On the role and functions of Office of Cabinet Secretary – Office of Participatory Governance (OCS-OPG).
The OCS has yet to clearly set its conceptual and operational definition of participatory governance, sometime interchangeably referred to people empowerment, on the basis of historical facts and experiences. Let it be noted that Executive Order 9, Series of 2016 does not explicate the essential meaning of the participatory governance except for general motherhood statement like “.. committed to the implementation of President’s socio-economic agenda that lays down the priority areas of development that have direct and positive impact on the lives of the Filipino people.”
The OCS-OPG for its part has been given the same general mandate to “promote active citizenship, inclusiveness, transparency and accountability in governance. It shall strive to achieve these goals by engaging the different sectors and stakeholders to directly participate in governance and nation building.”
In particular; “a) promote, ensure the direct participation of various stakeholders in the crafting and formulation of policies and programs to address concerns at the grassroots level; b) initiate programs and projects that will facilitate citizens empowerment and participation in governance at the national, regional and local levels; and c) perform such other functions as maybe necessary..”
In the statements of OPG Assistant Secretary Marlon (?) in an interview with government television PTV4 on December 1, he simply reiterated the OPG’s mandate under EO9 and talked of participatory governance in motherhood statement or generalities and still same old spirit and platform as in the LGC.
Even more disturbing was his statement that all interested POs, CSOs, NGOs who would like to be empowered must register or accredit with OPG when it is not a clearing and regulatory body, and those who would like to enjoy the “biyaya ng pagbabago” must join the Kilusang Pagbabago (KP), the KP that is now registered as KP-Led Inc, a private entity but apparently serving as the OPG’s preferred umbrella organization.
Per EO 9 it is not OPG’s mandate to directly engage with POs and NGOs, much less to adapt preferred POs, NGOs or umbrella organization for that matter. To do so is to give undue advantage to any group, and therefore putting the OPG people liable for estafa or graft case. Neither can it act as the clearing house for all National Line Agencies (NLAs) and Local Government Units (LGUs) whom NGOs and POs to engage by them, nor the regulatory body for the same.
In the bigger context, OPG maybe able to play a more progressive and positive role if it focuses on policy and program support to national line agencies and local government units to make them truly conducive and responsive to the needs of the people and to participatory governance.
Specifically the OPG could focus on campaigning and lobbying for legislative and policy amendments; bureaucratic re-orientations; setting of standards, guidelines and measurements of monitoring and evaluation for NLAs and LGUs; and assistance to capacity building of concerned NLAs and LGUs. Given the best conditions, the OPG or NLAs and LGUs could even initiate the designation of a personnel in every NLA and LGU to act as the “ombudsman of participatory governance” if only to ensure the re-orientation and transformation process in the bureaucracy.
Meantime that the above suggested direction and processes have yet to commence, the NGOs and other civil society organizations must pursue and or continue their bilateral partnerships with NLAs and LGUs whenever and wherever possible, cognizant of all the legal and technical constraints.
Well meaning officials among LGUs and NLAs on the other hand must take extra shots in providing the most convenient and responsive atmosphere to make their institutions convenient for participatory governance.
Still, it remains a long haul for participatory governance of genuine empowerment of the people. But it is better to try and struggle than leave the government to people whose concept of change is far from overhauling the present system./WDJ