Citizen Participation: The Sorsogon Approach

Cliché yet still unreachable; and for some, even unthinkable.

Let our voice be heard! People are screaming everywhere, with their shirts printed on and their faces painted with variants of colors. Yes, this is a rally. But it's neither asking for wage hike nor scrapping the pork barrel. This time, those that make up the huge 70% of the population is shouting their way out demanding for their participation in the government. Participatory governance...would you dare rally for that?

Shared leadership, citizen-based participation, transparent governance---those are just some of therelated concepts that are being equated with the umbrella term "participatory governance."

Indeed, majority of us would say that the term participatory governance isn't new. It can even be stampedas cliché. However, cliché as you may deem it, that idea is never easy even within your imagination.

Participatory governance in a simple definition is a kind of governance that is transparent, accountable and one that allows less privileged individuals to partake in decision-making within the government sphere. Because of a decentralized government as mandated by the Local Government Code of 1991, local government units nowadays have the so-called "local autonomy." This is wherein poor and vulnerable groups are asking for spaces to enable them to bring forth their needs and concerns to the government.

Naga City made a record-breaking history when it comes to participatory governance. That was during the time of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo and is still continuing up until now. If Naga City did, why can't we, Sorsoganons? There, you're having a big mistake. The province of Sorsogon is on its way towards realizing the same goal. And that is through IRDF's Participatory Governance Project.

Integrated Rural Development Foundation of the Philippines (IRDF), a national NGO promoting sustainable development since 1989, is implementing Participatory Governance Project which is being funded by the European Union (EU), in the quest of both parties to uphold participatory, accountable, and transparent local governance. Six municipalities in the province namely Matnog, Irosin, Bulan, Pilar, Sorsogon City, and Casiguran are among the identified focal areas of this particular project.

The project started its implementationNovember last year and had an official launching last Februrary 19, 2013. That day also marked the mutual agreement of the IRDF and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in their commitment towards supporting this undertaking. From then on, the project started on its initial phase, to foster awareness among organized groups such as civil society organizations (CSOs) including other NGOs and people's organizations(POs) with special focus on IRDF's partner POs to include ALPAS (AlyansakanParasirasaSorsogon), Bigkis, and GABAY (GabayngKababaihanparasaSambayanan). These three POs represent the basic sectors in society: farmers (ALPAS), women (GABAY), and fisherfolks (Bigkis).

Several trainings and seminarshave already been done in each of those project areas. As of May 2013, IRDF together with EU, were able to give these trainings: (1) Organizational Management Training, (2) Institution and Policy Analysis Training, (3) Financial Management Training, and (4) Communication and Negotiation Training; and seminar (a)Local Planning and Budgeting Seminar.

Aside from that, it was also able to convene about 27 CSOs recognized in Sorsogon City, one of the six project areas, in a particular training themed "CSO Strengthening through Active Participation in Local Governance. " Those 27 CSOs came from various sectors involving faith-based organizations, education sector, and farmers and fisherfolks sectors, to name a few. That multi-sectoral gathering of CSOs paved the way towards d rafting a CSO agenda that was later brought by the two CSO representatives, one was IRDF , to the formulation of ELA (Executive Legislative Agenda).

IRDF together with its partner POs have been accredited and thus were successful in acquiring a seat in the Local Development Council of the different municipalities within the province of Sorsogon. Furthermore, in Sorsogon City and Irosin, IRDF and some of its partner POs have acquired seats in the Executive Committee, Project Monitoring Committee and in the Local Special Bodies. IRDF and its partner POsare also active in the LPRAT (Local Poverty Reduction Action Team), either as co-chair or member, along with becoming a part of the monitoring committee on BUB (Bottom-Up Budgeting approach).

Moreover, the project used different forms of media in order to reach a wide range of audience in promoting the advocacy for participatory governance. It maintains a radio program, "Bayan ko, may OK kaba?" which airs over DZGN FM 102.3. It also ventures into social networking site having a discussion group called USWAG (United Sorsogon Watch and Action Group), which serves as venue to review issues related with promoting good governance over the province. Currently, USWAG has 284 members that are active in sharing their views regarding various political issues confronting the province and the country as a whole.

Right now, IRDF and EU are both looking forward for a stronger support and active participation of CSOs, organized groups and other concerned Sorsoganons as it journey towards pushing for participatory governance here in the province of Sorsogon.

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