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PIA Press Release

People's participation key to effective local governance

Cebu City (21 November) -- Transparency, accountability and people's participation are the keys to effective local governance as a poor town in Maguindanao with three conflicting major tribal groups takes prides today in active participation and involvement in the town's development initiatives.

Mayor Ramon Piang of Upi, Maguindanao in Mindanao bared that his little town of slightly over 50,000 population with 23 barangays that have three tribal groups that used to harbor deep-seated conflict with each other but because of responsible good governance, the three tribal groups now enjoy harmonious co-existence with each other easily paving the way for development to flourish in this town where 60 percent of the people live below the poverty threshold.

Piang was recently in Cebu City as one of the resource speakers of the recent activity dubbed Understanding Choices Forum with the theme 'Taking Charge of Development: Mainstreaming Good Governance' sponsored by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. attended by local chief executives, civil society, students and business leaders as well as media representatives.

Piang in his presentation of the Upi Profile in mainstreaming good governance bared his vision for his town is to be a premier eco-tourism destination as it is mainly an agricultural area but must also enjoy urban amenities like internet connection, banking system and basic infrastructure.

"We intend to pursue our vision through good governance, peace and unity and people empowerment," Piang claimed.

Piang, a former school principal, said that when he became mayor, his greatest challenge was to unite the three major tribal groups namely the Teduray Lumads which consists about 44 percent of the population, Moro tribe with 20 percent and the settlers with 33 percent.

The situation before where conflicts arise among the three groups were due to several factors such as minimal participation of the community in local governance, no avenues for civil society organizations to participate in governance where the community kept on complaining and criticized the government fostering an atmosphere of distrust, Piang disclosed.

Piang said in order for the conflicting tribes to unie is to give them equal importance and let them participate in local governance as one significant program intervention established was the creation of the Mayor's Council.

The Mayor's Council is similar to the Lupong Tapapamayapa where it settles conflicts out of court. But what is distinct about the Mayor's Council is that it is a tri-people way of conflict resolution or the indigenous way of settling conflict mechanisms, according to Piang.

Piang added the Mayor's Council is a conflict resolution body composed of two elders from the three tribal groups chosen by each group and does not act as a court but merely presides conflict arbitration and considers the traditions of the three major tribes in settling disagreements.

Objectives to the program are to stabilize peace and order as a precedent to progress, prosperity and development; help the barangay council to amicably settle cases of disputes; avoid the rigor and detrimental effect of court litigation and minimize if not eradicate the clogging of cases before the courts; and most importantly, harmonizes the relationship of the three major tribal groups while the conflict resolution structure is affordable to the marginalized sectors, this is learned.

Piang said that to seal the dispute after an agreement is reached, the Se Egud Kenugan ritual is practiced where the nails of either conflicting individuals or parties are scraped and placed in a glass with water and then drank by both parties.

The Se Egud Kenugan is a cultural ritual that is strong and binding agreement among the tribal groups, this is said.

Piang said the Mayor's Council was able to resolve 66 cases out of the 85 cases heard while 19 cases were endorsed to the police although 10 of these cases were again referred to the council for resolution as requested by the conflicting parties. (PIA-Cebu/FCR) [top]

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