WATCH North Cotabato – Our Record So Far   

 

SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN JUNE 2010, when it launched initially as WATCH Kidapawan, WATCH North Cotabato has filed graft- related cases against 26 government officials in the province before the office of the Ombudsman Mindanao. These cases were filed after concerned citizens brought to WATCH North Cotabato pieces of evidences of the alleged malpractices happening in the government offices.

Those officials whom the concerned citizens want to hold accountable of their misdeeds include a town mayor and his administrator, city agriculturist and her staff, a public university president and his administrative council, members of the university bids and awards committee and a state auditor, two barangay chairmen and members of their council and one barangay treasurer. The cases filed against them include Violation of RA 9184 (Procurement Act), RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and Revised Penal Code.

WATCH North Cotabato is composed print and broadcast media persons, people’s organizations, Non-Government Organizations, church-based organizations, government employees, concerned organizations and individuals. The group continues to grow as more organizations and individuals joined the crusade to promote transparency and good governance. The latest to join the group is the University of Southern Mindanao -Multi-Stakeholders Movement for Truth and Justice (USM-MMTJ) who helped the group in filing graft charges against the school’s top officials. More young lawyers also extended their free legal services for WATCH North Cotabato.

In 2010 the group’s action to file Illegal Exaction case against some officials of the City of Kidapawan has resulted to the whooping 700 percent increase in the revenue collection on small businesses. The legal suit has prompted the city government to review its revenue collection strategies and instituted reforms through centralization of tax payment and banning of the issuance of acknowledgement receipts..

In 2012, the group also investigated and took legal actions to stop the “paperless” transactions being practiced in the University of Southern Mindanao in the Municipality of Kabacan. WATCH North Cotabato filed a Violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act case against University president Jesus Antonio Derije and members of the Administrative Council for allowing a private company to cultivate the 94 hectare public land without the approval of the Board of Regents and without any contract to legitimize the transaction.

Despite the legal charges filed against the university officials, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Board of Regents gave university president another three year term to continue his leadership. The student body organization and the faculty association were so disappointed that they organized a protest action to oppose and question the reappointment of the school president. The protest actions disrupted the classes and at some point paralyzed the operation of the university. After six months of relentless protest actions the beleaguered president was forced to file indefinite leave of absence and the CHED appointed a new Officer in Charge.

Watch North Cotabato also campaigned against politicians who put their big names and photos in government project structures and signages and claim credit to works which are actually funded by taxpayers. The group called the attention of these officials but some simply ignored it and continue to display their photos and names in government projects. One top official of the province is an exception when she ordered to remove her photos pasted on every bottle of dextrose used in a government hospital.

This year the group is investigating the private contractors for their delayed implementation of government projects and their failure to pay the required Liquidated Damages.

The group also faced some challenges as a consequence of its active role in promoting transparency and accountability in government. The school president filed before the Provincial Prosecutor a Sedition case against the Chairperson and Spokesperson of Watch North Cotabato. The case is viewed as a form of harassment to the group’s prime movers who took the initiative to investigate the school controversies.

The movement of case filed before the Ombudsman remain very slow. Three years have passed but not a single case filed against the suspected corrupt officials has been decided. Despite the regular following up of the case status these cases remain unresolved and still in the evaluation process.