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South Cotabato, Philippines

Open Legislation (COT0005)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Not Attached

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Provincial Government of South Cotabato – Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office and Office of the Vice Governor

Support Institution(s): Senior Accountable Officer: Hon. Vicente R. De Jesus – Vice Governor +639209622158 +6383-2283448 Technical Focal Person: Felicitas F. Bigcas, Secretary to the Sanggunian +6383-2282338 Partner CSO: Mahintana Foundation, Inc. Martiniano Magdolot - +639173059060 Jobe Tubigon - +639173059063 Media Partners: Tri-media Association Partner LGU Offices: PPDO- ITU, PIO

Policy Areas

E-Government, Gender, Legislation & Regulation, Marginalized Communities, Media & Telecommunications, Open Parliaments, Participation in Lawmaking, Public Participation, Regulatory Governance, Subnational, Sustainable Development Goals

IRM Review

IRM Report: South Cotabato Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

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

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Thematic Area: Open Legislation
Establishing Online Channels to Broaden Civic Engagement and Increase Relevance of Local Legislations
31 August 2018 – 31 August 2020
Lead implementing agency/actor
Provincial Government of South Cotabato – Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office and Office of the Vice Governor
Commitment Description
What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
In democracy, the involvement of the citizens in the political process is essential. Ideally, when citizens participate, they themselves must assess their own needs and inform the local government what these needs are, may it be through an online or offline public channel. The same must also go with the legislation process. Despite the gains realized in reducing poverty incidence, 19.8% of families remain poor in 2015. The nature and quality of local policies and legislation greatly influence and shape the process and outcomes of local development administration. Hence, for governance to be effective in reducing poverty, only relevant ordinances and policies that can effectively alleviate poverty based on the outputs of intensified engagement with the general public must be enacted and implemented. Currently, involvement of citizens to provide input on proposed legislative measures as well as to propose possible new legislative measures that matter to them is limited since the constituents have limited knowledge on passed and proposed legislative measures especially that public hearing is not mandatory for all legislative measures. For legislative measures that require public consultations, only a small percentage of the local population is reached due to limitations of funds in sending communications and conducting face-to-face (offline) assemblies and gatherings. There is a lack of understanding and awareness among the general public that they can actually be involved in the formulation of local policies and ordinances, and on how to access existing policies/ordinances. Further, records of existing legislations (resolutions and ordinances) are also not readily accessible and available both offline and online. All these lead to majority of people not actively participating in the decisionmaking process during legislation. While those who are aware of their right to participate or access legislative information lose interest since the process is not clear on how to voice out essential opinions.
What is the commitment?
The commitment aims to create more space for citizen engagement in order to improve the local legislative process through online channels, hence, increase the relevance of local legislation in addressing the people’s felt needs and perceived development issues. This can be done by first establishing an automated database for legislations – Legislative Information Technology System (LITS) - that would serve as the central database for all current and ongoing legislations that can be easily accessed. Information on the status of ongoing legislations will also be viewed through the system. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office will set-up a computer where researchers and the general public may search, query and access records on existing and on-going legislations. The LITS will serve as a database for legislative records where people can readily search current and on-going/pending policies and ordinances. This legislative database will also be linked to the Provincial Online Database so that this can be accessed by the public anytime online. Online platforms also include setting-up of an official Facebook page for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato and linking this to South Cotabato’s official website and Facebook page where anyone can suggest new policies and ordinances as well as give comments on current or existing policies and ordinances. This will be the platform for the general public to be consulted and propose ideas on new legislations, and provide feedback both on existing and proposed local policies and ordinances that will truly make a difference to their lives. This is in addition to the face-to-face public consultations being currently conducted for legislations that require public consultation.
How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem?
Establishing both online media/channels to disseminate and consult citizens on legislative processes and measures will further broaden citizen engagement in legislation and ensure the passing and implementation of relevant pieces of legislation that will be truly effective in responding to the real issues and development problems of communities.
Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
Increase transparency and citizen participation by providing more avenue/platform for citizens to access relevant information on local legislative processes and measures. Leveraging technology for better governance by establishing online mechanisms and digital information systems to open legislative processes. Promote inclusion and gender-sensitivity by tagging enacted legislations that are authored by women or those that primarily benefit women.
Additional information
The commitment under open legislation will be implemented in partnership with a local CSO, Mahintana Foundation, Inc. (MFI), as lead partner. MFI has already developed an automated system for the legislative records and processes of the Office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan but would only need to enhance it in order to make the system more open and accessible online by linking it to the Provincial Online Database. As relevant policies and legislation provide the environment for equitable and inclusive growth to prosper, this commitment will significantly contribute to the realization of all the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly on goals 1 (No Poverty) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
Milestone Activity with a Verifiable Deliverable
Draft and pass ordinance institutionalizing the open legislation mechanism.
Vice Governor/ Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office
Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office
November 2018 – December 2018
Establish and link the Official Facebook Account of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato as an online platform for Open Legislation to the Official FB Page and Website of South Cotabato. This is where the general public can make comments and give feedback on both existing and proposed legislations to promote and establish people-powered legislations.
Vice Governor/ Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office
Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office
January 2019 – NA
Establish the Legislative Information Technology System (LITS), an automated database for the legislative records and processes of the Office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that will be linked to the Provincial Online Database for easy access of the public. A desktop computer will also be set up at the Office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for walk-in researchers and clients.
Mahintana Foundation, Inc., PPDOITU
Mahintana Foundation, Inc.
November 2018 – March 2019
Form and designate a committee that will review and act on the feedbacks from citizens on proposed legislative actions and ensure online publication of status report of actions taken on the citizens’ feedback through the SP Official Facebook Page. The committee will also act on inputs solicited from the general public for new legislative measures that can be crafted which needs actions and are identified as priority by citizens during the regular conduct of Outreach activities by the provincial government (offline / face-toface channel).
Vice Governor/ Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office
Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office
November 2018 – December 2018
Implementing Actors
Lead Implementing Office/ Agency/ Organization
Provincial Government of South Cotabato - Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office and Office of the Vice Governor
Other Actors Involved
Senior Accountable Officer: Hon. Vicente R. De Jesus – Vice Governor +639209622158 +6383-2283448 Technical Focal Person: Felicitas F. Bigcas, Secretary to the Sanggunian +6383-2282338
Partner CSO: Mahintana Foundation, Inc. Martiniano Magdolot - +639173059060 Jobe Tubigon - +639173059063 Media Partners: Tri-media Association Partner LGU Offices: PPDO- ITU, PIO

IRM Midterm Status Summary

Theme 5: Open Legislation

5. Establishing Online Channels to Broaden Civic Engagement and Increase Relevance of Local Legislations

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“Establishing Online Channels to Broaden Civic Engagement and Increase Relevance of Local Legislations”

The commitment aims to create more space for citizen engagement in order to improve the local legislative process through online channels, hence, increase the relevance of local legislation in addressing the people’s felt needs and perceived development issues. This can be done by first establishing an automated database for legislations – Legislative Information Technology System (LITS) - that would serve as the central database for all current and on-going legislations that can be easily accessed. Information on the status of on-going legislations will also be viewed through the system. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan Office will set-up a computer where researchers and the general public may search, query and access records on existing and on-going legislations. The LITS will serve as a database for legislative records where people can readily search current and on-going/pending policies and ordinances. This legislative database will also be linked to the Provincial Online Database so that this can be accessed by the public anytime online.

Online platforms also include setting-up of an official Facebook page for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato and linking this to South Cotabato’s official website and Facebook page where anyone can suggest new policies and ordinances as well as give comments on current or existing policies and ordinances. This will be the platform for the general public to be consulted and propose ideas on new legislations, and provide feedback both on existing and proposed local policies and ordinances that will truly make a difference to their lives. This is in addition to the face-to-face public consultations being currently conducted for legislations that require public consultation.

Milestones:

  1. Draft and pass ordinance institutionalizing the open legislation mechanism.
  2. Establish the Official Facebook Account of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of South Cotabato as an online platform for Open Legislation.
  3. Form and designate a committee that will review and act on the feedbacks from citizens on proposed legislative actions and ensure online publication of status report of actions taken on the citizens’ feedback through the SP Official Facebook Page.
  4. Establish the Legislative Information Technology System (LITS), an automated database for the legislative records and processes of the Office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that will be linked to the Provincial Online Database for easy access of the public. A desktop computer will also be set up at the Office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for walk-in researchers and clients.
  5. Livestreaming of the regular sessions of the SP through the Official FB Page of the SP.

Start Date: 31 August 2018                                                             End Date: 31 August 2020

Context and Objectives

This commitment aims to broaden civic engagement through increased access to information on local legislative processes. The commitment will establish online channels for citizens to receive relevant information, including an automated database, Facebook, and livestreams of sessions. These will enable citizens to provide feedback on existing or proposed legislation, ordinances, and policies. It also seeks to constitute a committee to review and follow up on such feedback.

At the time this commitment was designed, not all legislative measures in South Cotabato were subject to public hearing. However, citizen participation in creating local laws often leads to their successful implementation and sustainable enforcement. [31] Legislative information, records, and files are still in the process of being digitized by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP, the provincial legislature), and protocol requires that citizens must attend hearings and manually request the documents. Even requests for bills and related documents made electronically through e-mail have to be printed out first, so as to facilitate its physical endorsement and go through official channels and concerned offices. [32]

According to SP representatives, this situation prevents the majority of the local population from actively participating in decision-making during legislative processes, while those who are aware of their right to participate, and have access to legislative information, lose interest due to prolonged wait times. An exception to low public participation is when a mining measure goes through public hearings; citizen groups and the media get involved at every step of its passage. [33] Local mining issues elicit active citizen involvement even if it does not directly impact them, or take place within their own village or municipality. Citizens believe that mining issues are a province-wide concern of which they see themselves a part. [34]

This commitment is verifiable. Passing legislation to institutionalize an open legislation mechanism, livestreaming SP sessions, creating a social media account, appointing a committee to review and act on citizen feedback, and establishing an automated legislative record database are all identifiable and measurable activities. Some milestones, however, could be more specific. For example, the exact composition of the committee to review citizen feedback is not specified, while the nature and extent of information to be disclosed via the automated database is also inconclusive.

The commitment’s activities are relevant to all of OGP’s core values: improving access to information, citizen participation, public accountability, and technology and innovation. For example, the designation of the committee to review and act on citizen feedback will provide a public-facing mechanism for the local legislature to hold itself accountable to citizens. Similarly, the automated platform to publish legislative records will advance both access to government-held information and leverage technology and innovation to do so.

This commitment has a moderate potential impact on improving civic engagement and access to information in local legislative processes. Since the SP traditionally relies on cumbersome protocols, offline public hearings, and manual procedures to elicit citizen feedback on proposed legislations, the commitment’s proposition to provide online platforms for legislative records, and establish social media channels for citizen participation in law-making, represent a major step forward in citizen engagement and access to legislative information.

However, as the majority of the population, particularly in under-served areas, either lack internet access, or prefer postal services (see Commitment 1), this commitment’s reliance on online or internet-based platforms means that it remains limited in scope.

Next Steps

  • Create a more structured approach to engage citizens, especially for gathering input, and use mining-related legislation, an issue that impacts a large proportion of the population in the province, as an example of issues that can elicit active public engagement. An example could be a well-moderated townhall meeting in a neutral venue where all sectors are given space to air concerns and then converge on co-created solutions on how to move forward.
  • Explore how multimedia technology (e.g., livestreaming, social media, radio, print) can enhance public consultation and outreach activities, and how government can effectively raise awareness about the local executive-legislative agenda.
  • Assess demand for legislative information among different users, e.g., other provincial offices, academic researchers, CSOs, NGOs, advocacy groups, and business associations.
[31] ParlAmericas, Toolkit: Citizen Participation in the Legislative Process (Apr. 2018), https://bit.ly/3gMX9qB.
[32] Gloria Duco (Board Secretary, Sangguniang Panlalawigan), interview by IRM researcher, 3 Apr. 2019.
[33] Duco, interview.
[34] Id.

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