Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental – For nearly two decades, the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) has been helping build community projects in rural areas all over the country. Yet even with years of good track record, not all projects are free from problems or grievances. Although grievance cases have in a way helped improve the program.
In a recent grievance issue concerning a community access road in Barangay Marabutan, Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental, the community was stirred with the challenges faced by the program.
Barangay Marabatuan is a coastal area with 980 families residing in it. The residents are from Manobo and B’laan tribe and farming is their source of income.
During the Sub-Project Implementation of Improvement of 120 linear-meter Community Access Road with a total project cost of Php 3,043,793, Arlando Kiawan Salmon, an Indigenous People’s (IP) elder, filed a grievance.
According to the complainant, allegedly, his crops, such as coffee, abaca, and others, were damaged during the sub-project implementation.
The terrain of the area made it difficult to transport construction materials. Kalahi-CIDSS volunteers had to pass through Salmon’s farm to be able to bring in construction implements. Despite Kalahi’s strict implementation of the Environmental Safeguards and Standards, this problem was not anticipated.
Damaged to the crops was estimated at Php 50,000.00 based on the assessment of the complainant, and, being solely dependent on his farm as his source of living, he vented that he requires compensation for said damages.
“Pag sugod sa sub-proyekto, ang akong mga pananom sama sa kape ug abaca nahulugan og bato, mao akong gidala ang maong reklamo sa opisina sa Kalahi-CIDSS sa munisipyo ug akong gipa-abot sa Grievance Redress Hotline sa Regional Office (When the implementation started, stones fell on my crops such as coffee and abaca. I raised my complaint in the Kalahi office at the municipal hall and also called the grievance hotline at the Regional Office),” he recounted.
The complainant added that he was not informed when construction of said sub-project started, not even the schedule for meetings and assemblies. He also expressed disappointment and that there should be a permission particularly from the indigenous people prior to the implementation. “Unta mapananghiran ta, ma respeto ang katungod, hilabi na sa mga IP (They should have asked permission from us, as a gesture of respect to our rights, especially of the IPs).”
When the complaint surfaced, a grievance validation was conducted through site inspection, data gathering and key informant interviews.
The validating team was composed of regional representatives and the Area Coordinating Team (ACT).
At first, the Barangay Local Government Unit (BLGU) took the initiative to settle the problem through a joint meeting attended by the complainant, BSPMC (Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee) Volunteers and the Barangay Council. However, the complainant demanded that the issue be settled at the municipal level to avoid political interference.
“Naningkamot kami nga ayuson namo ang maong problema sa barangay (We tried to address the problem at our level).” “We came up with measures to resolve this issue with the intervention also of the Municipal Inter-Agency Committee (MIAC) composed of different department heads,” said Jennifer S. Joyce, Kalahi-CIDSS BSPMC chair.
Jennifer Leila S. Salvador, Internal Auditor and one of the MIAC members said that they were part in resolving the problem.
Prior to the MIAC meeting to settle the problem, Gregorio T. Day, Indigenous Peoples Municipal Representative (IPMR) helped in mediating to resolve the issue. He called the attention of the complainant and talked with him privately as part of their tradition in resolving conflict.
“During the MIAC meeting with the presence of the Municipal IPMR and the complainant, an ocular survey and assessment with the municipal assessor was suggested to verify and assess the worth of damage,” Salvador said.
Damaged crops were estimated at Php 10,000.00.
The ACT/MCT (Municipal Coordinating Team), on the other hand, recognized that they failed to explore the possible effects that would surface during the project implementation period despite the conduct of site validation.
As a resolution, Salmon was compensated for his damaged crops by the BLGU based on the assessment of the municipal assessor.
Kalahi-CIDSS grievance system
Kalahi-CIDSS is one of the programs of DSWD that uses the CDD (Community Driven Development) approach to empower local communities to undertake their own development projects by actively and directly participating in local governance. The people identify their community needs and vigorously take part in implementing their prioritized projects.
The Grievance Redress System (GRS) is among the unique features of the program. It is one of the key elements of Kalahi-CIDSS where stakeholders and volunteers at large are provided the opportunity to voice out their complaints, observations and suggestions to improve the program.
Modes of filing can be done through text messages, email, fax, verbal / walk-in, suggestion boxes at the BSPMC or ACT/MCT offices.
“People affected by development projects should be provided with access to mechanisms that are legitimate, reliable and transparent to enable them to present their grievances and find solutions that satisfy their needs and aspirations,” stressed DSWD XI Regional Director Mercedita P. Jabagat.
Since 2014, KALAHI-CIDSS has received 3,009 cases with 2,203 grievances and 806 PINCOs (problems, issues, needs, concerns, observations) of which 98% has been resolved and acted upon using GRS, Jackie Lou Ruta, Kalahi-CIDSS Grievance Monitoring Officer said.
Strengthening local governance through GRS
The presence and involvement of significant stakeholders like the Barangay Local Government Unit (BLGU) and Municipal Inter-Agency Committee (MIAC) in resolving the grievance, demonstrated their sama-samang pagkilos nang may malasakit (collective action with compassion), thus strengthening their participation in grievance resolution.
In this case, the GRS mechanism served as venue for open communication among stakeholders specifically between Kalahi-CIDSS implementers and the Indigenous Peoples sector.
In an interview with IPMR Day, he shared how indigenous communities are confronted with complex challenges in the community.
“Sa pag implementar sa maong programa, kinahanglan dili gyud maligsan ang kulturanhong katungod sa mga kaigsoonang IP. Isa sa rason nga nasulbad ang maong problema kay tungod sa pag respeto sa among mga balaod. (Program implementation should consider the cultural rights of the IPs. One of the reasons why the grievance was resolved was because of the respect shown for our cultural laws).”
Kalahi-CIDSS creates a huge space of opportunity for them to learn, engage and settle disputes along with different agencies and program implementers.
“Nagpasalamat ko kay natubag og naayos ang maong problema sa akong luna. Ang pagtubag sa maong problema ang isa sa nakapalig-on sa relasyon sa mga kaubanan sa barangay. Ang mga problema angay nga pagahisgutan aron matagaan kini og sulusyon (I’m grateful that my grievance on my farm was properly processed. The settlement of the case strengthened our relationships in the barangay. Problems must be raised for solutions to be arrived at),” complainant Salmon pointed out. (DSWD)