Global Integrity is pleased to formally publish a new data set assessing governance and anti-corruption measures at the local level in the Philippines, the Philippines Local Governance Transparency and Accountability Indicators. The indicators were jointly developed by the La Salle Institute of Governance (LSIG) and Global Integrity with input from a variety of Filipino stakeholders.
The indicators assess the strengths and weaknesses of mechanisms designed to promote transparency and accountability in Philippine local governance. With the city/municipal level as the basic unit of analysis, the ultimate objective of the indicators is to systematically identify best practices and areas for improvement, thereby empowering local stakeholders to plan and implement evidence-based policy and institutional reforms to strengthen transparency and accountability in local governance.
Gathered in ten of the country’s most important municipalities and cities, the indicators include a total of 205 specific questions that were scored by local researchers through a combination of intensive desk research and hundreds of original interviews with local stakeholders. These indicators are spread over six categories representing various aspects of transparency and accountability in local governance. The categories are:
- Civil Society, Public Information and Media
- Local Elections
- Local Government Accountability
- Local Fiscal Processes
- Local Civil Service
- Local Regulatory Functions
Ten municipalities were assessed: Balanga City, Carmen, Lapu Lapu City, Lawann-Eastern Samar, Miag ao-Ilollo, Quezon City, Santa Maria-Laguna, Tacurong City-Sultan Kudarat, Taytay-Rizal, and Zamboanga City.
The Philippines present an intriguing case of local governance reform because of its experiments with decentralization and grass roots participatory democratic governance, especially with the passage of the Local Government Code of 1991. The Code provides local governance/administrative units of municipalities and provinces, i.e., the barangay, more autonomy in fiscal, executive, and legislative decision-making. Stress is placed throughout on active citizen participation in local governance such as the delivery of public services. Despite the importance of the devolution of power to local governance units, however, there are still relatively few empirical studies of the operations of local governance particularly at the barangay level. The indicators we’ve published through this project are a contribution to building more robust evidence-based studies of Philippines local governance.
Ultimately, the local assessments aim to generate data that could be used in discussions about policy and institutional reforms that promote greater transparency and accountability in local governance. The overall goal is to contribute to these discussions both within the local areas included in the assessment, as well as outside these areas, whether at the national level or in other cities and municipalities in the country.
The project indicators are based on an extensive review of the transparency and accountability literature, and an examination of what are relevant in the Philippine local context. These mechanisms comprise “best practices” for improving transparency and accountability that have been found to work well in various parts of the Philippines and internationally. They include public disclosure requirements, conflicts-of-interest regulations, oversight institutions, citizen participation, and rules that limit discretionary decision-making. In a democratic context, the role of elections as potentially powerful mechanisms for public accountability is also included.
The indicators, taken in their entirety, aim to capture the extent to which these mechanisms for improving transparency and accountability are in place (existence indicators), whether the design of these mechanisms indicate that they are likely to work (effectiveness indicators), and whether citizens are able to adequately utilize these mechanisms (access indicators). The Philippines local indicators therefore contain a combination of de jure and de facto indicators that look at laws and institutions “on the books,” as well as their implementation and enforcement in practice.
Findings at a Glance
Preliminary findings from these municipalities include:
• A significantly large “implementation gap” (i.e., the difference between a municipality’s legal framework and the implementation and enforcement of those laws) in Taytay-Rizal. These gaps are especially pronounced in the areas of citizen access to certain public information (e.g., procurement records), input in budget allocations and decision-making as well as the effectiveness of the audit agency.
• Relatively strong transparency institutions and accountability mechanisms in barangays across municipalities. The exception is Taytay-Rizal, where citizens’ capacity to participate in barangay assemblies are constrained in part because of small venues and the perception by some that the assemblies are legitimation tools for officials.
• Although local CSOs are active in the policy-making process in municipalities, the level of their participation is uneven. Some CSOs meet with Local Special Bodies frequently, while in other municipalities such as Quezon City only selected CSOs are allowed to participate, thus raising questions about their impartiality.
• Weak accountability mechanisms in political financing. Regulations on individual funding support for candidates, in particular, are unevenly enforced in Lapu Lapu City, Quezon City, and Taytay-Rizal. However, robust investigations of individual campaigns are more evident in Zamboanga City.
• Poor legal framework that protects whistle-blowers against recrimination and other negative consequences in several municipalities.
— Photo by Missy and The Universe