Media-Citizen Engagement Project in Mindanao Seeks to Push ARMM Reforms 

The Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) in partnership with The Asia Foundation (TAF), has recently signed an agreement to undertake 12-month project “Strengthening Media-Citizen Engagement for Reforms in the ARMM” in three key areas in the region.


It was developed, through the Transition Investment Support Plan (TISP), as one of the reform strategies identified in the Roadmap for Governance Reforms in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The roadmap presents both a challenge and an opportunity for bringing forward a media-citizen reform strategy, combining potent citizen action and wide ranging coverage and influence of the press especially those working in local communities where the need for reforms is more keenly felt.


As a major component of the Roadmap, the TISP has already identified the critical role of civil society in its implementation.  By engaging the news media in the process, an initiative that aims to develop local public audit and reporting mechanisms will help ensure a more effective and equitable implementation of the Roadmap’s eight key action points:


  1. Improvement of basic services delivery
  2. Creating an enabling environment for public and private partnership towards equitable growth
  3. Stepping up peace and order initiatives for sustained growth and development
  4. Performing and strengthening bureaucratic reforms
  5. Cleaning up the electoral process and ensuring peace in the region
  6. Ensuring good governance benchmarks in ARMM
  7. Fully engaging CSOs and people’s organizations in governance
  8. Maximizing the potential of ARMM 


The project focuses on the need and importance of developing and enhancing the capacities of local media-citizen groups that work collaboratively on encouraging more responsive governance, building a monitoring and reporting system especially on the elections including focused training on mitigating violence, expanding alliances and constituency, and generating greater public awareness and support.   


While these can be considered as useful templates for media-citizen engagement initiatives, current realities and emerging challenges may also help shape future undertakings of a similar nature.


Through this project, the CCJD hopes to be able to make a modest contribution in pushing for meaningful reform in ARMM and Mindanao since it has had long-standing partnerships and working relationships with both the media and civil society in the region on wide-ranging concerns such as good governance (transparency and accountability), access to information, electoral reform, peace and sustainable development, disaster risk reduction and climate change, and human rights.


Some of these CCJD countrywide initiatives have been noted by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner (UNOHCHR) for effectively addressing the issue of continuing lack of transparency and accountability, protection of social and economic rights and other basic human rights.


Through its publication Good Governance Practices to Protect Human Rights, the UNOHCHR pointed out how these projects sought to bring the Philippine media and civil society organizations together by allowing them to examine the extent of their collaborative tolerance and common points of agreement in order for them to strengthen the ability of local communities to participate in governance. The publication also said: “The motivation behind this endeavor was the understanding that the media are not simply communicators of facts, but that they also influence public policy agendas and can act as catalysts for community efforts to demand good governance.”


“Civil society and the media are crucial to maintaining an atmosphere in public life that discourages fraud and corruption.  Indeed, they are arguably the two most important factors in eliminating systemic corruption in public institutions,” says Rick Stapenhurst in his World Bank Institute paper, “The Media’s Role in Curbing Corruption.”


This assertion not only enhances the framework of media-citizen engagement that is the guiding principle of the public journalism philosophy that the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) espouses but also helps in illuminating the crafting of a roadmap for citizens, civil society and the media on how they can contribute to meaningful change through reforms.


Public journalism principles by themselves are rights-based as they engage, involve and ensure that citizens’ voices are heard in issues that impact on their daily lives.  Public journalism is sometimes also referred to as community-connected journalism or civic journalism and shares one common characteristic: there is no exclusive ownership…it is owned and shared by all who believe in its possibilities and who are willing to take it to new directions.