Rough Cuts: Why the low knowledge on ordinances?

An article written by a good friend of ours Tony Ajero which appeared in the local paper he is editing himself says that only about 70 percent of Davao City’s population are aware of the existence of the Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance (RWHO).

This local legislation was passed by the City Sanggunian in 2009 and was painstakingly sponsored by the late First District councilor Leonardo Avila III.

According to Tony’s article, the significantly low knowledge of the people on the Rain Harvesting Ordinance was discovered by environment advocates Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) and the Social Research Training and Development Office (SRTDO) of the Ateneo de Davao University that conducted a series of separate city-wide surveys on the compliance of the RWHO.

Should we be surprised on these findings? The City Council, and the city government in general, had it coming. In fact the two agencies that conducted the separate studies should have checked whether the ordinance has already been provided its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). It is not uncommon to find out that many important ordinances of Davao City do not have IRR several years after its passage. One ordinance that was discovered to have no IRR only when it was sought to be amended is the City’s Water Code. That is why we want the City Council to come out clean as to the RWHO’s IRR. Does the said ordinance have it already?

We also believe that this very low knowledge level of the city’s population can be traced to the Sanggunian’s seeming disregard of the importance of the local lawmaking body’s Committee on Information. In fact, record at the Sanggunian will disclose that the chairmanship of the SP Information Committee is usually given to a member who is seen to be “outcast” from the majority. And those who are given the opportunity to chair that committee find the role less enticing; kind of pittance compared to other bodies considered very influential.

This could be the reason why we have not heard or read of significant information, education, and communications (IEC) program to let the people know what the City Council is doing, what are the different ordinances passed that would affect the lives of the residents of the city.

For example people are not made aware of how approved ordinances are published as requirement for these to be in effect. In fact we have no idea how the raffling of publication of ordinances is being done; what office is responsible? Is it the Executive or the City Council?

We are however, aware of the fact that raffles for right to publish most of the ordinances that are well-endowed in provisions and would require several pages, are won by newspapers that supposedly come out weekly but with copies printed not even reaching one hundred. And these are even hardly seen in newsstands. So what opportunity will this provide the people to be aware of the ordinance being published?

Another question is which of the Executive and the Legislative Departments is holding the purse for expenses on information dissemination? Is the cost of publication of ordinances under the Sangguniang Panlungsod budget? If it is, then the unit at the SP tasked to do the IEC drive must come out with its information dissemination program and projects.

And if we have to focus on the low consciousness of the city’s population on the Rain Harvesting Ordinance, then we strongly recommend that the local government take note of the findings in the studies revealed during a forum done at the Ateneo de Davao’s Community Engagement Advocacy Council Friday last week.

But of course we find it beneficial for both the city government and the people of Davao if the Council can come up with a continuing IEC program that will highlight details of ordinances, status of compliance monitoring, benefits that can be derived in following mandates of ordinances, and the consequences of its violations.

After all, what are ordinances for if these are only in papers hidden in some rickety cabinets of the Sangguniang Panlungsod administrative office, or at the innermost recesses of steel vaults in the City Mayor’s Office.

Let these ordinances be known to the public; all of it. And this IEC drive must not just be during the deliberation of the City Council up to its passage and signing by the mayor. It has to be up to a period when people’s knowledge about the local laws can be assumed as substantial.

And yes, the city must have such knowledge level be validated by third parties like the IDIS and the Ateneo Social Research Development and Training Office. That is the way to go.

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Posted in Opinion