Citizen Action Guide to Bohol

Area Profile

Bohol, the 10th largest island in the country, is located in the heart of Central Visayas (Region 7). Its boundaries are Cebu (northwest), Leyte (northeast) and Mindanao (south). It is approximately 803 kilometers south of Manila and 79 kilometers southeast of Cebu and is surrounded by 76 smaller islands. The largest, the Panglao Island in southwest, faces Tagbilaran City. Residents speak Boholano (native dialect) but they also understand Cebuano, Tagalog and English. It is predominantly Catholic, with small presence of Protestants and Muslims.

Founded on March 25, 1565, Bohol has a total land area of 4,820.95 square kilomoters.  It has a total population of 1,255,128 (2010), density of 260 per square kilometers and average household size of 5.41. It has 47 municipalities, one component city (Tagbilaran, the province’s capital), 1,109 barangays and three congressional districts.

The evidence of Boholano culture is shown in the artifacts unearthed at Mansasa of Tagbilaran, Dauis and Panglao. The Australoid people, the first settlers of Bohol, still inhabit the island today and are known as the Eskaya tribe, forming the majority of the population. The island was the seat of the first international treaty of peace and unity between the native king Datu Sikatuna and Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi on March 16, 1565 through a blood compact alliance known today by many Filipinos as the Sandugo. Sandugo Festival is celebrated in the province every year while blood compact is depicted in Bohol's provincial flag and seal.

Bohol has a literacy rate of 93 percent, having 26 institutions of higher learning. Employment is predominantly agriculture-led but about 50 percent of the families get their income from entrepreneurial activities.  Only about 27 percent are from wages or salaries.

Micro and cottage industries also play a vital role in the economy of the province. As to the flow of commodities from the seven major ports, limestone topped the list of exported commodities over G.I. sheets. Other commodities include rice, banana, cattle, mangoes, native products, hog, carabao, nipa shingles copra, raffia, fish (salted and cooked), with a total volume of 426,000 MT. Plywood tops the incoming commodities followed by manufactured goods, appliances, hardware/construction materials and feeds, with a total volume of 264,000 MT.

The province has been importing rice over the years. Increase of ship calls (fast crafts and conventional vessels) for passenger and outbound/export cargo is also noted in the seven major seaports with more inbound than outbound cargo.

Because tourism plays an increasing role in the island's economy, an international airport in Panglao Island is currently on its preparatory stage. Proponents hope that the new airport will increase Bohol's reputation as an international tourist destination. Sites located in the diverse areas are being developed to boost the industry.

The Board of Investments in Bohol registered PhP 7.5 million in the area of alcohol production. The combined paid-up capital of corporations and partnerships registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for Bohol rose to PhP 500 million while the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) registered single proprietorships with an average value of intended investment of PhP 132 million per single proprietor.


Local Government Unit Profile

Bohol is the home province of the late Carlos P. Garcia, the eighth president of the Republic of the Philippines (1957–1961), who was born in Talibon, Bohol. It is a first-class A island province of the Philippines. Despite its potential for social and economic growth, Bohol is among the 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines for many years. But through the initiatives and vision of the province in the last years, Bohol made a big leap in striving to get out of the poverty pit through tourism and agriculture.

The incumbent provincial government’s Executive-Legislative agenda is embodied in the phrase HEAT BOHOL which means Health and Sanitation, Education and Technology, Agriculture and Food Security, and Tourism and Livelihood.

The same goes with its strategies known collectively as LIFE HELPS: generates sustainable Livelihood and Enterprise; builds/upgrades Infrastructure; ensures Food sufficiency; promote access to quality Education at all levels; improve access to quality integrated Health services and facilities; ensure sound Environment management; promotes and develop Leadership; maintains Peace and order with citizen participation; and integrates Sports and youth in relevant development programs.

A HEAT BOHOL caravan is regularly conducted in different municipalities in the province. The governor usually leads the caravan together with national government agencies, provincial government offices and private sector organizations involved in the delivery of services to communities. The biggest service delivery caravan has served close to 200,000 beneficiaries in a total of 384 barangays in 18 caravans held since its launch in 2010. This grassroots level intervention is aimed at bringing the government services closer to the people.

The provincial government aims to reduce its dependency on the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the national government by raising the percentage of local revenue generation among other means. Its income from its IRA reached PhP 210,875,104 in 2011, PhP 202,165,004.60 in 2012, and PhP 220,713,128 in 2013. As per Provincial Internal Audit Office (PIAO) report of the Statement of Receipts and Expenditures, the provincial government has a fund balance amounting to PhP 1,070,983,273 for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2013.

In 2011, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) recognized Bohol for its performance in governance, accountability, transparency, and frontline services. In 2012, the DILG’s Silver Level Seal of Good Housekeeping awarded the provincial government as the Best Governed Province. This recognized Bohol’s outstanding performance on administrative, social, economic and environmental governance, and its adherence to the fundamental principles of good governance including transparency, participation and financial accountability.

Bohol, however, also has its share of continuing political dynasties as evident in the 2013 elections. Political observers link the perpetuation of political dynasties with the country’s continuing problems on corruption, abuse of power and patronage. The Bohol Chronicle reported in early 2013 the control of political clans on local and Congressional positions, whether under the ruling or opposing political parties – the Lims of Tagbilaran City (under the United Nationalist Alliance), the Yus of Calape town (under the Liberal Party), the Camachos of Getafe town (UNA, LP), the Cajeses in Trinidad, and the Gonzagas and Cepedozas (also relatives) of Danao, Jumamoys of Inabanga (LP), the Imboys of Loay, the Lims of Valencia, and the Chattos of Balilihan.


Civil Society and Media

The Government Watch (G-Watch) of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG), with support from the European Commission through the Strategic Projects Facility 2, embarked on a project in 2010 entitled Monitoring and Improving Service Delivery of LGUs using the G-Watch as a Social Accountability Tool, more popularly known as the G-Watch Localization Project. The project showed the application of the G-Watch Social Accountability model at the local level. Their manual (2012) which is designed to be a flexible information toolkit for anybody who wishes to monitor her or his local government’s service delivery and programs was a joint undertaking of key persons from the LGU, together with CSOs, including local citizen groups, people’s organizations, faith-based organizations, professional organizations and academe-based organizations.

Programs such as this aim to develop constructive engagement among citizens, CSOs and the government to monitor public transactions and develop monitoring tools to improve services and prevent corruption. It promotes and strengthens transparency and accountability towards effective governance through performance monitoring and constructive engagement.

But some hindrances were the lack of willingness and openness of the local chief executive, the Sanggunian and the middle managers; and the state of partnership or cooperation between CSOs and the LGUs or the level of openness of the LGU to civil society participation.

The G-Watch Manual incorporates lessons based on the actual experiences of the six pilot sites in implementing their own G-Watch projects in their localities, one of which is the municipality of San Miguel. Here, G-Watch looked at the service delivery of agricultural services particularly the rice production program with their “BULHON sa Pang-uma” project. Through the leadership of the Federated Farmers Association, more monitors signified their intent to continue with the monitoring activities to replicate a BULHON-type (rice subsidies) of monitoring program in Bohol. Holy Name University (HNU) of Tagbilaran City conducted dialogue to aid in the monitoring initiatives.

On the media, Bohol has two AM radio stations based in Tagbilaran City and another based in Ubay, Bohol. Both stations in Tagbilaran City also operate FM stations. Bohol also sees weekly or bi-weekly newspapers like the Bohol Chronicle, Sunday Post, Bohol Times, Bohol Standard and Bohol Bantay Balita. An online news website, the Bohol News Daily aggregates news from different sources.

The newly-revitalized Bohol Transparency Network for Transformation (Bohol TNT) is composed of media personnel and civil society members and representatives who are committed to become watchful advocates for transparent, clean and honest governance. In terms of engagement, linkage, coordination and/or cooperation of performance among civil society, local media and the G-Watch on issues and initiatives about the provincial government and LGUs of Bohol’s accountability, performance and transparency is nil. However, the more immediate the issue at hand is and the more people will care about it, the more cooperative and supportive they will be.


LGU-Citizen Engagement

Despite the presence of many civic organizations, people’s and non-government organizations in the province, not one them deals with transparency and accountability. No active LGU-citizen engagement is happening either at the moment relative to accountability and transparency except those that were earlier mentioned.

Existing LGU-citizen engagement is limited only to civic and election-related activities and are passive on governance-related issues as there is no indication of anti-corruption protests. LGUs and citizens usually engage during electoral period. Parishes or local churches are usually at the forefront of these sporadic and un-coordinated initiatives. These are also usually not documented. Unfortunately, there are no follow ups, particularly in making the winning candidates accountable and revisiting their campaign promises.

It is observed that the print, radio and online media in the entire province had never engaged the local government on issues of transparency and accountability in a serious and consistent manner except for periodic commentaries on government’s financial transactions linked to latest news reports. A number of media outlets are associated with certain political leaders. There is no coordinated media effort to look into the local government finances or the over-all government operation to know and report on irregularities in the use of public funds. Instead, some media outlets have business dealings with the provincial government and LGUs which continue to be a huge source of revenue for them.                 

The provincial government has formulated a Strategic Financial Management Plan (SFMP) for the next five-year period, 2011-2015 that will help achieve financial sustainability and improve the quality of public services. This plan provides a single point of reference for the management of financial obligations while working to improve governance, transparency and accountability.

However, the province has no serious LGU-citizen engagement as shown by the wayward attitude of the local government when it comes to public finances. Not even the local business community involves itself in or has any interest to engage the government on these two core issues on good governance.

The CSOs need more technical support to strengthen their roles in engaging LGUs for transparency and accountability and to assert the legitimacy as democracy builders despite limited resources.


Opportunities and Threats

 1. Opportunities

1.1. Strategic Financial Management Plan of the Provincial Government of Bohol (2011-2015). This plan requires provincial officials to fully disclose their financial transactions in order to keep constituents informed of how the budget is managed, disbursed and used. This shows the direction of the provincial government in the generation and utilization of its financial resources for the next five-year period, 2011 to 2015. This increases people’s awareness on the available public funds and the allocated amount for development projects in the localities. Boholanos will consequently be encouraged to discuss among themselves the financial status that will further motivate them to form watchdog groups to engage local officials. Through this plan, more Boholanos will have access to information on important LGU transactions such as income patterns, expense patterns, special funds/accounts, loans and other indebtedness, and major and other financial performance indicators.

The plan will give the public access to these specific documents: Annual Budget of the current calendar year, Quarterly Statement of Cash Flows, Statement of Receipts and Expenditures of the previous calendar year, Trust Fund Utilization, Special Education Fund Utilization, 20 percent Component of the 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, and Supplementary procurement plan. 

1.2.  Increasing level of public awareness on public transparency. The people are now becoming more aware and expressive on the obligation of the government to be transparent and on the right of the people to be informed about what the government is doing or not. The Boholanos are now conscious about their rights as citizens vis-à-vis the duty of the government. The people have now come to realize the government owes them good and responsible governance. Hence, the forming of a citizen action group is not only timely but also necessary to empower the local community. 

1.3. Willingness of civic individuals, media and other organizations to get involved in local community action. Their commitment to get involved in accountability and transparency campaign is a good indication of the people’s desire to hold the government responsible for its actions. It is something to start with and is very ideal springboard to launch the campaign in the province. Many sectoral leaders in Bohol now welcome the idea of organizing to allow greater community participation in engaging the government on accountability and transparency issues.

1.4. Access to technology which greatly helps awareness of the community on social and political issues. Through the internet and different social media sites, people are able to know what is going on in the government and how their political leaders perform. They also learned how to air their grievances using these tools.


2. 
Threats 

2.1. Financial and legal difficulties of CSOs may hamper their participation in decision-making and in demanding openness and transparency of local authorities.

2.2. CSO leaders and members who are able to develop their capacities and knowledge on local governance through NGO support may end up running in the local or barangay elections and thus may regard LGU-CSO engagement as a stepping stone to public office. This usually happens because CSO leaders and members enjoy a certain level of trust from the community.

2.3. Many CSOs lack technical expertise to engage local governments in specific issues such as budgets and procurement. 

2.4. The fatalistic attitude among the masses may hinder the propagation and promotion of campaigns in the grassroots level. The common tao may tend to submit to their fate of powerlessness and give up easily rather than strive for empowerment. Sectoral leaders may be enthusiastic but just the same, they have to deal with the people’s fatalistic attitudes. 

2.5. As many still depend on their political leaders for different needs, the people might shy away from getting involved in transparency efforts for fear of reprisal. This is possible especially in areas where barangay leaders also see such moves as threat to them or to their political patrons 

2.6. Opposing political views may hamper efforts in promoting public transparency and accountability. It is an issue to consider in organizing, but is not something that is insurmountable.   

2.7. Media bias is perceived to be more pronounced in the local situation: Some media practitioners – particularly radio – supposedly tend to go easy on politicians who have blocked time programs with them, but are harsh to the politicians’ opponents. But a group from within the local media sector has expressed readiness to work with Bohol TNT, thus being a vital partner in pursuing local community action for accountability.

2.8. Political harassment is always at bay particularly from those who feel threatened by campaigns for transparency and accountability. Mobilizing support from the media, faith-based groups and other groups will help reduce such risk.