By: Bennie A. Recebido
GUBAT, SORSOGON, Sept. 10 (PIA) – Gubat municipal government, under the leadership of Mayor Roderick Co, and the Philippine Center for Civic Education and Democracy (www.pcced.org.ph) partnered in empowering the community to partake in the public budget expenditure through the Municipal Participatory Budgeting General Assembly conducted on September 1, 2013 in Gubat, Sorsogon.
“In the midst of controversies on spending public funds, Gobat sees to it that their public funds will be spent judiciously in response to the needs of its constituents,” said in a press statement sent to PIA by Jospeh Emmanuel Lansang, PCCED project manager.
Some 300 participants from various sectors including women, farmers, fishermen, senior citizen, youth and persons with disabilities (PWDs) attended the General Assembly.
Through the Participatory Budgeting system, ordinary citizens directly decide how to spend the public budget. Participatory Budgeting aims to make the Municipal Budgeting Process more inclusive and participatory by allowing ordinary citizens to deliberate and propose spending ideas to the Local Government Unit so that the Municipal Budget reflects the real need of the community.
During the breakout sessions, different sectors identified issues and projects that can help address these issues through deliberation. Following this, each sector prioritized the projects through consensus building. A core group whose members were chosen by the sectors will then research on the projects and make proposals.
"In a significant way, participatory budgeting is an attempt to recover what direct democracy is about. Here, ordinary folks represent and argue for their own welfare,” Mr. Reynald Trillana, PCCED executive director said.
Participatory budgeting builds on the existing structure provided for by the 1991 Local Government Code (LGC).
LGC mandates that the Municipal Development Council composed of the Mayor, Sanggunian Representative, Congressman, Punong Barangays and sector representatives (members of not less than ¼ of the fully organized council) deliberate and plan the social and economic direction of the municipality.
Participatory budgeting brings the deliberation and planning closer to the people by letting them directly identify community problems and recommend projects that can address the problems they raise. These projects will then be a part of the Annual Investment Plan of the municipality.
While the LGC provides for sectoral representation in the Local Development Council, Participatory Budgeting focuses on ordinary citizens including those who are not members of non-government organizations (NGOs) or people’s organizations (POs), and those who may have been marginalized with the recent focus on civil society organizations.
The participants openly expressed that through this, they feel that they become closer to the government because they are given direct voice in public governance.
"This process of participatory budgeting promotes transparency as everyone is aware of the projects of the municipality," another attendee expressed during the plenary.
Likewise, one community volunteer for PWD named Aida said that if their project gets approved, the PWDs would have medical equipments needed so they can be more productive in the community.
Participatory Budgeting started in Porto Alegre in Brazil in 1989. It has resulted to vast improvement in the delivery of social and economic projects in the country and is now being adapted in many cities around the world including those in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany.
The participatory budgeting process in Gubat is being facilitated by the PCCED, and is supported by the Spanish Agency for International Development and Cooperation (AECID) through Zabalketa, a Spanish NGO. PCCED has been promoting civic education, student and youth empowerment, democratic values, and supporting grassroots democracy since 2007. Over the past years, AECID has been supporting projects that would strengthen democracy and its institutions in the Philippines. (MAL/BAR-PIA5/Sorsogon)