The Case of Transformative Governance in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte


Kauswagan has witnessed and suffered from the atrocities of war and violence for many years now. It has been considered by social observers as a barometer for armed conflict between the government and Muslim rebels, since this is where the “all-out-war” started in the years 2000 and 2008. The major causes of conflicts and unrest in the municipality could be attributed to the unresolved land disputes between the Maranaos and Visayan settlers, the experience of discrimination among different ethnic groups, and inadequate access of basic services and development opportunities in the upland areas. Many lives had been lost and many development opportunities had been missed because of this on-going conflict situation.

While living in the shadows of fear and terror, the town also deteriorated because of its corrupt and ineffective local government unit. For many years, municipal officials were disunited due to vested political and economic interests. Mismanagement of public funds was rampant, leading to the suspension of former Chief Executives and the filing of graft and corruption cases on several local officials in the Office of the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan. Tax collections of the municipality slumped and poverty incidence increased to an alarming level, 79% in 2008.

In May 2010, the people of Kauswagan elected Mayor Rommel Arnado as their new leader with the hope significant changes will happen in their town. After the elections, Mayor Arnado began to dismantle the machineries of corruption in the municipal government and started to draw a road map for Peace and Development in the Municipality with assistance of ADFI. The road map was called the “Sustainable Integrated Kauswagan Development and Peace Agenda” or SIKAD-PA, a local term that means “to strive more”. It was adopted as a municipal development policy by virtue of SB Resolution No. 148-2011.

SIKAD-PA became the rallying point for convergence among the people, the LGU, and other support groups. Through its collaboration with ADFI and other agencies under the Public-Private Partnership for Justice, Development and Peace (PPP-JDP) Program, the LGU was able to capacitate and mobilize community leaders to implement various peace advocacy, basic services and income generating projects in both Muslim and Christian communities. Local community organizers supported by the LGU, were fielded in the barangays to ensure the implementation of the SIKAD-PA projects. Peace sensitive and performance based plans and monitoring systems were set-up to ensure accountability and transparency. Financial management and tax collection reforms were also put in place.

After barely a year of pushing for the implementation of SIKAD-PA, the people of Kauswagan were amazed about the changes that their town has experienced under the leadership of Mayor Arnado. Despite the recent setbacks in the peace negotiations, the town has not experienced any major armed clashes between government and MILF forces this year, while the crime rate is down to 0%. Meanwhile poverty incidence below food threshold level decreased from 69% in 2010 to 56.2 % by the end of 2011. Local tax collection rate is almost double compared to the previous years’, indicating increased people’s confidence in LGU. Because of this performance, it was not a surprise that the LGU was considered one of best performers in Lanao del Norte this year, and was given a Seal of Good Housekeeping by DILG. It was also nominated as among the 110 candidates for the 2011 Galing Pook Awards.