We, the participants of the NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PARTICIPATORY AND DECENTRALIZED GOVERNANCE, have gathered the lessons and challenges faced by civil society organizations (CSOs) in engaging the government and other stakeholder partners through CSO-led local poverty reduction and development agendas.
We stand together to support whole-heartedly the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process, or GPB.
The 1987 Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to participate in governance. Moreover, the Local Government Code of 1991 provided formal spaces for CSOs to participate in local development councils and other special bodies from the baranggay level to the regional level. Despite these mandates, actual practices of participatory governance have been exceptions rather than the norm.
The late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo with the officials of DBM, DSWD, NAPC and other departments envisioned the actualization of these mandates, where citizen participation in governance would directly address inequity, poverty and marginalization of the poor in our country. “Bottom-Up Budgeting”, now known as Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process, is a game changing mechanism that allows citizens, local CSOs and local government units to contribute directly in deciding how the national budget pie is subdivided every year. This mechanism changes old paradigms in national budgeting process, making it more decentralized and participatory. The ultimate goal is to bring genuine equity, development and empowerment to the poor households and communities. It makes growth more inclusive and transparent.
From its inception in 2012, during the 2013 national budget discussion, the GPB has been implemented in three cycles –the latest being the 2015 cycle. In all these cycles, an inclusive and broad self-selection process in the CSO Assembly determines who will be the CSO representatives to the Local Poverty Reduction Action Teams (LPRATs). The LPRATS propose interventions and projects based on the poverty situation analysis of the CSO Assembly. These are submitted to the Regional Poverty Reduction Action Teams for review and then forwarded to the concerned national government agencies for inclusion in their proposed budgets. These are then submitted to Congress and Senate for the inclusion in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
We believe that meaningful community participation makes GPB funds less prone to abuse and corruption. It is not another form of pork barrel. It is a way, a venue, where citizens have a chance to express their community’s needs; identify, jointly with the local governments, concrete solutions to problems they face; and then, together, ask the national government agencies to support these solutions.
GPB is people’s participation at work. For 2014, the 20.1billion pesos set aside GAA for the GPB projects in 1,226 towns and cities are projects identified not by a few but by the people for the people.
We acknowledge that GPB, like all other new government processes and programs, still has areas for improvement. From various consultations at the municipal, regional and national levels, we have brought these to the attention of the GPB leaders, and we commit to helping ensure that these are addressed.
Another important role for CSOs is to ensure the proper implementation and integrity of the projects identified under the GPB. We also stand together and commit to engage government through the GBP in more than 383 towns and cities in 47provinces. We commit to be active in monitoring and evaluation of the projects.
We call on all CSOs and communities to prepare for the upcoming BUB 2016 cycle. We call on all sectors to help in the institutionalization and continuous improvement of GPB in all the LGUs in the country.