Community-based monitoring system

>> Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ike Señeres

It is customary for scientists to classify flora and fauna as either extinct or rare, depending on how their species are surviving in the earth. To some extent, this manner of classification is also applied to humans, as there are tribes that also become extinct or rare, in both cases they are already threatened, so to speak.
Not that I would want to compare politicians to plants and animals, but I have always had difficulty in looking for mayors who are not corrupt, in other words honest.
I know that I am not the only one who thinks that way, but there are others among us who are inclined to picture politicians as being either crocodiles or as snakes. I really do not think that way, but in my search for honest mayors, I am often reminded about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, wherein the Lord tried to look for even ten righteous persons, but failed to find any.
Not that I would want to think like a pessimist, but until last week, I was already starting to think that honest
mayors are already either extinct or rare as a species. Last week however, I attended the 13th Annual Summit of the Community Based Monitoring System (CBMS) and to my surprise, I met not just one, not just two, but a ballroom full of honest mayors, with several hundreds more outside who could not enter because the ballroom was already jam packed to the brim.
Of course there was no way for me to judge whether they are really honest or not, but I could definitely say that they are not corrupt, because they are now implementing a transparent monitoring system that would make it difficult to divert or steal public funds. Right there and there, I concluded that their species is neither extinct nor rare, but is actually growing in numbers.
During the three day summit, I also got an eerie feeling while listening to the speakers and the audience talking about data all day. That was really a strange experience for me, because I have never seen or heard that many people talking about data as much as I do, considering that I talk and write about data all the time. As it turned out, all that fuzz about data was driven by the fact that the entire CBMS approach is focused on evidence based decision making. What that means is that without data, there could be no evidence, and without evidence, those who are subscribed to CBMS would not make decisions. That may sound so simple, but actually, CBMS is a complex system of data gathering through methodical census taking.
As I learned during the summit, all mayors are required to submit their own Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) that is supposed to be the basis for preparing their own Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP).
              As I understand it, the CDP is supposed to already incorporate other sub plans such as the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (LDRRMP) and the Annual Procurement Plan (APP). As it is supposed to be, the CDP should clearly indicate and explain how the Local Government Units (LGUs) would spend their Internal Revenue Allocations (IRAs).
Since all LGUs are also supposed to have their own Local Development Councils (LDCs), it goes without saying that the CLUP, the CDP, the LDRRMP and the APP all have to be approved by the LDCs. All these may already be difficult for these honest mayors to hurdle, but they could not stop with these four local plans, because they are also required to align these with the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.
In theory, the entire CDP planning process is supposed to be covered by the Bottom up Budgeting (BUB) approach of the national government. What that means is that the municipal CDP should actually be an aggregation of all the barangay CDPs. Going upwards, the provincial CDP is also supposed to be an aggregation of the municipal CDPs.
While that may sound like it is difficult to do, in reality, that could be done easily if the LDCs at the barangay, municipal and provincial levels are regularly convened as they are supposed to be convened as required by the Local Government Code (LGC). Going further upwards, the provincial CDPs are supposed to be discussed in the agendas of the Regional Development Councils (RDCs). Again in theory, the RDCs are the ones that are supposed to bring up the regional plans to the national level of the PDP, by way of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
As I learned in my many years in the government service, corruption happens whenever there is discretion. Conversely, there would be no corruption if there is no discretion on the part of the decision makers. Having said that, I would not hesitate to say further that evidence based decision making would leave little room for discretion, especially if these decisions are made during the meetings of the LDCs that are supposed to be in the open, in other words, transparent.
As it is supposed to be however, all the rules of public meetings should be followed, including the advanced distribution of agenda items, and the fair and honest approval of the minutes of the meetings. Kudos to the honest mayors may their tribe increase! Kudos also to the good people behind CBMS, notably Dr. Celia Reyes!
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