G-Watch Holds Series of Discussions with Bacolod Leaders and Activists

Government Watch (G-Watch) held a series of discussions with Bacolod activists and leaders that aim to reflect on and assess the result of the 2022 elections and the recent and ongoing reform campaigns of Bacolod social movements.

A roundtable discussion on July 21 conducted at the Bacolod Social Action Center (SAC) reflected on the misses and gains in the campaigns for good governance in the 2022 elections. Former Negros Occidental Governor Rafael "Lito" Coscolluela and Rev. Fr. Chris Gonzales of SAC shared their assessment of the state of activism in Negros and what should be the next steps for the civic and political movements in the country. Key agreements include the need to build on the gains, reclaim participatory spaces in government, harness multisectoral and multilevel partnerships and push for good governance in the barangay, city, municipal and provincial governments of Negros.

The discussion in the afternoon reviewed the environmental campaigns in Negros, particularly the tree-planting efforts, the war against plastic and the push for renewal energy. After successfully passing local ordinances, such as the Plastic Ordinance in Bacolod City and the Renewal Energy Roadmap in Negros Occidental, the participants discussed the steps taken by the movements to ensure that these policy victories resulted in gains beneficial to the people.

The actions were varied including continuing the negotiation and dialogue with government, as well as engaging the business sector. Revealed in the process were key governance gaps, such as the thin data on reforestation, the need for further research and broadened engagement to push for alternative sources of energy, and the importance of continuing awareness and information campaigns to organize people and further broaden the environment constituencies and movements in Negros.

The forum on July 22 was attended by around 30 youth leaders from various progressive youth organizations in Bacolod, namely Akbayan Youth – Bacolod, SocFem Bacolod, Bacolod Youth for Leni, Negros Youth for Leni, College and University student councils and Sangguniang Kabataan officials. Francis Isaac from G-Watch gave a presentation entitled “Organizing for Power, Organizing for Accountability” that highlighted the vertical integration approach as a way to build people power to hold consolidating power to account. Despite the difficult battle in the 2022 elections, hope remains active and persistent among the youth activists of Bacolod and they expressed readiness to continue the struggle ahead, armed by lessons from the past.

Himamaylan Vice Mayor Justin Gatuslao presented the TPA initiatives that he is spearheading in his locality and shared his experience in championing TPA and using TPA as his framework as a government official. Himamaylan is one of the local governments in the country with a local Freedom of Information (FOI) ordinance. Vice Mayor Gatuslao has also initiated consultative processes and online feedback mechanisms that aim to generate inputs and comments from citizens on what should be the priorities of the Himamaylan local government.   

A key takeaway of the youth from the forum is the prospect of advancing vertically-integrated TPA in engaging governance, particularly in making programs that are important to the youth more responsive and accountable.

G-Watch Bacolod/Negros Occidental, along with REpower Negros  is part of local reform initiatives such as the Renewable Energy Movement of the Province and the lobbying for the Plastic Ordinance and Bawal Bastos Ordinance of Bacolod City. G-Watch Bacolod and its networks have also conducted Citizen Empowerment seminars to equip citizens and stakeholders to conduct capacity-building in order to effectively and constructively engage with power holders. Its local coordinators are also part of the political movement pushing for electoral, democratic and progressive reforms in the province.

With its organizational mandate to provide spaces to reflect on political and governance reforms and promote dialogues on transparency, participation and accountability (TPA), G-Watch is undertaking a series of post-elections consultations with partners and allies in civil society and government. The aim is to reflect on the outcome of the elections and explore a possible strategic direction for TPA work in the locality.

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