Last May, Bantay.ph partnered with Fly Dev, a youth organization that provides socially relevant volunteer opportunities to student leaders, for "Summer Undercover." It was the biggest data collection activity of Bantay.ph with 60 volunteers from Fly Dev to cover the different cities of Metro Manila. As a good governance organization, Bantay.ph regularly fields youth volunteers to visit different city halls to check the quality of frontline services. The approach is geared towards what citizens can do to improve governance in the country - in this case, student leaders from: San Sebastian College, Lyceum Philippines University, University of the East, DLSU Dasmarinas, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, St. John Technical College of the Philippines, Datamex Institute, Adamson University, Eugelio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology, UP Diliman, and DLSU Manila.
In partnership with the Civil Service Commisison, Bantay.ph volunteers, or City Watchers, are issued permits by National Government to allow entry for inspection in local government units. This is a far cry from Bantay.ph’s early days wherein students would go in city halls guerrilla style and were eventually kicked out of the city hall due to a lack of authorizing entity allowing university level students to enter the city hall. Today, our partnership with the CSC, allows us to inspect frontline service activities by surveying the clients and by collecting data on compliance of the Anti Red Tape Act. Moreover, the findings are published online in the Red Tape Index of our website and are reported back to national government for further investigation and/or prosecution.
Bribery is commonplace in government offices and we’re no longer shocked by people who pay small bribes here and there. To some, fixing is a totally legitimate job and people’s idea of getting things done efficiently is paying a bribe. We’ve accepted it as a practice that it doesn’t seem wrong at all. Most of the time, we are quick to justify and say “there’s nothing I can do anyway, so might as well do what everyone else is doing.”
I was asked once, “Why sweat the small stuff? There are bigger dragons to slay.” And these volunteer programs we run with students always reaffirm my answer - because it starts there.
As the student volunteers from Fly Dev shuffled in the function room that San Sebastian College graciously lent us, you could feel the positive energy from them. Corruption was not something they were simply going to inherit from the previous generation. In fact their presence proved that they wanted to do more than sit around and complain. They were going to spend their precious summer days visiting government offices and understanding what was actually happening. During our de-brief students were asked about the state of governance in our country, they all agreed, based on their 3 day visit to the offices they were assigned to, that corruption existed. But more notably, they all agreed and acknowledged that they could do something about it.
“One thing I’ve learned in my Summer Undercover experience is the fact that the more the clients tolerate that kind of practice, the more that government officers will practice it.” says Miguel Narca who visited the Treasury office of the Malabon City Hall.
We all know that there is corruption in government offices but the problem is not limited to government - it will continue if citizens continue to pay bribes and allow government officials to abuse their power. While we all know about corruption, the more destructive part is when we start choosing to believe that we can’t do anything about it.
Summer Undercover is the data collection activity organised by Bantay.ph and FlyDev that happened in May 2015. 60 students went around the different cities of Metro Manila to keep government in check. All survey findings can be downloaded in open data format here.