Searching for TPA Direction in Agusan del Sur

By: Gary Garcia, Integrity Watch for Accountable Governance (IWAG)


Government Watch (G-Watch) conducted a forum on the direction and priority agenda for transparency, participation and accountability (TPA) under the new administration. Held last August 5, the forum was attended by key leaders from civil society, including Integrity Watch for Accountable Governance (IWAG), Bayugan City Pag-Asa Youth Association of the Philippines (BCPYAP) and Agusan Youth Alliance Network (AYAN), as well as allies from the local government of Sibagat.

The participants described Sibagat`s local governance situation as “efficient and open to CSOs in terms of participation in governance, and recognizes the important role of CSOs in the development of the community through the monitoring of government projects.”

However, they also conceded that CSOs are now experiencing greater difficulty looking for funds, forcing many civil society groups to cease operations. While CSOs still perform their work through sheer voluntarism, the participants emphasized the need to be capacitated in sourcing out both local and international funds.

In addition, Mr. Winston Salvador of the Propegemus Foundation shared the challenge of CSO accreditation.

“With the Napoles Scam, civil society all over the Philippines has been affected,” he said. “The requirements for accreditation by the local government is not easy. We are asked to present a lot of documents, including clearance from the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to avoid being red-tagged.”

Government representatives also took part in the discussion. Mr. Kim Bryan Pantanosas of the Rural Health Unit of Sibagat, for example, focused on the implementation of their vaccination program—one of several government services that IWAG Sibagat monitored during the pandemic. He mentioned that there are still citizens who are hesitant of the vaccine and that there had been instances wherein they were harassed during their house-to-house vaccination. These incidents, however, has not stopped the vaccinators from doing their responsibility.

The Department of Education (DepEd), on the other hand, was represented by Ms. Melanie Palac, Head Teacher-IV of Sibagat National High School. She shared the school administration`s management of the Covid situation, the health and safety protocols that they had established, and their experience with blended learning.

Ms. Palac also mentioned that “there are still students who are not yet vaccinated.” Despite these challenges, they are set to begin their partial face-to-face classes.

“There will be two sets of classes,” she explained. “Set A will be in the morning and Set B will in the afternoon to adhere the health and safety protocols set by the Department of Health.”

For her part, Ms. Maricel Dumanglas of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) began her presentation with a brief discussion on the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG)—an incentive program of the Department that recognizes good performing local government units (LGUs).

She said that the Sibagat LGU meets almost all the indicators of the SGLG. However, the Rural Health Unit still has to submit several documents for Sibagat to be fully compliant.

Ms. Dumanglas also addressed the municipality’s road condition, stating that, “a most of these are provincial roads and fall within the jurisdiction of the province.” However, the Sibagat LGU, on its own, is “sourcing out funds for the said road projects.”

Overall, the forum highlighted the need for transparency, participation and accountability (TPA) in the implementation of government projects as well as the need for CSOs to act as third-party monitors to have checks and balance.

G-Watch has been partnering with IWAG Sibagat since 2013. G-Watch provided technical assistance to IWAG in monitoring water service delivery in the municipality and the LGU’s public finance process. During the pandemic, G-Watch and IWAG monitored the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) program, vaccination rollout, and the recently concluded 2022 elections.

G-Watch is undertaking a series of TPA discussions with partners and local core groups to identify shared priorities and agenda in advancing TPA. The forum in Sibagat was the fourth local forum, with the first three in Cebu City, Dumaguete and Bacolod earlier.