Citizen Action Guide to Bukidnon


Area Profile

Bukidnon is one of the country’s major food baskets. It is home to both indigenous peoples and migrants from Luzon, Visayas, and other parts of Mindanao.

It is a landlocked province in Northern Mindanao, being the only province in Mindanao that does not have a coast line. It occupies the extensive plateau in Central Mindanao that is bounded on the north and the east by Misamis Oriental; on the east by Agusan Province; on the south and southeast by Davao province; and on the southwest and west by Lanao and Cotabato Provinces, according to the official website of the provincial government.

Bukidnon has an area of 829,378 hectares representing 2.76 per cent of the country's total land area. It is composed of 20 municipalities and two component cities. It has a total of 464 barangays. The province has four congressional districts.

The indigenous peoples (IP) are the original inhabitants of Bukidnon, yet they do not control the province’s rich natural resources. They remain among the most vulnerable groups in the province, facing constant challenges to their political and economic situation and culture.

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 has become an instrument to IPs to assert their identity, territory, and heritage. One instrument under this law, the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), an instrument which recognized the rights of IPs to their ancestral domain. From zero in year 2000, a total of 16 indigenous communities now hold CADT in the province. About 200 more CADT applications are now pending before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), about 40 of which were unified and received pledge of financial support from the provincial government.

One condition of the provincial government for the fund support, however, is that applicant IP communities should not include protected areas in their claims, a contentious issue for many

Bukidnon is based on agricultural economy. Its main crops are palay, corn, sugarcane, pineapple, banana, cassava, sweet potato, white/Irish potato, cabbage, tomato, mango and durian.

The provincial government lists the following as “promising investments” -- high value vegetable production and processing; sugarcane; fresh pineapple, banana and other fruits; cattle and dairy; swine and poultry; fisheries production; handicrafts; high value flowers and ornamentals production; herbal medicine production and processing; and preservation and development of historical, natural and man-made attractions.

The province experiences rapid conversion of prime agricultural lands into agro-industrial plantations, those posing concerns on food security and sufficiency.

The province’s 2008-2013 development and physical framework plan also cited these development concerns:

• low family income;
• inadequate infrastructure support facilities and investments;
• inadequate credit support services;
• environmental degradation;
• inadequate educational facilities and human resources;
• health-related concerns;
• inadequate housing facilities; and
• limited personnel or workforce and facilities for the maintenance of peace and security.

Poverty remains to be a major concern in the province. About 43 out of 100 families living here are poor, says the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) in its recent report. From 40 percent in 2006, poverty incidence plummeted a bit to 39 percent in 2009, and rose to 43 percent in 2012, NSCB says.

This places Bukidnon as the 7thprovince in Mindanao and the 13th nationwide with the most number of families considered poor in 2012. Six years back, it ranked 18th nationwide in the same category.

The number of families here increased from 98,340 in 2009 to 120,760 in 2012, NSCB says.

Local Government Unit Profile

Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., a migrant from the sugar province Negros Occidental, first became governor of Bukidnon in 2001. His predecessors included Carlos Fortich in the 1970s, and Ernesto Tabios in the 1990s.

Zubiri is known for instituting several programs in the provincial government such as the indigency health insurance system and implementing a hospital system, which was for a time touted as a model health system in the country.

Zubiri has since controlled the provincial government. In 2010, he completed the allowed three terms in office. He ran and won as vice governor but many believed he still controlled the provincial government, assuming the role of “overseer” and presiding the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board).

Zubiri ran again for governor and won in 2013. But while he has controlled politics in the province for decades, the recent years saw some signs of weakening of support in some areas. In 2013, for instance, his candidate for the president of the League of Mayors for the term 2013-2016 lost to an elder politician who most mayors respect. This is a big overturn from the past years, where his anointed candidate always won.

Zubiri however retains clout especially in southern Bukidnon where his son, Jose Zubiri III, is congressman. His nephew, Ignacio, is also mayor of Malaybalay City.

Over the years, Zubiri has become a media savvy politician who calls press conferences or makes himself available for interviews, especially in prime time radio programs. Now, he runs his own radio show “Isumbong mo Kay Governor” (Tell the Governor) that simulcasts over three contracted radio stations and a handful others that air the show for free in the meantime. The program airs Zubiri’s responses to questions on his administration sent via text message or calls to hotline numbers.

In 2011, the provincial government received the “Seal of Good Housekeeping” from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for its commitment to good governance and performance. The SGH is awarded to local governments that have “no adverse opinion from the Commission on Audit (COA) and for full disclosure in financial transactions”.

On the same year, 18 of the 23 LGUs in Bukidnon received the Bronze Seal of Good Housekeeping from the DILG, becoming the province in Northern Mindanao with the highest number of recipients.

The provincial government however failed to receive the seal in 2012. The provincial DILG said it is due to the government’s failure to disclose documents: The Bids and Awards Committee failed to post procurement information in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), the government’s online procurement portal. By January 2013, the provincial government has started posting documents in its website.

The Commission on Audit came up with these findings in 2011, the same year the province received the SGH:

• delays in the recording of cash collections, cash deposits , cash advances, and liquidation to respective cashbooks;
• lack of support documents to ascertain the ownership and existence of land worth PhP 175 million
• disallowed projects costing to PhP 17 million under the 20 percent development fund
• Unspent balances of appropriations from 13 projects under the 20 percent development fund amounting to PhP 47 million in 2011 and prior years

The COA also found these deficiencies in 2012:

• delayed submission of contracts and other support documents for the drugs and medicines worth PhP 18 million; laboratory supplies worth PhP 14.6 million; and medical oxygen worth PhP 3.3 million; and
• 
inconsistencies in the recording of financial assistance to NGOs/peoples’ organizations totalling to PhP 5 million, and to LGUs totalling to PhP 78.4 million

On access to information, the provincial government has vowed full disclosure by complying with the DILG’s full disclosure policy, which requires local governments to post pertinent public finance documents in bulletin boards.

 

Civil Society and Media

The DILG here has recently accredited a total of 33 civil society organizations (CSOs) for 2013-2016, increasing from 11 CSOs from the last three years. Accreditation means they have passed the requirements which the DILG set and have been confirmed by the provincial board, and thus may be able to participate in the Provincial Development Council (PDC) and other local bodies.

A source who does not want to be named said the provincial governor allegedly picks the CSOs’ representative in the PDC even though there are more accredited CSOs in this term.

The source added that membership in the PDC gives CSOs access to information on LGU issues, a say in budget formulation, and in key decisions before deliberation at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board).

Citizen-led group Pulitika sa Bukidnon (PulBuk) revealed during the 2013 electoral campaign the alleged anomalies of provincial government officials for the term 2010-2013. But the group is perceived to have the backing of a candidate for vice governor who was pitted against incumbent vice government (the former governor).

Pulbuk continues to exist beyond the elections, with some members asserting some internal changes in group administration as well as raising questions on public governance.

Several groups in social media including the group Kanak ha Banuwa, the online presence of Barog Bukidnon, has come to existence.

Barog Bukidnon is a home-bred organization working for transparency and accountability in local governance. It has initiated several activities such as campaigns against illegal mining in Impasug-ong town, participation in the creation of the Tagoloan River Basin Council, and promotion of human rights of indigenous peoples.

The Citizen Action Network for Accountability (CANA) helped develop and formally launch the Barog Bukidnon. CANA is implemented by four media organizations – the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the Center for Community Journalism and Development, MindaNews and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

In February 2014, Barog Bukidnon has partnered with CANA and Bukidnon News.Net in holding the first CANA training series for media and CSOs called “Monitoring and Reporting Public Transparency and Accountability”.

The media community here is considered vibrant, with three media organizations as key players. The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) Bukidnon chapter, The Bukidnon Press Club, and the NUJP Bukidnon chapter continue to hold a mix of organic and inter-organizational activities for press freedom and responsibility. The Catholic Church-owned DXDB-Radyo Bandilyo runs radio programs which commend and criticize government projects and performance.

The media community here took a blow with the murder in October 2013 of block time radio commentator Joash Dignos, signalling the first case of media killing in the province.

Some media outlets here are perceived to be “pro-administration.” Some radio commentators have been rumoured to be in the payroll of many politicians, but in most cases there has been no hard evidence to back allegations. Other media practitioners have claimed they are not in the payroll but are receiving “retainers” from certain politicians.

A radio anchor-critic of the Zubiri administration lost in his bid for membership to the provincial board in 2013 after he was also removed from his popular weekly show on DXDB. The defunct program, for a while, served as the only radio program that questioned, among many, some programs and decisions of the Zubiris in office.

The governor went to the extent of talking to the Malaybalay bishop of the Catholic Church, which owns the station, before the program was axed due to alleged use of foul language, among other reasons.

Another radio anchor was recently removed from his radio station Happy FM, and his program here criticizing Zubiri was also put to halt. Prior to this, the anchor has accused the governor, among many, of alleged land grabbing, while the latter who has denied it has threatened to file libel charges against the broadcaster and the family of the owner of the radio station.

 

LGU-Citizen Engagement

LGUs and citizens usually engage during electoral period. Parishes or local churches are usually at the forefront for these initiatives, which are usually scattered and not coordinated. These are also usually not documented.

A case in point is the candidates’ forum held every election in Valencia City and Maramag town. There are however no follow up, particularly in making the winning candidates accountable and revisiting their campaign promises. The candidates’ forums are also not properly documented.

DXDB-AM and Bukidnon News.Net created Piniyalan 2013-2016, a partnership on Reporting Governance to address this concern in coordination with parishes.

Bukidnon News initiated Piliay 2013, citizen-generated engagements for agenda setting in the 2013 elections, which run from November 2013 to May 2014. The project engaged citizens in four pilot areas -- in Malaybalay, Valencia, Maramag, and Manolo Fortich for the focused group discussions on “what issues/concerns should candidates address in their areas”.

This paved way for the Piniyalan Reporting Governance project, which styles itself as a news media project involved in monitoring, documentation, reporting, and community education activities.

Another group, the Commission on Good Governance of the Diocese of Malaybalay, seeks to address problems against political dynasties, vote buying and selling, corruption, voters’ education, and other governance issues.

The Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which was put up in 2012, works for governance but is viewed as strongly influential in triggering most government policy shifts in the past two years. The chamber vows to be a partner for development but in the process strictly monitors governance especially in policy making, review of tax revenue and business promotion policies, among many.

Some Opportunities and Threats

Threats

• The dismal performance of the province to fight poverty
• The silent but persistent desire to divide Bukidnon into two provinces
• Poor performance in peace and order
• The growing insurgency threat amid looming failure of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA)
• Environmental destruction; concerns on environmental protection and conservation in the province
• Opening of more highways crossing Bukidnon affecting forest cover and related issues

Opportunities

• The Centennial Celebration: a good time to reflect on governance in the province in 100 years
• The 2016 elections: Are younger leaders on the rise?
• The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
• Re-emergence of genuine datuship, traditional indigenous governance, and IP education
• The proposed Bukidnon provincial and Manolo Fortich municipal airports
• Higher local revenues due to reforms in local tax policy