“Research on political participation has identified a number of deep-seated norms and values that are positively associated with the amount and quality of democratic engagement,” explains Delli Carpini , in the Handbook of Political Communication Research . “One of the most central of these,” as Carpini points out, “is political efficacy, or the sense that one’s participation can actually make a difference (internal efficacy) and that the political system would be responsive to this participation (external efficacy).” As I read this quote, I am reminded of a case in point that perfectly illustrates this theoretical concept.
Bantay Kurpasyon is a community radio-show in the Philippines  that started out as a commentary on government affairs and corruption. But when the show received backlash and pressure, the hosts retaliated by directly soliciting public complaints and evidence through on-air, mobile-texting and web-mails. The program also went on-line with a E-newsletter and a Facebook account to reach a wider audience in support of the cause. The E-newsletter has a section that is devoted to public reporting on corruption cases. It reads: Any information on corruption? Complaint against a public officer or office? Report here. Similarly, billboards have been erected in major cities of the Misamis Occidental province (where the radio-show is hosted) that feature hotline for citizens to report on anomalies to Bantay Kurapsyon.
Bantay Kurapsyon (which translates as Corruption Watch in English) has been voted as the most popular and credible public affairs on-air program, claims its website. The radio-show receives more than 146 text messages per show and at least 21 reports every day off-show, reports its January 2009 E-newsletter. The E-newsletter informs that the radio-show maintains an average listener-rating of 7,000 per show. The Station Manager of the FM station where the show is aired reported that “more and more listeners are tuning in their radios to the DXNA FM Station since Bantay Kurapsyon began.” About six hundred members have joined the program Facebook, where discussions on contemporary politics and government affairs (such as budget in health sector, spending in city hall construction and corruption in the Mayor’s office) are taking place.
The show has gained its popularity not only because it provides a forum to expose everyday corruption faced by ordinary people but more because it exploits its listener-base to garner public support and take actions on the issues raised. For instance, a community member had reported that the head of a certain Barangay (administrative unit) had been misusing the government vehicle for private use. After first aired on the program, more than a dozen text messages from the residents of the same Barangay confirmed the case. Earlier, the Barangay head had denied accusations against her but she finally had to succumb to the public pressure and gave an apology to her constituents on air. “Since then, people have felt empowered. They have been reporting problems concerning government offices without fear. And the program keeps on its track,” the E-newsletter quotes Paul Gangoso, the Executive Director of ECOLINK , which co-hosts Bantay Kurapsyon with the FM Station.
Some issues that have been tackled by Bantay Kurapsyon include:
- Complaints of students, parents and teachers against a school principal for allegedly inflicting psychological and physical harm to students;
- Complaints against rice distribution by the National Food Authority containing harmful wastes of insects and agri-animals and quota to stores;
- Complaints against the failure of the Water District to finish road improvements.
The actions and achievements prompted by these complaints are:
- The Department of Education ordered a suspension of the school principal after conducting an investigation of the matter.
- The National Food Authority reviewed all rice distribution and cut-off maximum acquisition quota to stores.
- The road was immediately repaired.
- The practice of Cops victimization of small vendors no longer exists.
- The misuse of government-issued vehicles has been completely eradicated in the province.
The above example illustrates that “efficacy is strongly correlated with political and civil participation,” as explained in the Handbook . Intermediaries, such as the ECOLINK and FM station acted as catalysts in unleashing internal efficacy to facilitate external efficacy. The participation of individuals in reporting cases of corruption actually made a difference and the political system was responsive to this participation.
Photo Credit: Jaako  (Flickr)
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