THIS article is an attempt to put in a bigger picture, from inside-out perspective, the ongoing initiatives in DILG to strengthen the civil society organizations (CSOs) participation in local governance, toward the formation of People's Council or Network or Convergence.
There have already been countless attempts from both government and non-government sectors to invigorate the participatory mechanisms instituted by the Local Government Code of 1991, and also some experimental models in participatory governance undertaken by some LGUs and CSOs like in Naga, Cebu, Dumaguete City, San Jose, Antique, Cagayan De Oro, and in Cordillera, among others.
Local, national and international consultations and conferences on similar themes and issues have likewise been held.
On the other hand, the success cases on CSOs participation in local governance remain insignificant to prod those in power to come up with legislative support.
The exposure of the "Napoles scandals" involving some prominent politicians and the billions of public funds channeled illegally through pseudo CSOs during the Noynoy Aquino administration have also reinforced the private and the government doubts on CSOs role in governance as many of them have only been good in the seeking funds for their projects.
The positive initiatives that have perhaps rekindled interest on the issue in recent years is the Bottom-up Budgeting (BUB) experience where sizable number of CSOs, NGOs, POs and the LGUs have demonstrated the power to make change even in local planning and budgeting in less bureaucratic manner.
This was followed through by the DILG program on Assistance to Disadvantaged Municipalities (ADM) and later became Assistance to Municipalities (AM) where CSOs and some State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and Local Resource Institutions (LRIs) were involved in service delivery and played sort of third party monitoring and feedbacking systems.
But perhaps, the most pivotal attempts at strengthening government engagement with CSOs were the 2018 and 2019 DILG Memorandum Circulars (MC) and related issuances on CSOs engagement and Accreditation guidelines.
Still it is premature to judge whether or not these initiatives would deliver the target results -- of strengthening participatory governance in all levels.
What is important is the imperative of CSOs, NGOs and POs to consolidate themselves into a People's Council or Network in every municipality, city and provincial level in order to leverage its effective participation in local governance.
They can't depend on the government to empower themselves. They have to empower themselves by their own initiatives and advances.
Hence, this paper on the formation of People's Council or Network or Convergence, as a proposal to be set up in all LGUs, to serve as a broader mechanism for citizens participation in governance, and enhancing the limitations of the mainstream participatory mechanisms in the LGC.
Citizen's Social Movements
The Philippines is rich in citizen's social movements. From pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial to the present times, the citizen's social movements have played decisive role in reforming systems, re-engineering political institutions, redefining social values and norms, transforming lives, and even making heroes and traitors.
In the early 20th century, social movements are mostly connected to discreet movements pro- or anti-colonial rule. During the terror reign of the martial law, most worked as underground armed organizations and legal protest movements.
In post martial rule period till today, the citizen's social movements are highly organized, delineated, and encompass various sectors and sub-sectors of society. A few are territorial-based and focused (city, municipality or province).
This does not exclude informal and unaccredited citizens social movements in the locality which is part of people's tradition and culture, and give significant contribution to people's welfare and other important concerns of the local government.
Citizen's social movements which have acknowledged the link of their issues with the bigger struggles of the Filipino people for sovereignty, patrimony, equality, democracy and good governance have been able to sustain their activities through various forms and levels of organizations and struggles. While those who succumbed to their narrow, parochial and sectarian views and interests have suffered defeats and faded away to perdition.
Citizen's social movements from a broad political spectrum made Edsa happen, shaped the passage of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, and inspired the enactment of the Local Government Code of 1991. All these were born out of the articulation of the people's ideas and actions, and the restoration of the formal democratic institutions and the mainstreaming of the power of the people.
However, these democratic institutions have not been nurtured enough to become effectively functional because the power structures overarching them down to the Local government units (LGUs) remain under the full control of the landed and rich political dynasties.