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Iloilo CODE NGOs, Inc. - Archives

Project Monitoring and Evaluation

Getting Engaged, Getting Involved in Iloilo

by: Ma. Diosa Labiste

The Thread That Binds

In Barangay Bilidan, New Lucena, a land-locked town in central Iloilo, villagers trooped to the construction site of a multi-purpose pavement with their tadyaw (clay jars) filled with water. Knowing how important the project will become once completed, they brought drinking water for the workers concreting the pavement that will later function as rice drier and dance floor.

In Cabatuan town, it was only after residents of Barangay Bacan strung light bulbs on the village lampposts linked to the power main that some parts of the community finally saw the light, so to speak. Residents said they now have a “night life.” The streets had become safer and people are beginning to enjoy their evening paseo.

In the town of Batad, a group of parents in Barangay Poblacion persistently asked for a place used by the police as an outpost. They transformed it into a day care center. Mothers say the two hours spent by their children at the day care center give them time for housework, to attend to their personal needs, and visit their farms or sell snacks in the market.

Batad residents also “talk back” to their elected officials during the twice-a-year “Pahayag sa Banwa,” an innovative strategy to ensure governance transparency and accountability.

A common thread binds the three towns: their people became involved, got engaged and shared ownership of the projects. By actively participating, the townsfolk not only monitored the completion of the projects but also ensured that each step of the process was transparent. They have also reawakened in the province a spirit of volunteerism and sense of community. Their towns are now seen as shining examples of what participatory governance is all about, coming at a time when the Filipino public sorely needs such models.

Lessons from the Past

The campaign for more transparent governance through the monitoring and evaluation of public works started as early as 1988 but it was only in 1996 when the Province of Iloilo, through the regional office of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) started organizing monitoring and evaluation committees. These committees were envisioned to promote transparency and accountability in governance. But in 1999, it was noted that majority of the Municipal Evaluation Committees (MECs) were not functional because of high turn-over of the members, lack of skills in project monitoring and lack of support from the local government officials, especially the mayors.

Enabling the Partners

In 1999 the Provincial Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (PMEC) was created. Its first activity was the reorganization of the Municipal Monitoring and Evaluation Committees. A series of training workshops was held to strengthen the capacity of the PMEC Secretariat to oversee project monitoring and evaluation, which requires a systematic collection and analysis of information on development programs and public works. An inventory was made of projects from 1998 to 1999 funded by the 20 percent IRA of the towns and direct assistance from the provincial government.

The Secretariat came up with easy-to-use project monitoring and evaluation tools intended for lay persons. These tools were used to monitor and evaluate project implementation especially those concerning physical accomplishment, schedule and fund use. After a pre-test, the tools were translated in native Hiligaynon.

The PMEC is composed of the municipal mayors of Cabatuan, Calinog, Miag-ao and New Lucena, with Cabatuan Mayor Eliseo Tobias as chairman. There are also two representatives from the NGOs: Iloilo CODE-NGO and the Philippine Association of Social Workers, Inc. There are also representatives from the DILG, PMEC Secretariat (Provincial Planning and Development Office and other offices of the provincial government).

The cooperation between the PMEC has resulted in the enhancement of an effective monitoring and evaluation system in the province. Iloilo-CODE’s presence in the project gave rise to the

Participatory Project Monitoring and Evaluation project with financial help from PhilDHRRA, PBSP, USAID-GOLD. Iloilo-CODE was designated as the GOLD project Secretariat.

The PMEC-Iloilo CODE Technical Working Committee was composed of three Iloilo-CODE staff and the 15-member PMEC Secretariat to oversee the Participatory Project Monitoring and Evaluation project. Sub-teams were also created to organize the MMECs and BMECs and coordinate field activities of the three pilot barangays in the three towns.

Key persons who would comprise the BMECs and MMECs were identified on the basis of their stature in the community, their openness to new ideas, availability, willingness and communication skills. They were trained on how to use the simplified monitoring and evaluation tools that were fine-tuned to suit local conditions.

Special meetings were conducted every second Tuesday of the month for updates. Other special meetings were also held to discuss the framework of the GOLD project and the roles of the partners. Regular meetings likewise took place to plan, review and assess the progress of the project.

The final output was presented to the Municipal Development Council meeting and at the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP)-NGO interfacing activity during the Transparency in Governance Fair October 2000. During the fair, Mayor Eliseo Tobias of Cabatuan proposed a resolution institutionalizing the participatory project monitoring and evaluation in Iloilo province. Tobias said his resolution should be enacted as an ordinance by the municipal governments.

Faced by the rising number of complaints on the misuse of public funds and resources as well as reports of ghost projects, the Provincial Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (PMEC) decided to assert its mandate for organizing the MECs again, but this time, in towns that were up to the task. Of the 42 municipalities and one component city, Batad, Cabatuan and New Lucena became the pilot municipalities.

The MECs, especially in the pilot areas, were reactivated also because of the memorandum of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on March 27, 2000 removing the chairmanship of the MECs from the town mayor. Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor, an advocate of transparency and accountability in local governance, also issued an executive order of a similar nature. He wrote: "Monitoring and evaluating the implementation of development programs and projects will provide information on the overall status of projects, identify issues and problems that impede implementation, and learned lessons for future planning and implementation of similar programs and projects."

A Partnership That Works

As in other provinces dependent on agriculture, Iloilo 's poverty incidence is high at 46.7 percent. The per capita poverty threshold in rural areas is P8, 800 as against the national poverty threshold of P9, 320. Although infrastructure facilities are comparatively adequate, there are still many rural communities that have yet to enjoy paved roads and potable water, among others. Many communities have been clamoring for improved community halls and day care centers. With the passage of years and no improvements in sight, not a few people have begun to distrust government. They felt government was not responsive enough.

But changes did happen within the six months that the partnership blossomed between the Iloilo CODE, the local government units and the barangays of Batan in Cabatuan, Bilidan in New Lucena and Poblacion in Batad. Within that short period of time citizens learned the value of vigilance and how to work with the local government in meeting its development goals.

With the assistance of Iloilo CODE, which took on a facilitating role in that novel partnership, barangay residents closely monitored the implementation of government projects, making sure that those responsible for the projects were made accountable. Knowing that they were being closely watched, public officials saw to it that the needs of their constituents were met. On the other hand, barangay residents, after realizing that they can make a difference, began suggesting improvements on the project design and implementation.

Iloilo CODE NGOs, or the Iloilo Caucus of Development NGOs, Inc., has a track record in closely working with LGUs in institutionalizing effective, responsible and sustainable governance. An active network of non-government organizations, it has been advocating for participatory local governance for the last four years. It worked in partnership with the Provincial Government in adopting the Philippine Agenda 21 and in creating sustainable development councils. Recently, Iloilo-CODE worked closely with the PMECs of Iloilo province.

Empowerment through Training and Working Together

Transparency is founded on trust among partners working together. In the case of the monitoring and evaluation project, this trust was built through a series of advocacy campaigns, capacity building and many consultations. The activities boosted the confidence of the 68 people who committed themselves to become members of the PMECs and MMECs in the towns of Batad, Cabatuan and New Lucena. Of the 68, 20 came from the MPECs; six from Iloilo-CODE; 21 from the MMECs; 15 from the Barangay Monitoring and Evaluation Committees while six were members of the secretariat.

One of the first things the MECs did was to make an inventory of locally-funded projects from 1998 to 2000 and to retrieve the project proposal, work plan, budget plan and bill of materials. Then a series of training were held to enhance the evaluators’ skills on monitoring, evaluation, documentation, data processing and analysis through the use of computer, reporting and moderating public discussions. User-friendly monitoring and evaluation tools were developed, given the fact that those who will use them do not have the skills to monitor public works. Aside from learning the technical aspects of monitoring and evaluation, the evaluators also went through highly interactive consensus building exercises.

The Importance of Being Earnest in Barangay Bilidan, New Lucena

The land-locked town of New Lucena, 28 kilometers from Iloilo City, learned that by closely watching the implementation of four barangay projects, there can be munificent payoff at the end: better constructed infrastructure, well-spent funds.

Barangay Bilidan in New Lucena is a community of farmers, drivers and farm laborers. Rice and livestock are its main sources of livelihood. There were four locally-funded projects being implemented in the barangay when the project was introduced. These included the construction of a multi-purpose solar dryer funded by the Department of Agriculture, the construction of the kitchen and ceiling of the barangay hall, construction of the senior citizens day care center and the improvement of the barangay water system. The total cost of the four projects was P169,200. The projects were completed on time and not a single centavo was wasted, reports from the BMEC show. But what was remarkable in the course of monitoring and evaluating the projects was the interest and support it generated in the community.

Take the case of the Bilidan solar dryer. Before it was built, farmers used the traditional amakan or sawali (bamboo mat) to dry the unhusked rice. Farmers said they prefer the cemented pavement because it makes for efficient and faster drying. After a series of meetings and consultations, they pitched in.

Although the some farmers were paid wages as laborers during the construction of the dryer, it was completed largely through dagyaw, Hiligaynon for bayanihan. Families also lent tools like hoes, spades and the like. Every day, residents would bring their tadyaw (clay jars) full of water to the construction site. “Ang tubig nga pang-iniom amo gani ang ginamixkla. Gaaguada pa sa malayo para makakuha sang tubig” (Drinking water was used in mixing cement with sand and gravel. Our water sources are quite far from our homes.), said one resident.

The solar dryer now also serves as a basketball court, dance floor during fiestas, and a gathering place for other community events. It was intended for use by some 50 households but eventually 276 households, or the total population of the barangay, finally made use of the multi-purpose solar dryer. Although Bilidan has two other multi-purpose dryers, the sheer volume of palay to be dried during harvest required another dryer. Farmers’ cooperatives charge a minimal fee for use of the dryer.

A happy note also marked the construction of the barangay day care center for senior citizens. It was originally intended for 40 persons but when it was completed, hundreds came. Today it also doubles as a waiting and gathering area for the elderly. Farmers’ cooperatives and youth clubs also use the center for their meetings.

As in the construction of the solar dryer, the dagyaw spirit contributed to the speedy completion of the daycare center. Members of the senior citizens association said they donated bamboo poles, nails and cash to pay the laborers. Residents also gave snacks and meals when they learned that the total budget for the construction was only P15, 000.00, not exactly enough to provide meals for the laborers.

But monitoring and evaluating the projects at Bilidan wasn’t as easy as it seemed. The projects were planned without consultation and the participation of the community members. The funds intended for the project were released on a staggered basis. It was not enough to complete the project. To remedy the gaps, the municipal government provided technical assistance. Residents also volunteered to contribute to the effort through dagyaw.

Efficiency and Self-Sufficiency in Barangay Bacan

The tiny barangay of Bacan, with a total population of 785, is three kilometers from the town center of Cabatuan, along the highway leading to the neighboring town of Maasin. It is home to farmers planting rice, corn and vegetables. Bacan is at the strategic center of seven other barangays southwest of the municipality.

What sets Bacan apart from others in the town is the commitment of its elected officials to improve their barangay despite limited funds. The four barangay projects included in the monitoring and evaluation project were the construction of the learning center, installation of streetlights, construction of toilet for the health center and installation of balcony and window grills for the health center. Ninety-eight percent of the total cost of the four projects (P182 ,856.60) came from the barangay development fund. The construction was supervised by the barangay officials.

It is also noteworthy that the officials of Bacan were able to source some P3 ,330.00 from the adjacent six barangays that stand to benefit from the projects. The officials found out that they were able to save 13 percent of the total cost of the four projects partly because of donations from the residents and the close monitoring of the project. The savings were earmarked for other projects like tiled flooring and other finishing touches for the health center.

As in most public projects, those at Barangay Bacan were generally taken for granted by the residents simply because they were not consulted. But when they sat down to make an inventory of the impact of the projects, they realized how much the project has contributed to increasing their quality of life.

One of these is the learning center where books were made available for students and residents of the barangay. Young people came during their spare time to read, thus spending their time productively. The reading center even attracts elderly folk who delight in reading about past events and history.

“Bal-an mo kon magbasa ka, daw pareho lang nga gapanglakaton ka sa iban nga lugar (Reading is like taking a journey to places you’ve never been to),” said Andong, a resident of Bacan.

The installation of streetlights was intended for the barangay but residents from other barangays also benefited. The project helps maintain peace and order, minimizing theft and reducing crimes against women. Women who leave at dawn to sell vegetables or buy fish from Iloilo City are all praises for the project. With lighted streets, there was also greater mobility and interaction among neighbors at night.

The community was also able to save 35 percent of the amount intended to pay the laborers because the households where the lampposts were located volunteered to erect the posts themselves. They also provided snacks for the volunteers.

There were many lessons from the four projects in Bacan. But the key players and barangay residents alike say that the problems encountered during project implementation could have been easily solved through participatory planning. In the case of the learning center, there was nobody in-charge to run it. There was also the problem of paying for electric bills but this was remedied by appropriating an amount for electricity from the Barangay Development Fund. The municipal engineer also noted delays in the approval of the construction plans. At the start of the project, some households complained that some lampposts were not situated in front of their homes. Barangay officials, however, explained that the distance between lampposts was determined by electrical engineers who made the plans.

Buoyed by the success of their monitoring and evaluation team, the BMEC wanted also to monitor the ongoing construction of a school building of the Department of Education Culture and Sports (DECS) being built by the Department of Public Works and Highways. Barangay residents said they also wanted to monitor similar projects funded by national government agencies, often targets of corruption charges.

Transparency and Accountability in Batad

In the coastal town of Batad, 120 kilometers north of Iloilo City P401,354 was earmarked for three projects in Barangay Poblacion from February 1998 to June 1999. These were the Botika sa Barangay, construction of a day care center, and installation of water system. Funding came from the provincial and municipal governments, barangay development funds, Social Reform Agenda fund of the Department of Health and the Countrywide Development Fund of Sen. Alberto Romulo. The Botika sa Barangay and water system projects were implemented by the local government while a contractor was hired to build the day care center.

The Botika sa Barangay was the residents’ way of making medicines for common ailments affordable. Targeted to serve 192 households, it is now reaching out to 234. Even those with families who are so poor that they cannot pay cash can buy medicines through credit, chargeable to their wages as laborers in barangay projects. The Botika is now also serves other neighboring barangays.

The day care center stands in a spot that used to be a police outpost. Barangay folk were able to persuade the policemen to give up the space for the children, who were squatting on any available room to hold classes. Today, the day care center provides a safe and comfortable place for interaction and learning. For at least two hours a day children are taught how to sing, write, read, and observe table manners. During that time, parents can do other chores, visit their farm or perhaps have a quiet moment.

Dolor, a longtime barangay resident, has two of her children at the day care center. The two hours they spend at the center affords her time to sell goods in the market. “I would drop by during recess to see how are they doing and would come back again at the end of the class to pick them up,” she said.

The day care center also serves as meeting place for barangay officials as well as a counseling room and a halfway home for battered wives. Women-oriented activities sponsored by the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office are now periodically held at the center. Aside from volunteering labor during construction of the center, the men were also involved in its activities like building floats for parades.

Due to the deteriorating watersheds in Iloilo province, many communities experience low water pressure especially during summer months. Barangay Poblacion is one example. Residents often have to fetch water from the deep well of the elementary school which is some distance from their homes. The barangay decided to build a water system from a P25,000.00 loan provided by the provincial government. The loan came in the form of a water tank, motor and water pipes.

The project started by organizing members of the water association, which was then registered at the water district agency. Because it took quite sometime to finally get the association’s approval, the members decided to proceed with the construction of the pipeline and the storage tanks. When many residents began to take interest in joining the project, the association discovered that its fund was not enough. Residents provided the pipes.

The water system became an important source of potable water for 170 houses, 20 more than its intended target. With potable water readily available, the spread of waterborne diseases was minimized, according to local health officials.

The implementation of the projects at Barangay Poblacion, however, was not without its creases. The community drugstore, for example, was not well-stocked because of limited capital to purchase medicines. The water system is waterless during power interruptions and its reach is still limited while water bills are not paid on time. A generator is needed but the association cannot afford to buy one. The day care center still lacks other amenities. But in focus group discussions, the problems were diagnosed and some solutions were drawn up. It was suggested during one of these discussions that barangay residents form a cooperative to better manage the drug store. From the 20 percent development fund of the barangay, officials could earmark some funds for repair and improvement of the day care center and expansion of the water service system.

“Pahayag sa Banwa,” a New Transparency Tact in Batad

Alongside with the MMEC in Batad is the Pahayag sa Banwa, also an Iloilo CODE project on transparency and people’s participation in good governance. It was the Iloilo CODE that encouraged the town to adopt the project as early as 1998. On December 1998, the Iloilo CODE invited Sangguniang Bayan Member Abner Rubrico and Renato Ablona, chair of the DMQ Multipurpose Cooperative, to observe how it is done in Camalig, Albay, which has its own “Report sa Banwa-an.” The study tour was sponsored through the Enhancing Integrity and Transparency in Local Governance Project of the Evelio B. Javier Foundation, Inc., a Manila-based non-profit working for good governance.

On their return to Batad, Rubrico moved for the project’s adoption because it provides a venue where people can ask questions directly to their local officials. The latter can also inform their constituents of their accomplishments and the status of the municipality’s planned and implemented projects. Through this dialogue, albeit at times confrontational in nature, the townsfolk were able to interact directly with their local officials.

With Iloilo CODE’s help, the Batad municipal government asked the people to participate in the activity. Groups targeted to become part of the “Pahayag,” or report, were the religious sector composed of the Roman Catholic Church, Philippine Independent Church, Seventh Day Adventists and Batad Baptist Church; education sector composed of the Department of Education Culture and Sports (DECS) district of Batad; barangay officials, municipal officials and employees and non-government organizations.

Batad Mayor Pedro Alarcon said that the Pahayag has a “significant impact” on the town because it strengthens people’s participation in governance as well as stresses accountability of public officials. While some participants get passionate when voicing out their complaints, local officials said it was a healthy sign of democracy. To date, Batad had already conducted two Pahayag, the first on February 7, 1999 and the second on June 23, 1999. During the activity, various development concerns of Batad were discussed by the municipal officials and the townsfolk.

Learning Their Lessons Well

The effect of the projects has obviously touched many local officials in Iloilo. As a result, the three towns are now being looked up to as models of participatory governance by local governments, non-government organizations and other local communities.

The projects showed that participatory monitoring and evaluation in the pilot areas can become an effective mechanism for countering graft and corruption. However, it should be noted that the projects only focused on public undertakings that were funded locally. There is still a need to test the mechanism on projects funded by national government agencies, often perceived as graft-ridden and corruption prone.

Through an informed citizenry willing to invest time and effort to become watchdogs of their government units, there also emerged an invigorated community which can be counted on to do other civic work. Residents of communities where the monitoring and evaluation project was pilot-tested got involved, get engaged and took ownership of the project.

Seeing that the project worked well in the pilot areas, a number of barangay chiefs have already expressed their willingness to adapt the participatory monitoring and evaluation process in their respective communities, even providing the monitoring team with a budget. In the towns where the pilot areas are located, lobby groups for the institutionalization of the monitoring and evaluation process are actively helping local legislators craft ordinances. Partners in the project also gave their commitment to continue participating in the project.

The project likewise equipped the partners with skills and knowledge ranging from knowing how to use monitoring and evaluation tools to becoming confident and skillful enough to train new volunteers for replicating the project.

There are many indications that the project will be sustained if tried out in other areas. There is the existence of the Provincial Monitoring Committee mandated by the Local Government Code and with a corresponding budget to fund its activities. The PMEC, the active MMECs and a handful of BMECs are expected to flex their muscles whenever presented with projects to be implemented. Although these are small compared to large scale infrastructure projects, the basic experience, learning, insights and commitment of those trained to monitor and evaluate could be counted on to continue building the basis for genuine participation.

There is also a need to introduce participatory monitoring and evaluation at the barangay level during the crafting of barangay development plans and planning for barangay development projects. Training for barangay officials must also stress the need for such mechanism for transparency and good governance.

There were also many layers of partnering and cooperation. In Cabatuan and Batad, the partnership took the form of a joint venture, long term in nature and involving the sharing of resources. In New Lucena it was called a joint sponsorship, on a short term and project basis. But in all three towns, the relationship was one of trust, equity and partnership.

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