Mr. Gary Hawes, Associate Director and International Budget Partnership Representative to the Philippines, visited the Municipality of Aleosan last November 2 to 3. He was accompanied by Balay Mindanaw Group of NGO President Kaloy Z. Manlupig, and Executive Directors Ariel Hernandez of KPMFI and Paul Paraguya of BMFI.
Gary spent dinner with Balay Aleosan staff and some youth volunteers, including two promising peace champions from the state security sector: Lt. Col. Roy Galido and Lt. Col. Benjie Hao, both of the 40th Infantry Battalion.
Gary asked about how local governance is being concretely affected by the peace and security situation, or vice versa.
Both colonels, citing various actual experiences, shared that both governance and peace and security are big and connected challenges. They reinforce each other. “Local leaders, just like us soldiers or even the law enforcement officers, when transparent and accountable, gain the trust and confidence of the people. The better our performance is, the greater confidence is put in us by the people,” said Galido. On the other hand, Hao stressed the importance of enhancing confidence and partnership with civil society organizations, and securing peace and security in the context of human rights and rule of law as key to realizing peaceful communities.
The next day’s activity started with a hearty breakfast (kilawing kambing, adobo, papait, sinabaw na manok, at pinaupong manok) at the office of Mayor Loreto V. Cabaya Jr. and the members of the Local Finance Committee (LFC) – Municipal Budget Officer Jaime Alemania, Municipal Accountant William E. Ralar, Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator (MPDC) Reuby Cagud, and Ms Rowena Banaga (MPDC II).
Mayor Cabaya, after giving a short briefer on the situation in Aleosan, shared that he appreciated Balay Mindanaw’s local budget tracking program for it helps increase the awareness of his constituents on the essence of participatory, accountable, responsive and transparent governance. He also said that the full disclosure policy provides the citizenry how the local budget process is done. “What is important is that when somebody asks questions, we have all the answers,” he emphasized. He also shared that despite their meager Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) being a third class municipality, together with the LFC, they are able to optimize use of this small resource.
In responding to Gary’s question about how armed conflicts affected the peace and order situation of the municipality, Mayor Cabaya cited Balay Mindanaw’s peacebuilding interventions. The training on peace course held in Cagayan de Oro City, he said, has greatly helped, especially in the case of Barangay Dunguan, which recently had experienced the killing of their first councilor due to rido (clan war). Furthermore, this barangay had suffered much during the height of violent conflicts.
After the conduct of Local Peace Consultations spearheaded by BMFI, people have slowly opened up their communication lines. They have become more engaging, and tangibly, active participation is there. In the recent rido case, the aggrieved family never fought back. Instead, they became open to peace negotiation or settlement.
The mayor cited Punong Barangay Mholds Suga, who told him: “We’re fed up with rido, Mayor, especially now because we have to attend to a lot of projects in the barangay.”
The field commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the barangay are also starting to engage in terms of project development in the community, specifically the establishment of fishpond in Dunguan. Ayi Hernandez, who was overwhelmed by the story, cited that this can become a good model to be considered by the other barangays inside the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Just before lunch, the team proceeded to Barangay New Panay. Punong Barangay Lolita V. Capotulan, with the 23 members of the Barangay Development Council (BDC), shared about their difficulty in allocating small funds vis-à-vis the list of priority issues identified by her constituents. She appreciated the budget discussions they had, citing that this was their first time to be transparent down to the last peso, with the active participation of the BDC members. Kagawad Laquihon shared that being informed about barangay budgeting lessens the chance of corruption to take place. Besides, this is good as everyone in the barangay gets the chance to participate in all processes involved, more importantly, budgeting.
As regards peace and security, Capotulan cited their concern on cattle rustling, which they considered to be a modus of an organized group, as rustlers were noticed to have high powered guns.
Mr. Gary Hawes’ Impressions
Capacity building on budget information among constituent citizens, paralleled by the institutionalization of local structures, is crucial. People’s participation through the BDCs is not enough. In fact the 25-percent membership of NGOs in the BDC is not representative of the entire populace. This structure needs to be optimized. Besides budget information, analysis and monitoring are not even sensitive issues, hence nothing to be afraid of on the part of the LGUs.
Balay’s local budget tracking for participatory, accountable, responsive, transparent, nurturing, efficient/effective and rule of law-sensitive governance, despite some limitations encountered, has shown notable reforms. All this needs to be documented and supported with actual evidences for consideration and possible replication by other local government units.