Citizen Action Guide to Leyte


Area Profile

Leyte is the largest among the six provinces in Eastern Visayas with a land area of 571,280 hectares. It lies adjacent to the island of Samar, connected by the San Juanico Strait, and east of the islands of Cebu and Bohol. It is bounded in the north by the Carigara Bay and in the east by the Leyte Gulf. To the west is the Camotes Sea, while the province of Southern Leyte lies south. The land is mountainous with a very rugged range cutting the island in half from northwest to southeast.

Leyte is composed of 40 municipalities and three cities -- Ormoc, Baybay and Tacloban -- which serve as commercial centers. Tacloban is the provincial capital. It has five congressional districts and has a total of 1,641 barangays. As of 2010, the province had a population of 1,567,984.

The province has abundant geothermal power reserves: The Leyte Geothermal Power Field in Tongonan, Ormoc City is the second geothermal power producer in the world. 

The province also houses two of the country’s top earners: the Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation (PHILPHOS) and the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refinery Corporation (PASAR). PASAR, a world-class refining company, produces copper cathodes. PHILPHOS is the largest producer of high grade fertilizer in Asia. The combined annual export of these two companies is worth US$ 400 million. 

Despite its diverse and rich natural resources, Leyte is ranked 35th poorest out of 80 across the country. About 31.9 per cent of its households were considered poor in 2012 – registering only a very slight improvement since 2009. A high rate of poor families also contributed to high malnutrition incidence, reaching 15 per cent in 2012. A big contributor to the high poverty incidence is the lack of many big national companies’ ability to offer good jobs to the region’s 1.02 million labor force. Leyte had a Human Development Index of 0.588 in 2009 which put it in the medium range or second poorest cluster. 

Unstable prices of copra, abaca diseases, flooding and damaging pests in rice farms also contribute to poverty incidence here, resulting in lower income in farming communities: Around a third of Leyte’s population are largely supported by farming activities with rice, coconut and abaca as major products. 

About 91 percent of Leyte’s population is literate. Net enrolment in elementary is high at 91.4 percent, but participation in secondary schools is only 49.2 percent. Poor access to public high schools discourages children in villages to get secondary education. The province has 1,108 elementary schools but only 136 state-run secondary schools. 

Leyte recorded an infant mortality rate of 7.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011. Thirty of the 40 municipalities have recorded infant deaths in the same year. Nine municipalities had a maternal mortality ratio of 49.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. Alarming cases of infant mortality can be attributed to lack of public health workers: The province has only 52 medical doctors and 312 midwives with a ratio of 1:30,020 and 1:5,003, respectively. 


Local Government Unit Profile

The provincial government has been ruled by the Petilla clan for two decades. Leopoldo E. Petilla was the first governor in the family and served from 1992 to 1995. His wife, Remedios, succeeded him for three consecutive terms. From 2004 to 2012, Petilla’s son, Carlos Jericho, took over the governor’s office: When President Benigno Aquino appointed him as Secretary of the Department of Energy in November 2012, then Vice Governor Ma. Mimiette Bagulaya assumed the post for seven months. Petilla’s brother Leopoldo Dominico is the incumbent governor of Leyte. 

Three families rule three cities in the province for 20 years now – the Romualdezes in Tacloban, the Caris in Baybay, and the Codillas in Ormoc. 

Leyte is a first class province with a total income of PhP 1.27 billion in 2012. Of this figure, PhP 1.14 billion is sourced from the Internal Revenue Allotment, PhP 135.53 million from local-sourced revenues and PhP 470,000 from other revenues. Only 13.66 percent of the total income was from local sources, lower than the 16.09 percent average for first class provinces and 14.04 percent average for all provinces in the country. 

The target is to make locally-sourced revenues total income higher than the average of LGUs with the same LGU type and income class. Given this performance, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) emphasized to the province the need to enhance existing measures in support of revenue generation. 

In terms of administrative governance, the DILG recently acknowledged the provincial LGU for managing its human resource and consultative processes and planning databases. But the DILG noted weak management and coordination processes in budgeting and accounting, as well as poor quality of local legislation. 

On social governance, the province has been cited for appropriate structure and plan for community and child protection, reduced crime incidence, functional Local Disaster Coordinating Council, effective support to basic education and functioning health system. But the DILG has recommended the provincial LGU to increase levels of support for the housing services sector. 

On economic governance, the provincial LGU is capable of promoting a business-friendly environment where civil application system is customer-oriented, and the processing and release of permits is fast. It is noted for exercising management authority to lead in promoting investment potentials of the LGU. Funding support for credit, market development and research in agriculture sector is available. The province however is rated poor for infrastructure support for farming. 

The province espouses transparency by communicating with the public through bulletin boards, public information office, mainstream media and new media. The provincial LGU maintains local radio and television programs to disclose project updates and expenditure. The provincial media office also distributes press releases. 

However, there is a need to strengthen civil society organization (CSO) participation in Local Special Bodies and to enhance citizen feedback system. The DILG also recommended improving administrative capacity to ensure observance of guidelines relative to accounting, internal control, procurement and financial transactions. 

On environmental governance, the provincial LGU encourages CSO participation in forest ecosystems management, urban ecosystem management, coastal marine ecosystems management and freshwater ecosystem management.

 
Commission on Audit Findings

The Commission on Audit’s 2010 report -- the latest data available – disclosed several problems with the provincial LGU’s use of funds. Among these were the: 

• Non-submission of PhP 419 million paid disbursement for post-audit;
• Delayed remittances of collections from different hospitals;
• No proper accounting of PhP 19.26 million procurement of drugs and medicines under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF);
• 8 procurement contracts totalling PhP 15.40 million having only one bidder with quoted prices exactly the same as the approved budget;
• Failure to post PhP 3.97 million worth of small-value procurement of drugs and medicines in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) website;
• Failure to formulate a distinct Gender and Development plan and budget for 2010;
• Non-reporting of cancelled checks; and
• Payment of penalty due to delayed remittance to the Government Service Insurance System and failure to follow rules on the demolition of state-owned MacArthur Park Beach Resort Hotel. 

In 2011, the province has received a Seal of Good Housekeeping award from the DILG, which recognizes LGUs with good performance in internal housekeeping, particularly in the areas of local legislation, development planning, resource generation, resource allocation and utilization, customer service, and human resource management and development, as well as, in valuing the fundamental of good governance. 

The DILG has also awarded the province the Gawad Pamana ng Lahi in 2011 citing the provincial government’s overall performance Index in the agency’s local governance performance management system; the seal of good housekeeping; international or national awards; and acknowledged innovations. 


Civil Society and Media

Civil society. Some NGOs here have been participating in Provincial Development Council meetings since 2007. Among the most active are the Runggiyan Social Development Foundation, Inc., Leyte Family Development Organization, Inc. (LEFADO), and the Eastern Visayas Network of NGOs and POs (EVNet). 

In 2010, CSO representatives held seats in provincial school boards, bids and awards committee, peace and order council and the health board. From July 2010 to June 2013, at least 17 NGOs took part in quarterly meetings of these boards or committees to ensure that planning and implementation is in accordance with the needs of the local area. These NGOs represent rural workers, cooperatives, architects, women, farmers and businessmen. 

As of August 20, 2013, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) has accredited seven NGOs – representing rural workers, church, farmers, educators, government workers, medical workers and businessmen – as members of the Provincial Development Council until 2016. It has certified only two NGOs to observe biddings -- the Philippine Contractors Association and LEFADO. Legislators are still in the process of selecting partners for other special bodies. 

LGU-civil society engagement is more advanced in selected municipalities only and in the bottom-up budgeting (BuB) approach which the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) introduced in 2012. 

CSOs like EVNet and LEFADO actively take part in planning and monitoring government programs, engage in policy discussions and are involved in collaborative activities, with funding support from the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines (the same funding partner of the Citizen Action Network for Local Government Accountability or CANA). 

Under this action, EVNet has partnered with LGUs in the municipalities of Hilongos and Matalom, while LEFADO has partnered with LGUs in the municipalities of Alangalang and Barugo. The project has started in 2013 and will run through until 2016. 

The specific objectives of the local governance project of EVNet are to:
• Strengthen the social accountability of LGUs by expanding the use of citizen’s monitoring tools in assessing the LGU service delivery and governance in the 10 municipalities covered by the project; and
• Strengthen and institutionalize participatory local poverty reduction action planning/budgeting and implementation in the covered municipalities. 

The project also seeks to institutionalize and improve systems for citizens’ monitoring of LGUs and strengthening participatory planning and budgeting processes by working with the DILG, the DBM and other national agencies. 

Media. Media partisanship has intensified in the 2010 and 2013 national elections, with some media supporting the policies and programs of the clan of Gov. Petilla while others, for Tacloban City Mayor Alfredo Romualdez. 

Petilla’s camp has bought different air times from two private broadcast stations – DyVL (Manila Broadcasting Company) and DyDW (Catholic Media Network). Apart from its hired full-time broadcasters, the provincial capitol also pays some regular media practitioners. The Romualdez clan meanwhile has revived its own broadcast firms: DyBR AM and PRTV. Majority of its air time has been devoted to boost the image of the city mayor and his cousin, Leyte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. 

Both camps have been dynamic in disclosing their opponent’s irregularities obviously to influence public opinion against each other, and not really to enhance transparency and accountability. 

The province basically has no LGU-media engagement to call of. LGU officials and reporters typically just meet in news conferences and big events. Journalists are never invited to cover planning meetings or observe biddings. 

Two media organizations are active in Leyte and are both affiliated to their national offices – the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Kapisanan ng Mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). Both groups prioritize supporting media initiatives to professionalize their work, rather than collaborating with LGUs to achieve greater transparency and accountability. 


LGU-Citizen Engagement

Many citizens in Leyte are just passive on governance-related issues as indicated by low turnout of participants in past and present anti-corruption protests. Almost all sectors in rural areas are represented in some local development bodies but very few are active members. The small farmers’ group Samahan han Gudti na Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas, for instance, represents less than 0.5 percent of the total population of small farmers here. Majority in the sector are not aware that such group exists. Citing their experience with the Department of Agriculture, the group said many of their projects failed because farmers need to belong to an organization first to qualify as recipients. 

Most municipal governments here do not subscribe to people-centered governance model as shown in constant yet arbitrary delays in accrediting interested CSOs. 

The Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO) reported that while several LGUs here have signed memorandums of agreement with CSOs, these have not resulted in any clear activity or partnership agreement. Some LGUs have even resisted the idea of deeper CSO participation in their affairs. For their part, citizen groups have been pessimistic as well, believing that LGUs will not take into account their opinions. 

Other constraints of LGU-citizen engagement include limited capacity of the citizens’ groups to understand specific policy processes, institutions and actors; weak strategies for policy engagement; inadequate use of evidence; and weak communication approaches to effectively participate in the planning system. 

As pointed out earlier, the EVNet and LEFADO are capacitating about 100 CSOs in rural communities in Leyte identified under citizen participation in monitoring of LGU performance and development planning for poverty reduction program. 

Under this initiative, EVNet trains citizens on how to secure accreditation from the Sangguniang Bayan, how to identify priority projects and their rights in the local planning process. EVNet aims to complete the capacity building project within the next two years. With the very limited sources and manpower, the network focuses in municipalities with higher poverty incidence. It is expected that this initiative will boost citizen’s confidence as development planners. 


Opportunities and Threats

Opportunities

1. Good governance advocacy
The Local Government Code of 1991 has mandated LGUs to enhance transparency by allowing non-government representatives to sit in local development councils and observe bidding process. But the lack of support policies under the Estrada and Arroyo administrations has shrunk the democratic space which the law has provided for CSOs. The emphasis of the Aquino’s administration on good governance has opened windows of opportunities for citizens’ voices to be heard. 

New programs and policies of the present administration have created favourable legal conditions to push LGUs to collaborate with CSOs. The DILG for instance has introduced reward system for LGUs with enabling CSO engagement mechanism. The perceived strong support from local chief executives for the Aquino government’s “Tuwid na Daan” (straight path) slogan has raised LGUs’ interest to seek citizen engagement. In fact, in the May 2013 elections, 90 percent of 43 elected mayors in Leyte are members of the ruling Liberal Party. 

2. Bottom-up budgeting (BuB) approach
The BuB approach has given CSOs wider access to participatory governance. The DILG memorandum says CSO engagement is key in identifying BuB projects: This approach helps agencies prepare budget proposals based on the development needs of poor LGUs which they identified in their respective local poverty reduction action plans. In 2013, a total of 15 municipalities in Leyte are already BuB recipients. For 2014 projects, a total of 39 LGUs in Leyte will be beneficiaries, including the cities of Tacloban, Ormoc and Baybay. 

CSOs are involved in different degrees in planning, implementing and monitoring of projects such as farm-to-market roads, food production, irrigation system, post-harvest facilities, upland development, micro enterprise, reforestation, various education-related projects, health facilities, KALAHI-CIDSS and livelihood programs. These practices empower citizens as they perform their role as development actors and democracy builders. 

3. Full Disclosure Policy (FDP)
The FDP requires LGU officials to fully disclose its financial transactions to keep constituents informed of how the LGU budget is managed, disbursed and used. These documents should be posted in conspicuous places, thus allowing citizens to have access to information. 

FDP requires LGUs to post these documents and transactions:
• Annual Budget of the current calendar year
• Quarterly Statement of Cash Flows
• Statement of Receipts and Expenditures of the previous calendar year
• Trust Fund (PDAF) Utilization
• Special Education Fund (SEF) Utilization
• 20 percent Component of the Internal revenue Allotment (IRA) Utilization
• Gender and Development Fund Utilization
• Statement of Debt Services
• Annual Procurement Plan or Procurement List
• Items to Bid
• Bid Results on Civil Works, Goods and Services
• Abstract of Bids as Calculated
• SEF income and Expenditures Estimates
• Supplementary procurement plan 

FDP helps increase people’s awareness of the available public funds and the allocated amount for development projects in their localities. Citizens will consequently be encouraged to discuss among themselves the financial status of their locality. This will also further motivate them to form watchdog groups to make local officials accountable. 


Threats

1. Funding
Financial difficulties of CSOs sometimes hamper their participation in decision-making and in demanding openness and transparency of local authorities. The accreditation process alone requires funds since CSOs have to spend for the transportation of their members and the processing and reproduction of required documents. 

The Sangguniang Bayan requires these documents for CSO accreditation:
• Registration with any government agencies;
• Organizational purposes and objectives;
• Community-based and sectoral-based project development and implementation track record of at least one year;
• Reliability as evidenced by the preparation of annual reports and conduct of annual meetings duly certified by the board secretary of the organization; and
• Other related information which the concerned Sanggunian may deem essential in the evaluation process.

Scarcity of resources is not just confined to citizen groups but also among NGOs who are tasked to assist community-based organizations in capacity building. 

2. CSO leaders seeking public office
Many CSO leaders whom have developed their capacities and knowledge on local governance through NGO support usually end up running in the barangay elections because of the community’s high level of trust on them. This is why in Leyte many incumbent officials are former CSO workers: they regard LGU-CSO engagement as a stepping stone to public office. 

But while this practice is not prohibited, it puts at stake the sustainability of participatory governance. Winning candidates eventually abandon their post, passing the tasks to less experienced members. 

3. Knowledge
Knowledge and understanding on how LGUs work helps citizens engage their local authorities better, but these remain very low especially in rural communities. Many people in rural villages don’t even know how to read and write. 

Likewise, many CSOs lack technical expertise to engage local governments in specific issues, for instance, in budgets and procurement process, thus facing constraints to take part in decision making. 

This points to the continuing need of CSOs for more technical support from established NGOs and foreign institutions to strengthen their roles to engage LGUs for transparency and accountability. Many citizens are willing to assert their legitimacy as democracy builders despite limited resources, unfriendly LGUs and lack of knowledge.