Office of the Vice Mayor- Himamaylan City
Best Practice Focus Area/s
Strategy Citizens / Customers Operations
25 March 2020
This is a GBPR Entry
The Citizen Participation in Governance (CPaG) is a local digital democracy initiative of the City of Himamaylan. “Sipag” is the Filipino term for “Zeal”- a call to action for citizens to be passionate about holding the government responsible and contributing to the nation-building process. It is envisioned to empower ordinary citizens to petition the local government on policies and programs and serve as a monitoring tool for infrastructure project implementation.
Background and Problem
According to Datareportal, in the third quarter of 2020, 96% of internet users in the Philippines accessed Facebook, whereas 93% were actively engaged within the same period. Being one of the most used and accessible social platforms, Facebook was utilized to engage citizen participation. With social media as the most efficient platform for communication, CPaG is accessible through Facebook for the citizen’s convenience. It allows people to lobby their concerns, introduce ideas, and express frustrations towards the government. However, most of the supposed inputs never reached the officials and the offices that have the power to address such, particularly on the LGU level. The absence of accessible avenues for civic engagement and public participation dampens the willingness of citizens to take part in the local governance in the City of Himamaylan.
Solution and Impact
CPaG aims to maximize the use of technology by utilizing social media to empower and engage citizens to petition the local government and contribute to the project of nation-building as a whole. CPaG was developed to address the city’s lack of avenues for civic engagement and public participation. As an accessible platform, it is now easier for people to communicate through this channel. With the help of social media, the citizens will no longer be burdened by the tedious documentary processes since they can immediately and directly bring their concerns to a Task Force composed of competent and responsive officials to address such.
CPaG is open to all comments, suggestions, and even complaints about public infrastructure within the jurisdiction of Himamaylan City. Anyone with internet access and a Facebook account may lobby their concerns, introduce ideas, and express frustrations towards the government. All submissions sent to the CPaG Facebook page are reviewed and responded to. The Office of the Vice Mayor, mandated to be the advocacy arm of the local legislature, fulfills its functions through CPaG on the critical aspect of civic engagement and public participation. In addition, social media was chosen as the ideal platform to best capture the raw sentiments of the populace. This ensures that inputs are candid, unaltered, and fully representative of their sentiments toward the local government. Most concerns are related to easily-delivered basic utilities such as jetmatic water pumps and the installation of lighting fixtures. Complaints that require a longer timeframe and a larger funding component are listed for inspection and potential inclusion in the agenda of the City Development Council, which is mandated to identify the composition of the annual 20% Development Fund of the local government unit.
With the launch of the CPaG mobile app, the office could align expenditures on the ground and priorities. It promotes efficient coordination among LGU offices and the Task Force. It aligns the developmental goals of the LGU, the barangay, and the community. Since its launch, CPaG has received a total of 66 submitted feedback. Out of this, 49 (74.24%) have been addressed and responded to, 14 (21.21%) are ongoing projects, and the remaining 3 (4.55%) are concerning private properties that are out of the jurisdiction of the ordinance. In 2021, CPaG identified projects that will receive 10% of the 2021 Development Fund or P17.1 million.
Aside from being prioritized by the City Government, CPaG was nationally recognized as a best practice for Freedom of Information and was awarded the Freedom of Information Champion title by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). The Task Force plans to expand CPaG’s functionality beyond just infrastructure to include implementing citizen’s charters, reporting of public officials and employees, and requests that fall under the Freedom of Information. CPaG continues to have an active social media engagement by receiving submissions since its launch. Citizens from different barangays sent their concerns and requests to the Facebook page. To maintain consistency and secure its regularity, all entries are thoroughly reviewed to ensure they are within the scope of the city’s jurisdiction, forwarded to the respective department, and monitored until addressed.
CPaG also uses the Facebook Messenger Bot to get relevant information about the concerns. Certain FAQs can be addressed through guided and automated questions without human intervention. Frequent reporting of project status through Facebook posts has led to the acceptance of the initiative. Since most public sentiments do not usually reach the concerned bodies, CPaG has bridged this communication gap in the city. CPaG was institutionalized through the Executive Order & Resolution by the Local Government Unit of Himamaylan City. A Monitoring Task Force was established a month after the platform’s launch. Its duties and responsibilities include the preparation of bi-monthly reports on the status of CPaG submissions and endorsement of projects to the City Development Council. The CPaG-endorsed projects are included in the 10% Annual Development Fund of the City starting FY 2021. With the support of the City Government, the Task Force intends to expand CPaG functionality beyond just infrastructure to include implementation of the citizen’s charters, reporting of erring public officials and employees, and requests that fall under freedom of information.