Dumingag Vice Mayor Nacianceno “Jun” M. Pacalioga Jr. became the first recipient of the Jose Edgardo Campos Collaborative Leadership (JECCL) Lifetime Award. Given by the Global Partnership on Collaborative Leadership for Development and the World Bank Group, recipients are recognized for their “distinctive leadership that has mobilized ideas, people, and resources,” according to World Bank website. Pacalioga received the award on 06 March 2017 at the Global Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.
Pacalioga is a Mindanao Bridging Leaders Program Fellow at the Asian Institute of Management’s TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership.
During his three previous terms as mayor, Pacalioga spearheaded the community’s shift toward sustainable organic agriculture through people empowerment and collaborative leadership, diminishing poverty in Dumingag and improving the Zamboanga del Sur town’s economy.
“If we're not aware of the people’s situation, [and we're] too distant from those we govern, we will have a different worldview,” Pacalioga said. “Our commitment to serving the people will weaken. We need to go back to the people.” (“Kung wala na tayo sa tao, [at] masyadong malayo sa mga pamunuan natin, iba na paningin [natin] sa mundo. At commitment in serving the people bababa nang bababa. Kailangan puntahan ‘yung mga tao.”)
Dumingag is a landlocked municipality in Zamboanga del Sur, Mindanao, which has experienced intergenerational cycles of poverty. Pacalioga became mayor in 2007. He believed that for change to happen, Dumingagnons from municipal to community level must be involved.
Pacalioga established an executive committee, made up of municipal officials. Together, they drafted an eight-point agenda called “Genuine Peoples’ Agenda (GPA)” with the Transformative Education (TE) program at its core.
Targeting elementary and high school students, TE employed innovative learning methods such as adopting the indigenous organic agricultural practices of the Subanen people. Through the project, the Dumingagnons learned about organic farming methods and the Subanen culture. These were eventually integrated into school curricula.
The project gained further momentum in 2012 when Pacalioga joined the Mindanao Bridging Leaders Program of the AIM’s TeaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership. With a deeper understanding of collaborative leadership, he refined his approach so that the implementation of the TE program could effectively reach his constituents.
The efforts of Pacalioga and his co-leaders resulted in raised farmer incomes and a sustainable local economy for Dumingag. That same year, many farmers shifted from conventional to organic farming and formed cooperatives for production and marketing. In 2013, they sold several varieties of organic rice, which further contributed to Dumingag’s agricultural enterprises.
Pacalioga believes this was possible through partnerships with various local and international organizations and sectors, one of which is the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement.
Pacalioga’s leadership and collective-action approach has been recognized by various local and international award-giving bodies. The latest of his accolades is the JECCL award, which was created in memory of Jose Edgardo Campos, a former World Bank practice manager, who embodied collaborative leadership and worked on reform programs around the world until his passing in 2014.
On learning of the recognition, Pacalioga exclaimed, “I couldn't believe it. I asked repeatedly if it was real. I was going home, I was at the airport, [I asked them], ‘Why me?’” (“Hindi ako makapaniwala. Paulit-ulit akong nagtanong kung totoo ba. Umuwi na ako, nasa airport, [tinanong ko], ‘Bakit daw ako?’”)
After 10 years in local government, Pacalioga highlighted his major insights on collaborative leadership: “You're certain that your decisions are nearer to the truth. The process is consultative because a lot of people are involved and there are many ideas. Several people discuss the issue before reaching a certain decision,” he said. (“Mas sigurado kang mas malapit sa katotohanan ang decisions, consultative ang proseso kasi marami kayo, maraming ideas. Maraming magdi-discuss bago umabot sa ganung decision.”)
Challenges in Implementation
According to Pacalioga, the implementation of collaborative leadership is tested on four fronts: consolidation efforts at the grassroots level, reenergizing leaders, the institutionalization of systems, and diplomatic relations.
Based on his observations, every three years, the people’s participation declines. So there is still a need for continuous integration of the ideas and issues into the community.
“Because discussions in governance take place everyday, the leaders' political awareness increases. The grassroots are left behind. Not all programs cascaded to the community address their needs. The people need to be consulted. We need to go back to them to know if the program is effective,” Pacalioga explained. (“Dahil everyday ang discussion sa governance, medyo aangat ang political awareness ng leaders. Naiwan ‘yung mga tao sa baba. Hindi lahat ng programs na binababa ay mahusay. Kailangan i-konsulta mga tao, babalik [tayo sa kanila], kung epektibo ba ang program.”)
To illustrate his point, Pacalioga said that when they saw a significant yearly reduction in crop production, they went back to the villages to talk to the community. After that, production increased.
He added that an important part of the reconsolidation process is reenergizing leaders. One issue, for instance, may be the lack of skills of municipal officials. One way to address the problem is through weeklong training programs, which includes familiarization with the GPA, ideological formation, and community integration.
About sending leaders into the field, Pacalioga said, “Leaders have been in office for so long. Their views are too distant from what’s happening on the ground, that's why they should be sent to the community.” (“Matagal na panahon na ang mga leaders nasa opisina. Malayo ang pagtingin nila sa ground kaya kailangan papuntahin sa community.”)
Building Dumingag’s Future
Pacalioga said their primary task moving forward will be the installation and creation of a bio-village, the expansion of social enterprises, the institutionalization of correct local government systems, and strengthening collaborative leadership training for municipal officials.
Dumingag will also build schools that teach crop growth based on the current climate situation so the town can optimize its harvest.
Despite the progress Dumingag has achieved, however, there is still lots of work to be done. Said Pacalioga, “I've been in government for 10 years. In Dumingag, you still see poverty. That's my inspiration to serve.” (“Ten years na tayo sa gobyerno. Sa Dumingag, makikita mo pa rin ang poverty. ‘Yan ang inspiration ko to serve.”)