portal (fdpp.dilg.gov.ph). [6] However, documents on the portal are not machine-readable and there are no mechanisms for soliciting and processing feedback from the users. [7] Under Commitment 1 in the 2017–2019 action plan, the government established an Assistance to Disadvantaged Municipalities portal that collates all OPDS locally funded infrastructure projects. [8] This portal allows citizens to submit comments and concerns. [9] DevLive is a continuation of these local governance transparency efforts that aim to provide a more citizen-friendly monitoring and reporting system.

Feedback from the DevLive portal will alert the national Project Management Office of the DILG to LGUs’ actions and performance. They could then use this for on-ground validation, and prompt any warranted action against local chief executives and mayors. DevLive is also expected to have a feedback loop that will inform the sender about the progress and action taken regarding their feedback. DILG conducted a pilot study in almost 50 municipalities, with one province per region. The study found that while most feedback was a “layman’s appreciation of the projects,” [10] it provided DILG with clear information to monitor LGUs’ use of grants and funding. Noncompliance and non-resolutions of the submitted feedback through DevLive are expected to result in the issuance of show-cause orders, filing of administrative or criminal cases (through the Bantay-Corruption Program, also run by the DILG), or the disqualification from the Assistance to Municipalities program’s support in the following year.

This commitment is relevant to OGP values of access to information, civic participation, and public accountability. Through the publication of government programs, citizens and citizen groups could become aware of their LGU’s funds and programs, as well as monitor and provide feedback on their implementation. This could elicit both national and local governance units to take action and make services and programs under the DILG more responsive to their constituencies. To ensure that the government responds to citizen feedback, the commitment also includes a milestone for the DILG to establish operational guidelines in support of the system.

If fully implemented, this commitment carries moderate potential impact. The DevLive portal significantly complements capacity growth for local development planning and local service delivery. However, the coverage and scope remain limited to programs that are funded by and downloaded from the DILG budget. [11] AM-funded projects, while relevant, only represent a small fraction of decisions and allocations being implemented and utilized by LGUs. Besides the limited scope of disclosed funding, this commitment will need to overcome the challenges of limited rural internet connectivity and limited awareness of the initiative. Regardless, some civil society representatives think that the DevLive portal could simplify the data gathering and feedback process required to engage with local governments. [12]

The national policy on civil society participation in governance aims to clarify existing guidelines and channels for CSO engagement with government. [13] This is important to ensure consistent treatment and participation channels for CSOs across the Philippines. However, the milestone does not seek to expand government-CSO engagement, but rather to standardize and clarify existing policy. Therefore, the potential impact of this commitment is moderate. However, if the policy broadens civic space by making it easier for CSOs to operate and engage with government, then this commitment may yield significant results in opening up government.

Additionally, it is important to acknowledge the inclusion of consultation with vulnerable groups (gender and sexual minorities, persons with disabilities, and youth) as well as the publication of gender disaggregated data of citizen feedback in the commitment’s milestones. Specific targeting of disadvantaged groups in commitment implementation could further expose the gaps in public service delivery and identify how government programs and funding could close those gaps.

Next Steps

The portal is a strategic first step to make information available to civil society and the public who seek to be involved in local-level decision making. While it is important to monitor and gather public feedback on nationally funded projects, a bigger proportion of the LGU budget comes from their share of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) and locally generated income. In future action plans, it would be productive to consider:

  • Link DevLive with local government datasets and disclosure mechanisms, such as the FDP portal, to contextualize data within the broader financial context; and
  • Expand the scope of DevLive to solicit feedback not only on major DILG-funded projects, but on other National Government Agency (NGA) and locally funded projects as well. [14]

The IRM recommends DILG and DBM consider the following in regard to the other activities under this commitment:

  • Consult civil society when drafting the national policy on civil society participation in governance and provide opportunity for public comment;
  • Consult CSOs on the procedures for local government units to approve and aid CSOs. In particular, CSOs could provide insight and suggestions related to any obstacles faced around registration, operation, and funding;
  • Ensure there is procedural transparency for CSO registration and related processes at the local government unit level;
  • Actively seek out and invite marginalized communities to town hall meetings and provide an alternative communication channel for those who may feel uncomfortable to speak publicly; and
  • Document and publish attendance, discussion, and decisions reached at town hall meetings.
[1] Czarina Medina-Guce and Ana Martha Galindes, “A Review of Citizen Participation Issues, Responses, and Prospects for Reform in Local Development Councils” Philippine Journal of Public Administration 61, no. 1 & 2) (Jan.–Dec. 2017), pp. 51–56.
[2] USAID, 2019 Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index For Asia, 6th ed. (Dec. 2020), https://www.fhi360.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/csosi-asia-2019-report.pdf.
[3] CIVICUS and ICNL, Assessment of the Enabling Environment for Civil Society Organizations in the Philippines. (Sept. 2017), https://www.civicus.org/images/EENA_Philippines_En.pdf.
[4] USAID, 2019 Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index For Asia.
[5] DILG, "Accreditation of Barangay-Based Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and their Membership in the Barangay-Based Institutions (BBIS)" MC2018-146 (3 Sep. 2018), https://dilg.gov.ph/issuances/mc/Accreditation-of-Barangay-Based-Non-Governmental-Organizations-NGOs-and-their-Membership-in-the-Barangay-Based-Institutions-BBIS/2798; DILG, “Guidelines on accreditation of civil society organizations and selection of representatives to the local special bodies" (27 May 2019), https://dilg.gov.ph/issuances/mc/Guidelines-on-accreditaion-of-civil-society-organizations-and-selection-of-representatives-to-the-local-special-bodies/2975.
[6] Joy Aceron, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): The Philippines End of Term Report 2015–2017 (OGP, Jun. 2018), 15, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Philippines_End-of-Term_Report_2015-2017.pdf.
[7] Richard Villacorte (Dept. of the Interior and Local Gov. of the Republic of the Philippines), interview by IRM researcher, 3 Jun. 2020.
[9] Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): The Philippines 2017-2019 Design and Implementation Report (OGP, publication forthcoming).
[10] Villacorte, interview.
[11] Id.
[12] Katlea Zairra Itong (Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas), interview by IRM researcher, 25 Jun. 2020.
[13] Government of the Philippines, interview by IRM researcher, 3 May 2021.
[14] Itong, interview.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership