Citizen Action Guide to Baguio

Area Profile 

Baguio City, gateway to the Cordillera upland region, is a highly urbanized center originally designed as a summer vacation resort during the 1900s. It now has a population of more than 318,000, according to the latest National Statistics Office (NSO) survey.  Unofficial figures put its population at over 400,000.

With a land area of only 57 square kilometres, Baguio has one of the highest population densities in the country. Some 5,000 people are added to the city’s population every year, according to the Population Commission (Pop-Com). Based on the latest NSO census, the city has a growth rate well above the national average due to migration rather than birth rate, according to Pop-Com Regional Director Rosa Fortaleza. 

The municipality of Baguio raised PhP 377.9 million in revenues in the first quarter of 2012.   This included PhP 191.6 million generated through local taxes and PhP 103 million as share of national tax revenues. 

The first class city’s internal revenue allotment (IRA) in the second quarter of 2012 was PhP 103 million for the city proper and PhP 43.5 million for its 129 barangays.

Baguio belongs to the top 10 richest local governments in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in 2012, said the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).  

Yet even so, 17.2 percent of the city’s labour force is unemployed, according to NSCB’s 2000-2010 census.  This rate posted slight improvement from the previous census 10 years earlier. 

The city boasts a 97.6 percent simple literacy rate and a functional literacy rate of 87.9 percent.  Public school participation rate is however quite low. Public elementary school participation rate from 2009 to 2010 was 67.9 percent, compared to 70.2 percent from 2008 to 2009. Secondary school participation rate was just 54.4 percent from 2009 to 2010. 

Baguio City nevertheless remained among the top producers of graduates in CAR with 67 percent or 11,211 of total graduates in the region in school year 2010-2011. 

 Neighbouring Benguet province was a very distant second with an 11 percent share or some 1,790 graduates. 

The city has a national government-run general hospital with 400 beds. The hospital serves not only Baguio residents but also those from other provinces from CAR, the Ilocos Region and Central Luzon.  The hospital’s website describes the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) as a premiere, referral center north of Manila, accredited in all services in their respective affiliated societies as well as in the Bureau of Health Facilities.  

Beside the BGHMC, the city also has a health center, which offers subsidized rates for health services such as anti-rabies vaccines, regular immunization and vaccination shots for infants and children, and infectious disease examinations.

The city has yet to provide a mechanism for mass housing for the poor: It was only in July 2013 that city mayor Mauricio Domogan sought to organize a housing development board to undertake urban development and housing projects and programs.  The lack of such housing programs is deemed the reason for the proliferation of informal settlers, many of whom have illegally encroached vital watersheds and areas which the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau deemed hazardous. 

A 2012 study by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) showed that the demand for decent housing units for the urban poor in Baguio could reach up to 50,000.

LGU Profile 

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) conducted a performance audit on the city of Baguio in 2011 in the areas of administrative, social, economic and environmental governance.  Here were the highlights.  

Administrative Governance. The DILG looked into six areas of governance; legislation, development planning, revenue generation, resource allocation and utilization, customer service and human resource management and development.  The city’s administrative governance was judged “excellent” in three areas --revenue generation, development planning, and human resource management and development.   

On revenue generation, the DILG said the city has “successfully put in place viable and adequate measures to maximize revenue generation potentials.”  On development planning, the city has structures, consultative processes and planning databases, which help a lot in preparing or updating land use and development plans.  The DILG also noted that managing human resource is geared towards “desirable organizational performance and productivity.”

The DILG said the city needs to improve performance in the three other areas –legislation, customer service, and resource allocation and utilization. The DILG gave the city a 3.30 score or fair rating on resource allocation and utilization. Management and coordination processes for budgeting and accounting are in place.  “But,” it found, “these processes need to be revisited and improved,” said the DILG. Once improved, these processes, it said, could ensure that financial resources are effectively allocated and utilized.  

In the area of local legislation, the city got 3.67 or a fair score.  “The imperatives of quality legislation have to be looked into,” said the DILG.  “This might mean looking into legislative staff competence and the greater use of legislative tools such as agenda development, legislative tracking, backstopping committee and legislative performance.”

On customer service-civil applications, the city got a 4.80 score, which, the DILG said, was “high but not excellent.”  The DILG remarked: “The civil application system needs to be transformed into a seamless transactional process. After all, the inherent motivation of putting up such a system is to ensure the ease of obtaining civil registry and real property documents.”

Social Governance.
This has four areas: health services; support to education services; support to housing and basic utilities; and peace and security and disaster risk management.  The city had an “excellent performance” in one of the four sub-areas --support to education services.  The city had a “truly effective support to basic education.” The DILG noted that the Local School Board was functional.  It said the School Education Fund was also being used properly in school facilities, educational research, additional classrooms and teachers, and scholarship programs.  And a supplementary allocation from the General Fund was an added value for the education sector.

The city received a 4.0 score -- which, again was “high but not excellent”-- on support to housing and basic utilities.  “A certain level of support is extended to the housing services sector,” said the DILG.  But it suggested the city to donate a local government lot for socialized housing or provide mass housing in partnership with the private sector.  It further stressed that housing is an inalienable right.  This call was made in 2011, but as pointed out earlier, it was only in July 2013 that Mayor Domogan sought to organize a housing development board to study the prospects for mass housing. 

The city also got a “high but not excellent” score or 4.53 for peace, security and disaster risk management.  DILG thus suggested three ways to improve the city’s performance in this area: 

(1) Strengthen the Peace and Order Council and the Local Council for the Protection of Children. One creative way is ensure the provision of annual financial support to peace and order, and public safety initiatives.

(2 Ensure an annual financial allocation to the
Katarungang Pambarangay (village justice council), which the Local Government Code mandates. This village justice system is important in promoting community peace, harmony and solidarity.

(3) Enhance local government readiness to manage the risks of disasters, including relief, other associated services and rehabilitation.

On basic health services, the city also got 4.97, which, again was “high but not excellent.” The overall quality of the local health system deserves a second look, according to the DILG. The DILG pointed that the principal support system -- the Local Health Board -- has to do more.  It stressed that the quality of primary health care or basic curative services has to be improved.

Economic Governance. The city practically failed in the area of economic governance.  The DILG recommended that city officials must dedicate more time and effort on the suggested areas for improvement.

The city got 3.58 or fair score in the area of entrepreneurship, business and industry promotion.  The city has yet to institutionalize a “business-friendly” environment, according to the DILG.  It thus suggested three actions:  (1) improve the quality of permitting or licensing; (2) ensure the ease of doing business: The issuance of building, occupancy, and business permits, for example, must be done in a “more expedient manner”; and (3) provide, or cause the provision of, direct support services to business, particularly those categorized as micro, small and medium enterprises. Support services may come in the form of tax incentives, product labeling, product packaging, training, and job and trade fairs.

Environmental Governance.  The city got an excellent performance in forest ecosystems management, one of two sub-areas of environmental governance. The DILG noted that civil society organizations (CSOs) and citizens were involved in forest protection and reforestation.

But the city apparently needs to shape up in urban ecosystems management in which it got 4.8, which also was “high but not excellent.” The DILG particularly put to task the city in the area of pollution control and proper solid waste management.  These are “essential in preserving the integrity of the environment,” according to the DILG. Thus, “more need to be done.”  

The DILG thus suggested the following actions: (1) strengthen the Solid Waste Management Board; (2) prepare, if none has been formulated, or improve the quality of, the Solid Waste Management Plan; (3) ensure that every barangay has a material recovery facility; and (4) improve solid waste collection practices.

Valuing Fundamentals of Governance.  The DILG praised the city for performing well in two of the three sub-areas of valuing fundamentals of governance --an excellent 5 score in terms of transparency and participation.

Transparency in governmental operations, according to the DILG, was remarkable. It noted that the city had instituted different mechanisms of communicating to the public such as bulletin boards, the Public Information Office or Desk, print and broadcast media, the official website, and public forums.

The city likewise was hailed for engaging citizens and CSOs in local governance.  This engagement has achieved “an admirable level of maturity,” said the DILG. It cited CSO participation in decision-making through the Local Special Bodies, CSO involvement in local development projects, and citizens’ feedback mechanism.

The city, however, has to do better in financial accountability, an area where the city got a score of 4.83, another “high but not excellent” rating. The DILG remarked that the city government acknowledged efforts to improve financial accountability. But it stressed that administrative capacity on guidelines on accounting, internal control, procurement and financial transactions should be strengthened and instituted.  

Seal of Good Housekeeping.  In 2011, Mayor Domogan received the DILG’s “Seal of Good Housekeeping” award for the city for “accountability and transparency in government transactions.” Domogan said in his acceptance speech: “The city will continue to move towards transparency and good governance to be more responsive to the needs of its constituents”.

But the city government apparently needs to raise its standards on transparency and governance. In August 2012, the city council received reports on alleged irregularities over the lack of consultation before infrastructure projects were implemented.  The complainants, who included barangay officials and citizens, said designated plans and specifications were not followed.  

A city councilor cited a proposed waiting shed in each of the barangays of Honeymoon and Pinsao Pilot, which barangay officials and residents rejected as contractors did not follow plans and specifications.  This problem, said the city councilor, should have been avoided had there been thorough public consultations before projects began.  The councilor promised he would help push for policies to help guide implementation of such infrastructure projects.

A bigger controversy surrounded the PhP 4.3-million athletic bowl project. According to local media reports, the project was “a done deal” despite lack of public consultations, as the Local Government Code mandates. The project reportedly covers around 77,257 square meters of Burnham Park, including the old city auditorium and library, sports complex, the adjoining tennis court, and an indoor swimming pool.

Mayor Domogan defended the athletic bowl project and denied any irregularity. “All we want is the development of the athletic bowl which is now in a sorry state,” he said.  He added the athletic bowl should be developed into a “world-class facility” to attract investors.

Still, critics stressed that public consultation is key before any project begins. They said this is an important element of transparency and good governance.  Domogan assured the public they would be consulted before the project started. 

In hot water. The city government’s “Seal of Good Housekeeping” continues to be tainted with reports of anomalies.  The Commission on Audit (COA) said six barangays were in hot water for not submitting disbursement vouchers and supporting documents for their projects and activities, according to media reports in May 2012. 

COA Baguio City auditor Noemi Tagudar said the villages included South Central Aurora Hill, Padre Burgos, Session Road, Kagitingan, Guidad Surong and Cabinet Hill.  COA-Baguio submitted the audit reports of these villages to its regional office for possible legal action.

Tagudar said the office audited a total of 2,987 disbursement vouchers and 2,078 payrolls included in the PhP 1.18-billion budget of the city government in 2011. It also inspected the goods, services and infrastructure projects which the city government availed.

She said of the 93 requests for inspections received from the city amounting to PhP 50.4 million, six were acted upon by the audit team equivalent to PhP 1.86 million, while the remaining 87 requests for inspection totalling PhP 46.6 million were referred to the COA regional office. She said these need action from the Technical Services Office of the regional office since these require the expertise of COA engineers.

Some 69 requests for inspection of barangay infrastructure projects totalling PhP 11.1 million and two requests for property appraisal were also referred to the COA Technical Services Office.

Meanwhile, COA issued notice of suspension for one city project worth PhP 120,000 and another project worth PhP 1.025 million in Kagitingan village for failing to submit disbursement vouchers.

COA also sent notice of disallowance to 26 barangay projects amounting to PhP 15.5 million also for failure to submit disbursement vouchers, overpayment of honoraria or earned leaves, overpricing and undelivered supplies.

The decision for last year’s disallowance of Baguio City’s purchase of reconditioned fire trucks amounting to PhP 9.2 million, un-liquidated cash advances for the Cordillera Administrative Region Athletic Association Meet in 2003 and the PhP 3.402 un-liquidated disbursement vouchers of South Central Aurora Hill village were also “deemed final and executory” since no appeal within the required period was filed, she said.

Civil Society and Media 

Over the last three years, environmental concerns in the city once known for its pine-scented air have been a leading issue for civil society.  Towards the end of 2011, citizens from different sectors responded to calls which an environmental scientist initiated on Facebook to protest against the uprooting of 182 trees around a shopping mall in the center of the city.   

Dr. Michael Bengwayan, who initiated the protest on Facebook, said that cutting or uprooting the trees was ignoring the values the trees contribute to human wellbeing. Bengwayan heads the Cordillera Ecological Center, an environmental group based in La Trinidad, Benguet, which teaches upland folk about forest rehabilitation, organic farming and propagating alternative sources of fuel such as petroleum nut, a tree endemic to the Cordilleras and other parts of Southeast Asia.

“The 182 trees help reduce an average 8,790 pounds of carbon in the atmosphere yearly, thereby helping reduce global warming,” he said. The environmentalist claimed global warming kills many plants, reduces human immunity to diseases, and depletes water sources.

He emphasized that “one tree of about 50 feet tall produces 3,000 pounds of oxygen yearly which is almost the oxygen needed by five to six people for one year.”  He said the trees, including those that would be cut, hold water and prevent water run-off.  “An average 10-year-old tree holds some 1,500 to 2,000 liters of water. Thus, the 182 trees store as much as 364,000 liters of water,” he said.

According to Bengwayan, loss of the trees also endangers the Central Business District of Baguio City as water run-off increases, especially since concrete will replace the soil. He thus warned of imminent flooding even in this city 5,000 feet above sea level. 

The mall authorities, meanwhile, stood their ground.  A mall official said the management was open for a dialogue while asserting that the mall went through “proper channels since 2010” and had the “environment in mind at the start of the design process.”  

The local and national media extensively covered the protest, which also sparked public discussions in social network sites and online petitions not only from Dr. Bengwayan but other environmental activists. 

 Earlier, Mayor Domogan said the city had nothing to do with the trees since they were “within a private property.”  But how in the first place the mall acquired the property -- a former government land -- was a source of wonder to many citizens.  The property was reportedly acquired through negotiations and transactions cooked up by national government agencies in Manila.  The mall reportedly bought the property from the national government via a bid process in 1992.  

Protest over hospital privatization. The nongovernment Community Health Education, Services, and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore) in September 2012 intensified its campaign against the proposal to privatize 25 government hospitals in the country, including the BGHMC.  Chestcore along with other NGOs opposed the plan, saying hospital service costs would become more inaccessible to the ordinary people. Chestcore is an NGO which focuses on training upland communities on primary health care and alternative health remedies.

Chestcore cited the cases of the Philippine Heart Center, the Lung Center of the Philippines, the National Kidney and Transplant Institute and the Philippine Children’s Medical in Quezon City, where health services have already become too prohibitive for the poor.  

Chestcore has found an ally in the city council, whose members joined the call to oppose the proposed privatization of the BGHMC as covered in House Bill 6069 by Rep. Anthony Rolando Golez and Senate Bill 3130 by Sen. Franklin Drilon.

The proposed bills seek to convert the Department of Health (DOH)-supervised public health care facilities such as the BGHMC into government-owned-and-controlled corporations (GOCCs). Chestcore and its supporters convinced the city council to pass a resolution opposing the proposed privatization of BGHMC.  

But Mayor Domogan cautioned the public to also consider the advantages of the proposed set-up in line with the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.  He said he was sure that the proposal would contain safeguards for indigent constituents.

Religious sector’s campaigns.  Since the late 1990s, the Baguio-Benguet Ecumenical Group (BBEG) has led interdenominational campaigns against all forms of gambling – legal or illegal.  The BBEG includes the Roman Catholic, and mainline Protestant, evangelical and Pentecostal churches. Their previous campaigns included protests and petitions against the establishment of a casino at Camp John Hay, small town lottery outlets in Baguio and neighbouring Benguet province and jueteng, an illegal numbers game.  

Forwarding a “moral recovery” platform, the BBEG mustered enough support from its religious constituents and succeeded in putting then mayoralty bet Braulio Yaranon to power in 2004.  This was proof of BBEG’s clout which the city government should not ignore. 

LGU-Citizen Engagement 

Members of a citizen group united around their faith in what simple earthworms can do to help manage the city’s wastes are slowly engaging government and are gaining adherents, at least even at one of the lower echelons of the city government.  

These citizens are members of the Baguio Vermi Growers or BVG, formed in 2009.  Such citizens, many of them homemakers, religious workers and professionals, have full confidence in what ‘Eugene’ can do --Eugene being short for Eudrilus euginiae, the scientific name for a species of earthworm also known as ANC or the African night crawler.  

This earthworm species, which is noted for its efficiency in composting, was introduced in the Philippines by Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, the acknowledged father of vermiculture in the country, via West Germany, the original cocoons courtesy of Dr. Otto Graff.  But the origin of this species is West Africa, and, according to Graff, is now widely distributed in both tropical and subtropical countries worldwide. 

The members of the BVG practice vermiculture -- the process of raising African night crawler earthworms and harvesting the organic material they produce.  The NGO Tebtebba, which promotes indigenous knowledge and rights, particularly through its Traditional Knowledge Network, helped organize and support BVG.

The BVG strongly advocates vermiculture because the process helps in the fast decomposition of solid wastes such as vegetable and fruit peelings and even paper.  A kilo of the ANC earthworm can process a kilo of degradable waste in just 12 hours. And this earthworm species reproduces fast. A kilo of earthworm can produce another kilo of earthworms in 27 days.     

The BVG vermiculture practitioners maintain “vermi composting beds” in their backyards.  Each of them is slowly influencing his or her neighbors to also raise the ANC earthworm.  With only almost 30 committed practitioners, the BVG has a core of trainers who train those interested.  They have recently trained over 300 since 2012.   

Since 2011, the Baguio City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) has tapped the services of Moren Macay, current BVG president, to train residents in at least eight barangays about vermiculture.  

City engineer Moises Lozano of CEPMO was particularly tasked to help solve the river and air pollution caused by backyard hog raisers.  He said CEPMO has been inviting Macay to train residents on vermiculture, which, he said, has “created positive results.”

Instead of being flushed out into creeks and other waterways, pig manure is used to feed the ANC earthworms.  Lozano found out that pig manure sprayed with biotechnology processed vermi byproducts such as EM2 (an organic substance) does not stink.  Lozano says his office will continue to tap Macay’s skills as there are 120 more barangays or villages to learn about vermiculture. 

While the practitioners seek to help generate household income through vermiculture, they also want to help the city manage the daily 200 tons of solid wastes, 40 percent of which is biodegradable.

So far only the CEPMO has adopted vermiculture through the BVG.  But the BVG continues to engage with city officials and other sectors such as the heads and faculty of schools, other professionals and church workers.  

From time to time, the BVG and Tebtebba would hold public forums where they would invite government officials concerned with solid waste management.  In September 2013, they invited city councilor Peter Fianza to shed light on the city’s budget for solid waste management.  The participants were shocked to learn that the city paid a contractor PhP 16,558,710 in six months for hauling trash to a landfill in Tarlac province from January to August 2013. 

BVG’s Macay said the city would have not spent that much on trash had it supported initiatives such as vermiculture, one of the workable solutions to at least 40 percent of the city’s daily 200 tons of wastes. 

But Macay and his colleagues at BVG were thankful that through the forum more people enlisted for training in vermiculture.  The latest to train were the faculty and students of four public schools.    

Macay, who is just 21, said he and his BVG colleagues will continue with what they are doing despite the city government’s lukewarm support.  He was convinced about what vermiculture could do to help manage a community’s solid wastes as he found out during an exposure in Laguna.  Macay came to learn and appreciate how vermiculture has been applied to help reduce and manage the solid wastes there, 40 percent of which are biodegradables.

Opportunities and Threats

One opportunity to increase citizen participation is in the area of monitoring the implementation of government projects. This opportunity comes in the heels of reports since August 2013 on how “pork barrel” funds have been channelled to bogus NGOs with the alleged connivance of several legislators.

In early October 2013, the regional Department of Budget and Management in CAR has encouraged the public and private sectors, including CSOS, to help monitor government projects.  

“This Napoles thing would not have happened if monitoring have been undertaken for the projects of the government,” DBM CAR regional director Liza Fangsilat told participants during a training course on government project monitoring. She was referring to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who allegedly connived with legislators to channel Priority Development Assistance Funds to bogus NGOs and their own pockets.  Napoles is now facing charges of alleged kidnapping of former staff Benhur Luy, who turned state witness against her.  

During the Training Course on Regional Project Monitoring and Evaluation System and the Provincial and City Project Monitoring in Baguio City recently, Fangsilat urged the over 30 participants to help make sure government projects follow the principles of transparency and accountability.  She thus encouraged participants to be vigilant in monitoring soft or hard projects being implemented by local governments, line agencies and nongovernment organizations.

Fangsilat mentioned the existence of a Project Monitoring Committee at the regional, provincial, municipal or city levels.  She said this multi-sectoral body needs more members from the private sector to help “see to it that government does its job well.”  This multi-sectoral body is expected to inspect, monitor and evaluate government projects and must see to it they are done on time and of good quality.

This body is one of the windows of opportunity for citizen participation. Every taxpayer who is concerned about how the government spends his or her taxes would be interested to participate in this multi-sectoral committee.  

Before, the average citizen was aware that one reason why this country could not move forward was due to graft and corruption in government.  But something good emerged from the case of Napoles, as Fangsilat noted.  For the first time, the public, through the responsible media, has become aware of the detailed anatomy of corruption, particularly in the use of “pork barrel” (which included the PDAF of senators and congressmen).  

And judging from the first public protests against the pork barrel scam, these mass actions were not led by the usual organized and militant groups.  These mass mobilizations were led by ordinary citizens, who started public discussions about corruption in social networking sites such as Facebook.  The leadership of these new mass actions was decentralized.  Of course, the organized militant groups joined in.  But a significant number of the new mass actions about the pork barrel scam came from the citizens, who were united by their rage and fury over the way their taxes were misspent and pocketed by a few.  

The spontaneous anti-pork barrel rallies at the Luneta and later at Ayala, Edsa in Manila were also duplicated in Baguio in August 2013.  The participants of these mass actions can be mobilized to join multi-sectoral watchdog groups such as the City Project Monitoring Committee or similar other groups for citizen action.

Another opportunity is found among residents, who are concerned about what they call the “uglification” of Baguio.  These are citizens who lament the absence of an urban development plan, on which they blame for the city’s chaotic growth.  For example, after an intensity 7.8 earthquake devastated the city in July 1990, there was a common public demand that all buildings, including commercial ones such as hotels, would not rise beyond four floors.  And there was a city ordinance that was later passed to this effect.  

But building owners and developers, for some reason or another, were able to seek “exemptions,” which concerned authorities granted. No wonder Session Road at the city’s heart now has eight-storey buildings. Giving “exemptions” and the “lack of political will” in implementing city ordinances, according to these concerned citizens, continue to “uglify” Baguio and endanger public safety if a strong quake happens again. These citizens can participate in public forums on how to go about a citizen-led urban planning exercise.             

Still another opportunity comes from the city’s ecumenical and inter-faith groups.  As earlier mentioned, there is the Baguio-Benguet Ecumenical Group or BBEG.  Another is the Baguio Interfaith Group (BIG), which involves not only Christian groups but other faith groups such as the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others, including those who practice indigenous religious and cultural practices.  Both groups stress on values such as honesty, integrity and accountability, which, they said, government officials must acquire and adopt as principles of governance.   

And within the city government structure there is a space through which citizens, particularly women, can participate.  This is the Gender and Development Council, which has budget as it is already part of the city government structure.  More women can participate in this council, which has been tackling issues and concerns about women empowerment through leadership and skills training, discrimination and violence against women, livelihood, building cooperatives among others.

Threats. The opportunities for citizen participation in the city’s governance far outweigh potential threats.  If there is any threat, it may lie in citizens’ diminished interest when issues of corruption are no longer the current flavour in media’s coverage. Citizen participation in local governance relies largely on volunteerism, which, to some degree, is fuelled by public rage over corruption or irregularities in government, for example.  This is where the media plays a significant role – to continue drumming up interest in issues about accountability and transparency in government.

 With sustained volunteerism, citizen action in the city can go some knots higher to a point where, if needed, they can do some high-profile actions such as filing court cases against government irregularities. If this happens, there is the potential threat of “battle fatigue” and the feeling of getting worn out due to the slow justice system in the country.     

There is also the threat of libel or counter-charges against whistle blowers of government anomalies. And one tragedy is that those charged will go scot-free. But this can be prevented as long as citizens or civil society groups do their homework by being thorough in their research and investigation, as Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Citizen Action Network for Accountability (CANA) reminded participants at a forum at the University of the Philippines Baguio in September 2013.   

Since the threats of libel and counter-charges are part of challenges to vigilant citizens, it also pays to have lawyers as allies.  Many lawyers volunteer their services to citizen groups working for public interest.