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Budget Deliberation as Communicative Practice: The Case of a Rural Municipality in the Philippines

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  • University of the Philippines

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This study explores how municipal council members communicate with each other during budget deliberations, and suggests ways in how they ought to communicate more effectively with each other. Guided by Grounded Practical Theory, the researcher has analysed the transcribed talks of the budget deliberations of a rural municipality in the Philippines from 2013 to 2016. Specifically, the researcher delves into three levels of budget deliberation as a communicative practice: (1) problem level or the dilemma that the municipal council members are presented within the conduct of the budget deliberations, (2) technical level or the "discourse moves" or strategies employed by the municipal council members to manage the dilemma and (3) philosophical level, which starts with "situated ideals" or the municipal council members' belief as to how they "ought" to act in the communicative practice. Through the analysis of transcribed talks and semi-structured interviews, the researcher has identified three problems that municipal council members encounter during budget deliberations: (1) technicalities of the budget process and documents, (2) lack of information and (3) politics. To address these problems, municipal council members employ communicative strategies that could facilitate comprehension and/or consensus, stall, or fast-track the budget deliberation, namely: (1) code switch, (2) referral and deferral, (3) establishment of openness, assertion of competence, and making a plea, (4) clarification and © Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia, 2021. This work is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Budget Deliberation in the Philippines 284 suggestion, (5) repetition, (6) show of empathy for constituents, (7) sarcasm, (8) redirection and restriction, (9) silence and (10) termination. Except for sarcasm and silence, these communicative strategies are also used to achieve the situated ideal of duty-centered budget deliberation that places importance on respect and continuous dialogue. The reconstruction of budget deliberation as a communicative practice shows that despite communicative problems, the municipal council members employ communicative strategies to help them accomplish their duties. The results also allow for the reflection on improvements to the budget deliberations and its implications on governance.
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IJAPS, Vol. 17, No. 2, 283–319, 2021
BUDGET DELIBERATION AS COMMUNICATIVE
PRACTICE: THE CASE OF A RURAL MUNICIPALITY
IN THE PHILIPPINES
Louise Antonette S. Villanueva*
Department of Development Broadcasting and Telecommunication,
College of Development Communication, University of the Philippine
Los Baños, Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines
E-mail: lsvillanueva@up.edu.ph
Published online: 30 July 2021
To cite this article: Villanueva, L. A. S. 2021. Budget deliberation as communicative
practice: The case of a rural municipality in the Philippines. International Journal
of Asia Pacic Studies 17 (2): 283–319. https://doi.org/10.21315/ijaps2021.17.2.11
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.21315/ijaps2021.17.2.11
ABSTRACT
This study explores how municipal council members communicate with each other
during budget deliberations, and suggests ways in how they ought to communicate
more eectively with each other. Guided by Grounded Practical Theory, the
researcher has analysed the transcribed talks of the budget deliberations of a rural
municipality in the Philippines from 2013 to 2016. Specically, the researcher
delves into three levels of budget deliberation as a communicative practice:
(1) problem level or the dilemma that the municipal council members are
presented within the conduct of the budget deliberations, (2) technical level or
the “discourse moves” or strategies employed by the municipal council members
to manage the dilemma and (3) philosophical level, which starts with “situated
ideals” or the municipal council members’ belief as to how they “ought” to act in
the communicative practice. Through the analysis of transcribed talks and semi-
structured interviews, the researcher has identied three problems that municipal
council members encounter during budget deliberations: (1) technicalities of the
budget process and documents, (2) lack of information and (3) politics. To address
these problems, municipal council members employ communicative strategies that
could facilitate comprehension and/or consensus, stall, or fast-track the budget
deliberation, namely: (1) code switch, (2) referral and deferral, (3) establishment
of openness, assertion of competence, and making a plea, (4) clarication and
© Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia, 2021. This work is licensed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution (CC BY)(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
IJAPS, Vol. 17, No. 2, 283–319, 2021 Budget Deliberation in the Philippines
284
suggestion, (5) repetition, (6) show of empathy for constituents, (7) sarcasm,
(8) redirection and restriction, (9) silence and (10) termination. Except for sarcasm
and silence, these communicative strategies are also used to achieve the situated
ideal of duty-centered budget deliberation that places importance on respect and
continuous dialogue. The reconstruction of budget deliberation as a communicative
practice shows that despite communicative problems, the municipal council
members employ communicative strategies to help them accomplish their duties.
The results also allow for the reection on improvements to the budget deliberations
and its implications on governance.
Keywords: communicative practice, grounded practical theory, local government
unit, budget deliberation, governance
INTRODUCTION
The budget process is one of the most critical practices that governments
conduct annually. In the Philippines, it involves all branches of the
national government and all departments in local government units
(LGUs). Due to its multi-level and multi-dimensional nature, setbacks and
bottlenecks are common. The national budget relies on executive-legislative
relations and this results in budget allocation problems stemming from
rampant corruption and the lack of scal discipline and tax compliance
(Blondal 2010: 3). The scarcity of monetary resources is not limited to the
national government. At the local government level, the primary source of
the budget is the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). However, the Asian
Development Bank (2013: 3) reported unreliable IRA transfers to the
LGUs. Up to 45% of the budget could be allotted to personnel services
(Department of Budget and Management 2011: 3). The rest is what remains
for social and economic services and other expenditures. The allocation
is determined through the long process of deliberation among elected
members of the municipal council.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the quarterly IRA releases and
limitations in the local government budget, municipal council members
must prioritise the services that will receive a share of the budget, and in
turn, also decide what the government will and will not do. This shows
the nature of budgeting as a political process wherein powers in structure,
norms, and values are evident (Norton and Elson 2002). Budget actors
such as municipal council members are expected to exercise their power to
advance their budgetary goals (Rubin 2014) and use strategies to control,
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285
manage, plan, and approve funding of certain programmes (Stanford 1992).
This could lead to discomfort, tension, or conict during budget deliberation.
These discomforts, tensions, or conicts are deemed by Tracy (1995) as
interesting moments because they can provide an in-depth understanding
of communicative problems, strategies, and situated ideals as municipal
council members interact among themselves.
The budget process is a common topic of interest among scholars.
Aside from looking at the process using the political science perspective,
many studies often analysed budgeting through the lens of accounting,
management, and economics (e.g., Leach-López et al. 2007; Kyj and
Parker 2008; Venkatesh and Blaskovich 2012). This article, on the other
hand, considers the budget process, particularly the budget deliberation at
the local government level as a communicative practice. Through the use
of Craig and Tracy’s (1995) Grounded Practical Theory (GPT), this article
addresses two research questions: “How did municipal council members
communicate during budget deliberations?” and “How do municipal council
members ought to communicate during budget deliberations?” Specically,
this article aims to examine the following: (1) the communicative problems
encountered during budget deliberations, (2) the communicative strategies
employed by the municipal council members to address such problems
and (3) the situated ideal that guides how municipal council members
communicate during budget deliberations.
This article describes the budget deliberations and paves the way
for future scholars to consider how budget deliberation can be a form
of communicative practice. As this article shows, the municipal council
members recognised how they communicated, and they also thought
about why they communicated a certain way and how they should have
communicated during budget deliberations. In this regard, the article
provides both description and critique of municipal budget deliberations
wherein communication plays a key role in determining programmes and
services to be provided to constituents. It should be noted that the data
analysed in this article comes from just one municipality in the south of
Manila. Hence, the results are not generalisable or applicable to other
municipalities in the Philippines.
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286
LITERATURE REVIEW
Characteristics and Importance of Deliberation
Deliberative democrats who have deviated from the theory and practice
of classical democracy consider deliberation as an essential and non-
negotiable democratic process. Dryzek and Niemeyer (2012: para. 8) dene
deliberation as a process that “involves multidirectional conversation
aimed at improving both understanding and decision-making”. Dryzek and
Pickering (2017) also view deliberation as a driver of reexivity because
of its capacity to manage tensions between the following dichotomies:
(1) participation and expertise, (2) diversity and consensus, (3) polycentricity
and centralisation, and (4) exibility and stability.
Among the key characteristics of deliberation are the inclusion
and participation of concerned parties as well as the rationality of
communication using persuasive arguments (Tracy and Hughes 2014). At its
best, it is characterised as follows: (1) access to information of the parties,
(2) substantive balance where there is an adequate exchange of reasons
and arguments among parties, (3) diversity through the representation
of various opinions by several parties, (4) conscientiousness or honest
assessment of arguments based on merits and (5) equal consideration, which
means that the merits of reasons and arguments are given more weight
regardless of its source (Fishkin 2009: ch. 6). Deliberation is also seen as
an exhibition of equality and political conversation (Dutwin 2003).
Likewise, deliberation is not just a discussion. It encourages the
participation of marginalised groups, tempers elitism and creates a space for
pluralism through mutual recognition of dierences. It also has procedural
and dispositional components. The latter allows actors to take a “deliberative
stance”, wherein they consider exchanging reasons with fellow actors to reach
a common judgment (Curato et al. 2017). Empirical tests have proven these
claims. Deliberation is deemed dierent from other discussions and decision-
making processes, especially in position formation. With adequate reason-
giving and inclusivity, deliberation leads to more knowledge gains for actors
that can change their positions on issues (Schneiderhan and Khan 2008).
Incorporating deliberation on policies could also result in recognition of
important human values and awareness of one’s actions (Kenter et al. 2011).
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Deliberation in Practice: Problems and Strategies
Since deliberations involve individuals and groups of varying interests,
it is common for problems to arise in the process. Foremost is the use of
force instead of reasons in evaluating the merits of arguments (Cohen
1989: 22–23). Force is integral to the existence of judgmental constraints,
which prevent actors from reecting on how they should vote and why
they should vote in favour of one argument over another. Parties might
also experience dialogical constraints, especially if they stick to their
personal opinions instead of forming or changing these opinions through
constant dialogue with others. Furthermore, it is common for deliberations
to have inclusive constraints wherein parties are not directly represented
(Pettit 2003: 139).
In addition to the aforementioned constraints, there are deliberation
barriers that prevent the improvement of government functions such as
policymaking. These barriers are as follows: (1) power needs, (2) political
irrationality versus technical rigidity, (3) dierent perspectives, (4) part-
time versus full-time employees, (4) technical experts versus citizens,
(5) public apathy and feelings of powerlessness, and (6) public proceedings
(Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington 1999: 25–26).
Some of these barriers are also noted in the ndings of Wooley and
Gardner (2017). Their study of the Federal Open Market Committee
suggests that leaders and their capacity to facilitate and ensure equality
among parties are imperative to deliberative reasoning. The same is
articulated about the expression of dissent.
Problems are ever-present in deliberations, and parties employ strategies
that will address these problems and help them achieve their desired outcomes
such as understanding, agreement, consensus, or even dissent. These strategies
and their determinants have been the subject of research studies.
In their research about online deliberations on food safety, scholars
from the Ghent University have found that cognitive, attitudinal, and/or
behavioural functions determine actors’ activities during deliberations.
These activities also increase through the use of interactive media (Rutsaert
et al. 2015: 197–198). However, it has been argued that while online
deliberations can be exercised with fewer barriers, interaction guidelines
should be implemented (Mummery and Rodan 2013: 36–37).
Another common communicative strategy in deliberation is
storytelling. Personal anecdotes in deliberation serve as a mechanism
for actors to share information, and at the same, make the opposing
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parties realise the similarities and dierences in their experiences (Black
2009, cited in Myers and Mendelberg 2013: 16; Walsh 2007, cited in
Myers and Mendelberg 2013: 16). Actors in deliberation also use modes
that encourage and permit disagreements over social conversations
(Polletta 2008, cited in Myers and Mendelberg 2013: 16). For others,
employing a decision-oriented deliberation is important to arrive at a
collaborative solution geared towards addressing problems (Van de Ven
et al. 2017: 1335).
Message or information is also a key consideration. While
information relevance and suciency do not aect an actors’ deliberative
activity, the perceived complexity of information is a deterrent to
deliberation. Accordingly, actors would prefer to avoid deliberation than
risk their reputation. Information could also be leveraged to achieve an
actor’s desired outcomes in deliberation, especially if he or she is an expert
whose actions can indicate knowledge of hidden information (Jacson and
Tan 2013: 23).
More than orientations, channels, and messages, the importance
of feedback as a communicative strategy has also been recognised. For
Gutmann and Thompson’s (2004: 3–4), feedback through reason-giving
and accessibility to reasons are key to successful deliberation because they
ensure the continuity of exchanges. Jacson and Tan (2013, 23) report that
through feedback, an expert’s values can be aligned with his or her audience
during deliberations. Kenter et al. (2016: 288) have also found that shared
values are established during deliberations because these permit active
reection on outcomes.
Another vital component of deliberation is participation. Ojha et al.
(2009: 373) have argued that deliberations could also be used to perpetuate
a political order. Thus, deliberation can become a barrier to participation.
Given such possibilities, the scholars also note that the actors have
employed dierent strategies to address these problems. In a scoping study
of public deliberation in public health issues and policies, the preferred
technique is “citizen’s jury”, wherein ordinary citizens are the primary
sources of decisions on the premise that they can craft informed decisions
based on complicated and sometimes contested scientic data (Degeling
et al. 2016: 117). The struggles are also evident in deliberations for the
governmental budget. Holdo (2016) argues that inclusion to deliberation
should move past the requisites of deliberative skills or capacities. Instead,
deliberative capital based on norms should be recognised as the basis of the
actor’s legitimacy. This can provide better grounding for the deliberation
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as it considers the interpretation of actual citizens or end audience. The
focus on citizen’s participation in budget deliberation is preferred because
it has resulted in a more focused and prioritised expenditure (Gonçalves
2014). Similar ndings have been reported by Walker (2016). Aside
from active participation in all the stages of participatory budgeting, joint
planning and joint fact-nding have also been found to be crucial to the
success and the mitigation of conict in the initiative.
Ideals of Deliberation
In discussing the ideals of deliberation, scholars often refer to the work
of Jurgen Habermas, who has delved into the concept of argumentation
in modern societies (1981, as cited in White 1988: 56). He has reiterated
that for participants to come up with consensus solely based on the merits
of arguments, they must take part in what he deems as the “ideal speech
situation”. This can only be achieved through the observation of the
following rules:
1. Each subject who is capable of speech and action is allowed to
participate in discourses.
2. a. Each subject is allowed to call into question any proposal.
b. Each subject is allowed to introduce any proposal into the
discourse.
c. Each subject is allowed to express his attitudes, wishes and needs.
3. No speaker ought to be hindered by compulsion—whether arising
from inside the discourse or outside of it—from making use of the
rights secured under (1) and (2).
Habermas’ ideal speech situation is characterised by the principles of
mutual understanding, truthfulness, sincerity, right to speak and social
order (Ritzer 2011: 290–293). While many scholars recognise the ideals
forwarded by Habermas, renements have also been oered. Mezirow (1985:
144) emphasises the rules by stating that participants should be equipped
with complete information, argumentative skills and self-knowledge.
Day (1993: 9) also expounds on the suggestions of Bredo and Feinburg of
Temple University, who state that an ideal speech communication must
not have violence. Instead, it must have wide boundaries for “public” and
“private” speech, the capacity to challenge traditions and rules of speech,
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290
and equal opportunity. Habermas (2008, as cited in Gillespie et al. 2014: 73)
himself revised the ideals by emphasising that dialogues in these situations
must observe the principles of inclusiveness, equal right, lack of deception
and absence of coercion.
The ideals set by Habermas are common in other normative theories
of deliberation. In the extensive review of the literature, Myers and
Mendelberg (2013) note that several scholars have also forwarded the
ideals of equality, open-mindedness and freedom of speech in deliberations
regardless of the participants’ backgrounds. While their discursive strategies
varied, deliberative democrats and scholars have agreed that understanding
should be evident among participants. However, there are contentions in
terms of desired outcomes. For scholars like Cohen (1989), voting should
be done to legitimise decisions, while Gutmann and Thompson (1996, as
cited in Myers and Mendelberg 2013: 2) emphasise mutual understanding
as the outcome of deliberation. These are countered in the study conducted
by Scudder (2016), which favours dierences over consensus. Accordingly,
dierences instead of empathy can sustain deliberative practices and hone
skills necessary for deliberation among participants.
Aside from mutual understanding, scholars have focused on other
outcomes expected from ideal deliberation. Among them are Dryzek and
Niemeyer (2012: para. 7), who point out that deliberation can result in
satisfaction and “a good deal of change to the positions of individuals”.
However, the meta-research conducted by Myers and Mendelberg (2013:
19–20) suggests that more empirical studies should be done to prove
that deliberation can result in any of the following: (1) opinion change,
(2) knowledge-gain, (3) post-deliberation behaviour and (4) other outcomes
concerning tolerance for dierent opinions, sense of ecacy and satisfaction
with the process and outcomes.
Ideal deliberation also led scholars to investigate the nuances of
deliberation. Myers and Mendelberg (2013: 8–9) have cited the Discourse
Quality Index (DQI) by Steenbergen et al. (2003) and the Stromer-Galley
coding schemes as measures of adherence to the ideals of deliberation.
These deliberative coding schemes have measures for equality, reasoning
and respect in the deliberation process. The only dierence is that DQI
has a measure for consensus.
Stie (2008) has also zeroed in on the ideals in the actual conduct of
the process as these serve as determinants of legitimacy. Accordingly,
decisions that result in deliberation can only be considered legitimate if
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the participants can ensure the following: (1) inclusion of all the parties
involved, (2) openness and transparency, (3) neutralisation of asymmetrical
power relations, (4) deliberative meeting places and (5) decision-making
capacity.
While the ideals presented are useful, the common criticism of the
Habermasian discursive rules is that these ideals may be counterfactual
and are more useful for critique (Gillespie et al. 2014: 73). Similarly, these
ideals are all formed with the Western context in mind. As Min (2009)
notes, caution must be exercised in applying Western ideals of deliberation
in the context of the East. This could be the case for Filipinos whose
communicative behaviours dier widely from other nationalities.
Communication scholars and anthropologists have noted the
uniqueness of ways through which Filipinos communicate. Foremost,
Filipinos value personalism (pakikipagkapwa) and familism (pagkakamag-
anak). They treat fellows as if they are members of their own families
(Jocano 2001). Also evident is the tendency to seek credit for
accomplishments, evade accountability (palusot) and go for the easiest and
most convenient approach to doing things (Lacson 2005). In addition to
these, it is common for Filipinos to get their message across in an indirect
manner (pagpapahiwatig) through verbal (parinig or padaplis) and non-
verbal (silence, raising of eyebrows, among others) codes. They also rely
on third parties to communicate for them to avoid conict (mensaheng may
tagapamagitan). Moreover, there are cases wherein Filipinos maximise
their capacity to verbalise their thoughts. They can disclose information
about themselves (pagbubunyag) to trusted people (ipagtapat). Filipinos
can confront other people (tuwirang pagsasagutan), but they will still
choose their words, make segues and disclaimers before disagreeing. Unlike
western cultures that have high regard for people who speak up, Filipinos
consider silence as more value-laden and loaded. It may also indicate a
negative response (Maggay 2002). These communicative behaviours are
expected in any deliberations among Filipinos.
PHILOSOPHICAL ANCHOR: GROUNDED PRACTICAL THEORY
In 1989, Craig (cited in Craig and Tracy 1995: 251) deemed communication
as a practical discipline with the need for studies that “cultivate
communicative praxis or the practical art through critical study”. In this
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292
regard, Craig and Tracy (1995) have sought to ll in the gaps of scientic
theories that neglect the moral dimension of situated actions and normative
theories that are considered dicult to operationalise and use in actual
practice.
Drawing from Aristotle’s work in ethics, politics and rhetoric as well
as Dewey’s and Gadamer’s contribution to philosophy, Craig and Tracy
(1995) conceptualised Grounded Practical Theory (GPT). Accordingly,
GPT combines Aristotle’s concepts of praxis, based on the moral and
political aspects of practical discipline and techne, which covers technical
and productive know-how. Moreover, GPT also considers the dialectical
movement that actors take in the process of reecting on their thoughts
and actions – a process both forwarded by Dewey’s pragmatic model of
inquiry and Gadamer’s hermeneutic circle.
GPT addresses the gaps in scientic theories and normative theories
by addressing what “ought” to be based on systematically gathered data. In
particular, GPT seeks for the rational reconstruction of a communicative
practice or those where “the role of communication is not only important
but presents complex problems that engage reection on norms and values
as well as technical means” (Craig and Tracy 2014: 230). This can be
done through the study of three interrelated levels: (1) problem level –
this refers to the dilemma that actors are presented within the conduct of
the communicative practice, (2) technical level – this comes after the
identication of the problem and refers to the “discourse moves” or strategies
employed by the actors to manage the dilemma, and (3) philosophical levels
– this starts with what Craig and Tracy (1995) deem as “situated ideals”
or the actor’s belief as to how they “ought” to act in the communicative
practice. The identication of communicative problems is the rst step as
it leads “downward” to the identication of communicative strategies that
can address those problems and “upward” to the identication of situated
ideals that serve as the overarching guide in choosing communicative
strategies.
METHODOLOGY
This study has been conducted by using Action-Implicative Discourse
Analysis (AIDA), which is the methodological arm of GPT (Tracy 1995).
The rst step in using AIDA is to name the practice under study. The
practice chosen is named “budget deliberation”, which is part of the LGU’s
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293
budget authorisation phase (Department of Budget and Management
2016). As a methodology, AIDA entails long segments of talks that would
permit the reconstruction of practice, analysis of data and reection of
communication actors (Tracy 2004, as cited in Konieczka 2013: 88–
92). Given these requisites, access to audio recordings of the budget
deliberations in a rural municipality was requested. The recordings consist
of 12 annual budget deliberations and 11 supplemental budget deliberations
that occurred from 2013 to 2016. The locale of the study is a second class
municipality in the south of Manila. It is one of the municipalities with the
highest estimates of poverty incidences in the province (Philippine Statistics
Authority 2016) despite its income. Moreover, it exhibits potential for
growth given its close proximity to a rst-class city, a rst-class municipality
and a second class municipality (Bureau of Local Government Finance
2016) that have experienced extensive modernisation and development in
recent years.
Table 1: Proles of municipal council members
Informant # Position Sex Length of service
1 Vice Mayor Male Three terms
2 Council member, Current Chair of
the Committee on Finance, Budget,
Appropriation and Ways and Means
Male Six terms
3 Former council member, Former Chair
of the Committee on Finance, Budget,
Appropriation and Ways and Means
Five terms
4 Council member Male Two terms
5 Council member Male Two terms
6 Council member Female One term
7 Council member Male One term
8 Council member Male One term
9 Council member Male One term
The recordings have been transcribed and analysed to reveal the problems
encountered and communicative strategies being employed during budget
deliberations. The number of times each municipal council member
spoke is also noted. Data from the preliminary analysis is used as guide
in the semi-structured interviews with municipal council members.
Copies of the transcribed talks are brought to aid in the semi-structured
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294
interviews. The municipal council members have been asked to read the
transcribed talks to identify the problems, rationalise their use of particular
communicative strategies and reect on the local budget process. This
method has resulted in the positive reconstruction of the communicative
phenomenon of budget deliberation and helped identify the municipal
council members’ situated ideal.
In the conduct of the study, nine municipal council members are
interviewed. The municipal council consists of seasoned and newly elected
members. Their answers to the semi-structured interview questions are
normally a combination of Filipino and English. For the purpose of this
article, all answers have been translated into English.
Qualitative data is processed through codifying, which means
that the data has been “segregated, grouped, regrouped and relinked in
order to consolidate meaning and explanation” (Grbich 2007 as cited in
Saldaña 2013: 8). In doing this, the researcher has followed Corbin and
Strauss (2008) coding taxonomy. The constant comparative method is also
employed throughout the analysis of data.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Communicative Problems in Budget Deliberation (Problem Level)
Preliminary analysis of the transcribed talks provide an idea of the
communicative problems that municipal council members encounter during
budget deliberations. During their semi-structured interviews, the municipal
council members also read the transcribed talks and were asked about what
they thought were the communicative problems in their past budget
deliberations. Accordingly, these included technicalities, lack of information
and politics.
Technicalities
As described in the Budget Operations Manual of the Local Government
Units (DBM 2016), the local budget process is composed of ve parts:
budget preparation, budget authorisation, budget review, budget execution
and budget accountability. These come with technical documents produced
by dierent units of the LGUs and submitted to dierent parties. These parts
and documents are prerequisites that should be followed without deviations.
For municipal council members, the process was said to be rigorous.
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Informant #2: Municipal government, budget process, ah, basically
it is by the book because it is written in the local government code
and the limitations and boundaries all of that were stated in the Local
Government Code or Republic Act 7160 where there are the guidelines
that you have to abide by, budget process, budget implementation, the
legislative authority or all of that.
Aside from the process per se, the guiding and resulting documents
of the budget process were described as “technical” and could not be
comprehended easily. This pertained specically to the Local Government
Code, the resolutions and ordinances whose legalese is also subject to
dierent interpretations.
Informant #3: There are cases that you have dierent interpretations.
Sometimes, you could be reading the same questions, the same section
which contains the same words, but you have dierent interpretations.
That’s dicult. Sometimes, there are arguments. I experienced
arguing with someone. We are quoting the same section of the Local
Government Code, but we have dierent perspectives, dierent
interpretations, so that’s one.
Technical terms in the budget documents prevented the municipal council
members from actively deliberating the budget. It has been pointed out that
the lack of capacity to understand the discussions which involved these
documents would remain to be a perennial problem.
Informant #2: Communicative problems, of course, communication
should always be two-way. Now, if for example, I discuss something
which the other party cannot comprehend, it becomes a perennial
problem…. Of course, [there] is the inability of all the participants in
the budget process to know all the terms, accounting terms. There are
members of the municipal council who do not know all those terms
and the importance of those. Also, we are here not because of our
academic qualications, but because of people’s vote, the mandate of
the citizens.
It can be said that the problem with technicalities serves as a driver of
deliberation among municipal council members. As Dryzek and Niemeyer
(2012) have reiterated, deliberation could be used to manage tensions
between participation and expertise. In this case, those with expertise
could provide the necessary guidance to facilitate the participation of other
municipal council members.
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Lack of Information
Information is considered one of the prerequisites to successful deliberation
(Fishkin 2009: ch 6). Gutmann and Thompson (2004) have supported this
claim by pointing out the importance of access and capacity to provide
reasons that can pave the way for continued deliberation. The absence of
these prerequisites to deliberation has been seen as a problem.
Informant #6: Like before, they did not give the details that we
needed. Just like [them], we have the same stand, we want to know
who will it [the budget] be for? Right? We are new here. We want to
know literally all. I would not say it is my weakness that I’m new,
rather I have the right as a councillor to know everything, or maybe
not everything, at least 80% because that’s very important, your one
vote, that’s very important because many people will be aected by
your “yes” or “no”.
Politics
A few of the municipal council members cited what they deemed as
“politics” to be an inevitable problem during budget deliberation. This
exemplies the political nature of budgeting (Norton and Elson 2002).
The exercise of force instead of reason in the evaluation of arguments
could lead to problems and loss of opportunity to weigh the merits of the
opposition (Cohen 1989: 22–23). Similarly, the existence of such force
could also lead to judgmental constraints (Gutmann and Thompson 2004)
in the sense that people could not reect on their decision to concur or
dissent on resolutions and/or ordinances.
Informant #1: Frankly, politics. Politics. The budgeting deliberations,
deliberations of budget, that’s where politics enter, when the Mayor
says he wants something, of course, he has a party of his own that
[would pass the budget] even though it is not in favour of the people,
that’s what I see as the problem. What’s dictated [by the Mayor], it’ll
be followed. I would always tell them, I will always remind them
during budget deliberation, that they were voted by the people, their
mandate should be with the citizens, not just with an individual. If
we were to pass this [budget], it should be for the people, not for an
individual. Frankly, that’s it [politics].
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Politics, particularly one’s political inclination, serves as a barrier to
communication during budget deliberation. Accordingly, someone’s
political inclination could prevent him or her from accepting the opinions
of the other municipal council members. This could be related to what
Gutmann and Thompson (2004) have referred to as dialogical constraints
that are born out of one’s reliance on personal opinions during deliberation.
In this regard, Fishkin’s (2009: ch. 6) prerequisite of equal consideration
for arguments regardless of the source would not be possible.
Informant #3: As a councillor, you know sometimes there are
communicative [problems], but there are times, sometimes, it’s not
communication, but politics comes in. Sometimes, during deliberation,
even when you can justify the use of a budget, why the said fund
is needed, why it has to be approved, there are times that no matter
how you justify it, if political partisanship prevails, it’ll somehow be
dicult for you to get the votes of your colleagues. That’s number
one. Aside from that, no matter how good you are at communicating,
if the listeners are close-minded not because they do not understand,
but because of politics, they won’t accept your explanations.
While politics is considered an inevitable and inherent problem in budget
deliberation, a member has perceived politics as a problem that could
benet democracy. As observed by Scudder (2016), dissent should be
preferred over consensus because it can lead to better deliberation among
participants. However, in this case, the Internal Rules of Procedures
compelled the municipal council members to reach a consensus at the end
of the deliberation.
Informant #2: Of course, this is politics. Budgeting is politics. I
propose that they make some contradiction. It’ll always be that way.
You’ll be sponsoring, they’ll be contradicting or vice versa, I’ll be
contradicting, they’ll be sponsoring and because of that, there are
some communicative problems. First is implied because of the nature
of the topic—budget—implied because it should be healthy, it should
be healthy if there are two parties that are not agreeing. At the end
of the day, you’ll all agree, at the end of the day, there is votation
which may end up by majority or superior majority (sic). Now second
is, incidental or accidental communicative problem that is because of
politics, you really won’t agree. As always, there are two conicting
parties and it is healthy in a democratic system of governance.
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The positive regard for politics is also shared by another seasoned
municipal council member. Accordingly, politics could delay the budget
process, but it could also provide an opportunity to scrutinise the budget in
order to change and improve it.
Informant #5: Usually, the problem here is politics, the things that you
cannot agree on. We are pro-administration, of course, those [funds]
are okay with us because we could not see anything wrong with the
budget, but if you are against [the current administration], of course,
you will scrutinise whatever you like. But usually, what happens in the
municipal council is, everything gets passed despite delays. However,
sometimes, the process gets mixed with politics. Sometimes, [at least]
they can see things that need to be studied thoroughly.
Given the standards set by deliberative democrats, it could be said that
the municipal budget deliberation is far from being considered as ideal.
Two of the communicative problems identied are technicalities and lack
of information. These problems make the municipal budget deliberation
prone to deception, which should not be present in ideal speech situations
(Habermas 2008, as cited in Gillespie et al. 2014: 73).
An even larger problem that surfaced is politics. Politics could
aect the budget deliberation because it does not ensure the absence
of coercion, which is one of Habermas’ (2008, as cited in Gillespie et al.
2014: 73) requisites. Informant #3 also reiterates that politics has brought
the municipal council members into the budget deliberation with a closed
and narrowed view of issues. Thus, politics could prevent parties from
changing their positions – an outcome that Dryzek and Niemeyer (2012)
expect from any deliberations.
COMMUNICATIVE STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS
COMMUNICATIVE PROBLEMS (TECHNICAL LEVEL)
In order to address the problems of technicalities, lack of information
and politics, the municipal council members employ communicative
strategies. In the analysis of transcribed talks, 10 communicative strategies
surfaced. Since GPT and AIDA involve the positive reconstruction of the
communicative practice, municipal council members have been asked for
the reasons behind employing the said strategies.
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Code Switch
Ordinances related to budget are written in English. To make sense of
these ordinances, municipal council members commonly use their native
language, Filipino. From time to time, they would also switch to English
when thoughts are deemed easier to convey in the said language. Aside
from convenience, the switch from Filipino to English and vice versa
during budget deliberations is done to facilitate greater understanding
among members. Moreover, switching to a more convenient language
can serve as a means to get one’s message across, especially in budget
deliberations where technicalities of the processes and documents can form
communicative barriers.
Informant #3: There are times, sometimes, maybe you have to really
express yourself in Tagalog, or you have to say it English, do code
switching for them to get what you mean.
Referral and Deferral
The municipal council follows the “Three Reading Principle”. For the
First Reading, authors explain the proposed ordinance/resolutions and
presiding ocers refer it to appropriate committees while sponsorship and
debate take place in the Second Reading and votes are made during the
Third and Final Reading. This process permits members to refer budget
ordinances to the Committee on Finance, Budget, Appropriation, and
Ways and Means for review. Similarly, some members could defer the
resolutions and ordinances to gather more information for support.
The municipal council members use the opposite communicative
strategies of referral to achieve opposite goals. Referrals are made to fast-
track the passage of the resolutions and/ordinance. This is commonly done
when members have questions that could be answered by other oces in
the LGU.
Informant #3: So there are times when there are questions that we
cannot answer, so as not to prolong [the discussion], I would tell them
that it is not the concern of the municipal council, so let’s ask the
oce that can answer.
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As for deferral, this communicative strategy has been employed to stall the
passage of the resolutions/or ordinances. Since the lack of information has
been identied as a problem, deferrals allow one more time to gather data and
weigh the merits of arguments in support or in opposition to the resolutions
and/or ordinances. Deferral as a strategy can be used to provide more time
for municipal council members to evaluate their stand and for authors and
sponsors to get the number of votes that they needed for their resolutions
and/or ordinances.
Informant #2: You have to defer because maybe, tomorrow or the
next day, your colleagues will change their minds. Maybe you can get
the number [of votes]. So you’ll use some strategy to buy some time.
Maybe, eventually, members of the council might encounter citizens
who will give them some information. Maybe later, even when they’re
also opposing, they’ll eventually join you because you really need
your number [of voters].
Establishment of Openness, Assertion of Competence, and Making
a Plea
In the Internal Rules of Procedures, a municipal council member who is
reporting or sponsoring a measure (in this case, a budget ordinance) is given
20 minutes to open or close the debate. The said member starts with reading
the whole or some parts of the ordinance with background information
from the dierent oces. After this, other municipal council members are
allowed to ask questions. In budget ordinances, opening and closing are
done by a municipal council member who is also a part of the Committee
on Finance, Budget, Appropriation, and Ways and Means. This strategy
serves as an opportunity for authors and sponsors to display their technical
knowledge in the municipal budget process as well as to ensure that the
Committee on Finance, Budget, Appropriation, and Ways and Means has
completely scrutinised the ordinance. These steps are followed by a plea to
the other municipal council members to approve the ordinance.
Informant #3: Because number 1, that’s the essence of being a
councilor, a legislator, for you to introduce measures, resolutions,
ordinances. For you to do it, you really have to study what you’ll
present to them. Otherwise, how else will you convince them to vote
or to go with you and your proposal? Remember, it is a council.
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You cannot pass an ordinance alone unless you get the vote of the
majority. In order to do that, you have to convince everybody that
your proposal is great, that it will benet everyone. So you need to
study and study extensively the contents of your proposal. Aside
from that, it also becomes the basis of whether you’ll convince
your colleagues to join you in your proposal. Also, of course, your
knowledge does not end with the approval of the municipal council.
After it turns into an ordinance, it will become local law. There are
times that people will ask you outside about the resolutions and
ordinances that you passed. It’ll be shameful if you cannot explain
what you passed in the municipal council. It’s very important that as
a legislator you know how to study, I turned the Local Government
Code into a bible because it’s the basis of our work in the government,
so you have to know it.
Clarication and Suggestion
Since budget ordinances are lled with technical information, deliberation
is dominantly characterised and sustained through clarications and
suggestions. For the municipal council members, clarications and
suggestions are made to achieve the following goals: justication, scrutiny
and conduct of duty. It is considered a must to engage in a series of
clarications and suggestions to explain why the committee supported the
resolutions and/or ordinances and how they dissected every item in the
budget. This communicative strategy could also benet from the knowledge
of government laws.
Informant #3: There are times that you have to justify every item
included in the budget, in the general fund. Why? Since we have
dierent political inclinations, there are times that one will say we do
not need to allocate a budget there or we can eliminate this, there are
times when [they will say] “this is huge, let’s deduct”, so I have to
clarify, to explain the need of the municipality to allocate a budget for
this particular item. I have to convince them that we need this. “Let’s
not withdraw the budget for this”. “We need to allocate funds for this
programme and everything”. So in order for me to do that, I have to
justify, explain. Sometimes I even have to use basis, like guidelines
or other national laws just to prove to them that “the town needs this”.
“We need to fund this”. For them to realise it, that it’s okay that we
need this [so] let’s vote for this. That’s it, basically.
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Clarication and suggestions also oer an opportunity for the opposition to
explore all the details of the budget, raise hidden agenda and ensure that the
budget has complied with the technical and legal requisites. Accordingly,
the clarication and suggestions have also provided the members with
answers to inquiries from constituents who should be benetting from the
budget process.
Informant #2: Last term I was in the opposition, more of a hardliner
opposition, so I would always look at the budget process as a way
for me to express my sentiments or dissent. Although there are some
instances that you need to support projects because it’s good for the
community, then again there are issues in the actual budget that are
hidden. So as part of the opposition, I look at it as something that
should not be there and if it should be there, it should be regulated.
There should be clear cut lines as to how to spend them, which was
why I brought up discussions on the technicalities of the budget. Is
it needed? Do we need it? And if it is needed, does the law allow
it? Because that is the thing, maybe we need it, but the COA
(Commission on Audit) and other budgetary regulators would not
permit it. Background information is important because the budget
is the lifeblood of the government and as members of the municipal
council, it is our obligation and responsibility to know all of that
because one day you’re walking and somebody asks you why the
public market has not been xed? You do not know the answer, so
you will refer back to the annual budget. There is a budget, but the
dierence is we give the legislative authority to the executive, but
the executive is not executing it. What can you do? So which is
[why] you have to know all the details in the budget, so when regular
people ask, you can answer because it is their right to know the
answer from you because they elected you.
Repetition
In order to understand and make sense of the technical data in the budget
ordinances, the municipal council members also resorted to the repetition
of parts of the resolutions and/or ordinances tackled in the past or in the
present to facilitate comprehension and yield well-informed decisions
in the current budget deliberation. Repetition is also done with the goal
of inuencing programme municipal council members to rationalise
and optimise the budget in order to address the neglected needs of the
municipality.
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Informant #2: Just to remind them that before there are some
appropriations of similar nature and to show that there is no need or
that. It is irrelevant to make some appropriation on an item which has
been appropriated on or which has allocated funds before because it
will provide an excess of funds. There should be other priorities in
the local government that should have been allotted with funds.
Show of Empathy for Constituents
Psychologist Carl Rogers (1959, as cited in Rogers 1995 : 140) denes
empathy or being empathic as a state wherein one “perceived the internal
frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional
components and meanings which pertain thereto as one”. It is akin to what
Jocano (2001) regards as personalism (pakikipagkapwa) and familism
(pagkakamag-anak). A municipal council member shows empathy to
constituents by reecting on their social realities. These reections are
also articulated during budget deliberation with the desire to make fellow
municipal council members empathic towards constituents. Accordingly,
the show of empathy for constituents makes it possible to give a voice to
neglected stakeholders of the municipality. In this particular case, the
subjects of empathy are non-regular employees.
Informant #2: Remember daycare workers, they nurture the children at
a very young age, but they are receiving less. There should have been a
higher salary for them. The same thing is with municipal government
workers in the agricultural sector. They are all job orders. They are
not regular workers. They are low in terms of salary. You have to
protect them. I believe that in the annual budget, their concern should
be protected and should be brought into the discussion. This was why
in that topic, that was the supplemental budget last year, I believed
they were being neglected by the ocials because if you would look
at the annual budget of the municipal hall, the employee’s salary had
increased, but they were not included. Why? Because they are job
orders and daycare centres are receiving only nancial assistance. So
they’re not protected by the salary standardisation that’s mandated by
the law.
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Sarcasm
There are also municipal council members who resort to sarcasm to
emphasise their opinions on budget ordinances and the technical rigidity
that comes with it. This is an example of Filipino communicative behaviour
that is verbal (parinig or padaplis) but also indirect (Maggay 2002).
Sarcasm during budget deliberation is done to achieve two opposite
goals: fast-track or stall the deliberation. Since budget deliberation can be
prolonged, one could resort to sarcasm to signal the need to terminate or speed
up the budget deliberation.
Informant #3: You know sometimes that really exists in all
deliberations of a legislative body like the ones we see in Congress,
in the Senate, among legislators. [It happens] when you’re a bit
exhausted in explaining and everything, especially if you think that
you are explaining something so obvious like it does not need to be
explained, but you are still questioned only for the sake of questioning.
Sometimes you cannot help but resort to sarcasm just for them to stop
asking.
Contrary to the use of sarcasm to fast-track the budget deliberation, it
could also be used to stall the budget deliberation. Accordingly, sarcasm
serves as a means to get messages across whenever one has felt opposition
toward his or her opinion. It could also spark attention to the resolutions
and/or ordinances being discussed.
Informant #2: Another strategy is to make your opponents blow their
heads. You need to do that because rst, your back is against the wall
and you cannot do anything else in terms of numbers and gures.
So even in sports, you make dirty tactics, but that one [sarcasm] is
rhetoric in order to make the discussion more active and participative.
I believe that in all activities in life, you have to strategise. That’s part
of the strategy.
Redirection and Restriction
The Internal Rules of Procedures permit municipal council members to
ask and answer questions about the resolutions and ordinances. The same
rules also allow them to decline to answer questions as they please. In some
instances, municipal council members may redirect the others by pointing
out what the resolutions and ordinances are about.
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Aside from redirection, the municipal council members can restrict
another member from speaking since it is supported by the Internal Rules
of Procedures, particularly the “Third Reading Principle” wherein they
may only debate and amend on the Second Reading. For the municipal
council members, both redirection and restriction ensured that budget
deliberations are conducted according to the rules.
Informant #1: It’s the ow of the municipal council, that’s how it
usually runs in the municipal council, uhm, we have our internal rules,
those rules need to be implemented, so as a presiding ocer, one of
my tasks is to make sure that the ow of the session is orderly.
Redirection and restriction also come in handy when there is a need to fast-
track the approval of the resolutions and/or ordinances. They provide more
attention to the task at hand and allow the municipal council members to
nish quickly, so they can attend to other matters.
Informant #7: Because when it is out of topic, we won’t nish
discussing what we need to discuss, so we should rst nish this
before we move to the topic that they want us to talk about because we
won’t nish if we jump from one topic to another. We need to focus
on this rst.
Silence
While quorum is required to push through with budget deliberations, it
has been observed that not all municipal council members would speak
up or voice their opinions during the debates and amendments. Instead,
participation is only made through non-verbal gestures of raising one’s hand
to show concurrence or dissent toward budget resolutions and/or ordinances.
The communicative strategy of silence is common among newly
elected municipal council members. Since budget deliberations involve
issues of technicalities, lack of information and politics, the newly elected
municipal council members prefer to observe and learn the norms from
more seasoned members. They resort to silence in order not to curtail the
ow of budget deliberations.
Informant #6: I was silent the whole time because I do not want to
meddle on things that I do not know. Right? I am new. I know where
I stand and I know where I’m coming from. That’s why I do not want
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to endorse myself like I know this, I know that and everything when
the truth is, I’m still learning. Right?
Informant #9: I’m a rst-term councillor like I said… In 2016, I’ve
been studying the rules and I’ve been studying the process because
I’m still young in the eld of politics. That’s why I’m silent.
Silence can also mean that one concurs with the proposed budget.
It exemplies trust in the system wherein other municipal council members
have studied the resolutions and/or ordinances well.
Informant #8: I’m silent because most of the time, I agree with the
Mayor’s proposal. I do not oppose it. I can see that it’s okay. It is
being studied. It was also studied before we discussed it. I bring the
minutes at home to study.
For the seasoned municipal council members, they choose to be silent
because of three things: dissent, lack of information and urgency. Silence
is used when one’s views are considered unpopular.
Informant #4: What happens is if you are not pleased with the way
the deliberation is taking course, you’d just be silent. When you
want to say something, it won’t happen anyway because the majority
gets to decide. That’s why it’s better to just be silent, so that there
won’t be arguments during deliberation. What happens here is
argumentation, that’s why it’s better to just be silent, keep it with
you. If you have ways, like what we did, that was legal. [Be silent] so
that there won’t be chaos during the discussion.
Among the communicative strategies, silence can mean several things
for Filipinos. It can be the municipal council members’ convenient
approach (Lacson 2005) to get the budget deliberation o their shoulders.
They can also be silent because they rely instead on the knowledgeable
ones to speak on their behalf and avoid scrutiny (mensaheng tagapamagitan)
(Maggay 2002).
Termination
Depending on the course of budget deliberations, any one of the members
may move for its closure. This communicative strategy prompts the
municipal council members to decide on the budget resolutions and/or
ordinances. Termination can come in the form of seconding or voting for the
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approval of the resolutions and/or ordinances. Similar to the communicative
strategies of redirecting and restricting, terminating through seconding or
voting is being done as a matter of policy. According to the Internal Rules
of Procedures, municipal council members can move for the closure of the
debate through voting. Accordingly, it is a way to reach consensus despite
varying opinions on the budget resolutions and/or ordinances.
Informant #7: That’s why we need votation because here, although we
have dierent opinions, it’s always “majority wins”, and we respect
the majority. Sometimes, I’m with the minority, most times with the
majority. We have our own opinions when it comes to that, that’s why
we put it on votation.
Moving for closure through votation is also part of the process and the tasks
of the municipal council members. For those in charge, it could serve as
an armation of the eort exerted toward studying the resolutions and/or
ordinances.
Informant #3: As chairman of the committee on nance, it is your
duty to see to it that the budget will be passed accordingly because
it is important. The government will suer without a budget and
I also said the budget had been studied. Once it’s been studied,
you know that what’s being proposed is not contradictory and
it’s always according to laws, rules and regulations. We have
budgetary limitations; we have budgetary requirements in the Local
Government Code. As long as the budget adheres to that, there is
no reason for you not to approve the fund. So as chairman of the
committee on nance, it is your duty to see to it that the budget will
be passed for a smooth ow of the government’s processes.
In the description and the rationalisation of the communicative strategies,
it can be said that the municipal council members’ conduct of budget
deliberations has been guided by the Internal Rules of Procedures. The
existence of the Internal Rules of Procedures is akin to Mummery and
Rodan’s (2013: 36–37) suggestion that such guidelines are needed despite
expected participation and manageable barriers.
It has also been found that socio-psychological functions could
explain one’s behaviour during deliberation, as pointed out by Rutsaert
et al. (2015: 197–198). The importance of cognition is evident in budget
deliberations, particularly in the use of code-switching, repetition and
clarication and suggestion. Along with the communicative strategies of
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referral and deferral, the previously mentioned strategies are also considered
as modes that permit disagreements (Polleta 2008, cited in Myers and
Mendelberg 2013: 16). At the same time, these communicative strategies
also serve as a means of creating understanding among the municipal
council members.
Moreover, the communicative strategy that combines the
establishment of openness, the assertion of competence and plea-making
has allowed the authors and sponsors to make other municipal council
members see their shared objectives and align with their views of the
budget, in line with the deliberation strategy found by Jacson and Tan
(2013: 23) and Kenter et al. (2016: 288) in their respective studies. The
said strategy and silence are also employed to perpetuate the political status
quo, which is deemed by Ojha et al. (2009: 373) as one of the functions of
deliberations. Similar to termination, the communicative strategies described
here also exemplify the municipal council members’ decision-oriented
deliberation as comparable to the networks described by Van de Ven et al.
(2017).
While the budget deliberation does not involve citizens, the idea of
citizens’ interpretation (Degeling et al. 2016, 117) is somehow present as
the municipal council members have shown empathy in their consideration
of citizens’ concerns during budget deliberations. Lastly, the communicative
strategy of sarcasm is also found. This is the least studied communicative
strategy during budget deliberations. Nevertheless, this strategy is still
employed despite negative connotations.
NORMATIVE COMMUNICATION PRACTICES OR SITUATED
IDEALS FOR MORE EFFECTIVE BUDGET DELIBERATIONS
(PHILOSOPHICAL LEVEL)
Through the analysis of the transcribed talks and the rationalisations made
during the semi-structured interviews with the municipal council members,
three overarching reasons have been uncovered as drivers for the use of a
particular communicative strategy.
With the use of dierent communicative strategies, it can be said that
the Municipal Council Members are placed in what Habermas (1981, as
cited in White 1988) deems as an ideal speech situation in the sense that
they are allowed to participate through speech and action in the budget
deliberation.
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Table 2: Reasons for using a communicative strategy
Communicative strategy Reason
Code switch For comprehension or dissection
Referral For fast-tracking
Deferral For stalling
Establishment of openness, assertion
of competence and making a plea
For comprehension and fast-tracking
Clarication and suggestion For comprehension or dissection
Repetition For comprehension or dissection
Show of empathy for constituents For comprehension or dissection
Sarcasm For stalling or fast-tracking
Redirection and restriction For fast-tracking and/or consensus
Silence For fast-tracking and/or consensus
Termination For fast-tracking and/or consensus
However, the communicative practice of budget deliberation in the
municipality can also be subjected to the same critique as that of Habermas’
ideal speech situation. In the process of analysing the communicative
problems encountered by the municipal council members, technicalities, lack
of information and politics have been cited as barriers that prevented them
or their fellow members from engaging in budget deliberations. In addition
to these communicative problems, budget deliberations only considered
majority votes as a legitimising measure. This is in stark contrast with Stie’s
study (2008), which considers the following as determinants of legitimacy:
(1) inclusion of all the parties involved, (2) openness and transparency,
(3) neutralisation of asymmetrical power relations, (4) deliberative
meeting places and (5) decision-making capacity. Given the problems of
technicalities, lack of information and politics, these determinants have not
been met by the municipal budget deliberation, with the exception of the
4th and the 5th.
Despite these communicative and legitimacy problems, the municipal
council members have employed communicative strategies that would
help them achieve their situated ideal of duty-centred budget deliberation.
The municipal council members’ notions of their duty as elected ocials
propell them to employ the mentioned communicative strategies. For
those who use several communicative strategies for comprehension or
dissection as well as stalling communicative strategies, their duty is to
scrutinise the budget and know all the details because they are accountable
to the constituents. As Informant #7 stresses, “I did not want to leave the
IJAPS, Vol. 17, No. 2, 283–319, 2021 Budget Deliberation in the Philippines
310
oce without answers to my constituents, especially since they would ask,
‘What is this?’ or ‘How did this happen?’ I prefer that when I get out of
the oce, I know the answers”. For Informant #3, communicative strategies
that allow for comprehension and dissection also permit municipal council
members to pass a sensible budget. She states, “Yes, you have to pass the
budget, but it should be a budget with justiable reasons. It is needed by
the municipality. It is needed by the constituents. It should be well-planned
and well-thought-out”.
Meanwhile, there are municipal council members who feel that it
is their duty to ensure the urgent approval of the resolutions or ordinance.
This has resulted in the use of communicative strategies for fast-tracking.
Urgency is asserted as the absence of funds could derail the operations of
the municipal government. There’s also the belief that the risks inherent
in the absence or limited scrutiny of the budget would be mitigated by
the existing laws and regulatory bodies. This has been pointed out by
Informant #3: “It is your duty to see to it that the budget will be passed
accordingly because it is important. The government will suer without a
budget”.
In all of these deliberations, the municipal council members have
insisted that they put the welfare of the constituents as they participate in
the communicative practice of budget deliberation and they are ne with
the outcomes. On average, only 40% of the budget is allotted to personal
services, 34% to operations and capital outlays and 26% to special purposes
such as the economic development fund, calamity fund, support to the
villages (barangays) and aid to a local public university. Supplemental
budget augments the operational expenses and maintenance of government
facilities and infrastructure, mainly in the municipal centre or poblacion.
Based on the reasons for the communicative strategies, a normative
model of duty-centred budget deliberation could be derived to answer the
question about how municipal council members ought to communicate
during budget deliberations.
This normative model includes the following communicative
strategies: (1) code switch, (2) referral and deferral, (3) establishment of
openness, assertion of competence and making a plea, (4) clarication
and suggestion, (5) repetition, (6) show of empathy for constituents,
(7) redirection and restriction, and (8) termination. These communicative
strategies are considered for several reasons. Stie (2008) emphasises the
need for transparency in deliberation. Hence, it is imperative to include
the use of referral and deferral, clarication and suggestion and repetition
IJAPS, Vol. 17, No. 2, 281–319, 2021 Louise Antonette S. Villanueva
311
because these communicative strategies permit the scrutiny of information
during budget deliberations. These communicative strategies could also
lead to more understanding, which Gutmann and Thompson (1996, as
cited in Myers and Mendelberg 2013) deem as the desired outcome of
deliberation.
It is also for the aforementioned reasons that the communicative
strategy of silence has been excluded from the normative model. The context
of the municipal budget deliberation exemplies Maggay’s (2002) assertion
that silence may be indicative of negative response for those who use it.
In the aforementioned discussion on silence, Informants #6, #8 and #9,
who are newly elected council members, have resorted to silence because
of their inadequate experience in the municipal budget deliberation
process. Informant #3 has suggested that they should avoid silence and
equip themselves with knowledge from the Local Government Code. She
stresses, “I’d always say they should learn to read the Local Government
Code because everything that they need to learn about budgeting and
managing nances can be found there… It is only their rst year and they
just experienced one budgeting period. Hopefully, it will get better for them.
They should not be silent. They have to speak up”. For Informant #4, his
silence is his way of showing that he is not pleased but he could not do
anything about it because approval depends on the vote of the majority.
While silence is indicative of a negative response in the context of municipal
budget deliberation, it has been noted that the said communicative strategy
also shows the Filipino predilection to be non-verbal and the importance
placed on personalism (pakikipagkapwa) and familism (pagkakamag-anak)
(Jocano 2001).
Inclusiveness is also a commonly held ideal in deliberation
(Habermas 2008, as cited in Gillespie et al. 2014: 73; Stie 2008). The
switch to a more comprehendible language, the assurance of openness and
the show of empathy for constituents are communicative strategies that
attempt to include parties into the deliberation. Meanwhile, the assertion of
competence both in the individual and committee level is also welcome as
it produces an environment of self-knowledge and access to information,
which are requisites of deliberations (Mezirow 1985: 144).
Included also in the communicative strategies of the normative model
are redirection and restriction. Ohand, this may be seen as a mechanism
to curtail the freedom of speech during deliberation. However, based on
the semi-structured interviews, redirection and restriction are ways of
refocusing on priority issues during the deliberation. If conducted properly,
IJAPS, Vol. 17, No. 2, 283–319, 2021 Budget Deliberation in the Philippines
312
these communicative strategies could establish respect, a key variable being
measured when assessing the quality of discourse (Myers and Mendelberg
2013). The same applies to the communicative strategy of making a plea.
By requesting fellow municipal council members to consider the proposal,
the municipal council member who has presented or proposed the budgetary
resolutions and/or ordinances recognises the importance of going through
the process of municipal budget deliberation. It is in consideration for the
key measure of respect that the communicative strategy of sarcasm has
been excluded from the normative model. Informant #2, who has resorted to
sarcasm, recognises it as an example of “dirty tactic” to achieve the desired
outcomes. Sarcasm is contrary to common Filipino values of personalism
(pakikipagkapwa) and familism (pagkakamag-anak) that often guide how
Filipinos communicate with each other.
Duty-centred
budget deliberation
Philosophical
level
Establishment of
openness, assertion
of competence and
a plea
Clarrication
and
suggestion
Code
switch
Referral
and
deferral
Show of
empathy for
constituents
Redirection
and
restriction
Termination
Lack of
information PoliticsTechnicalities Problem
level
Technical
level
Figure 1: Normative model of duty-centred budget deliberation.
The last communicative strategy that has been included is termination. It is
deemed important because it prompts the decision-making during budget
deliberations. While there are varying recommendations about the desired
outcomes of deliberation, Scudder (2016) favours consensus, which can be
achieved through votation during the municipal budget deliberation. The
communicative strategy of termination should not pose a problem if it is
done according to Fishkin’s (2009: ch. 6) premise that arguments can be
assessed based on merits.
IJAPS, Vol. 17, No. 2, 281–319, 2021 Louise Antonette S. Villanueva
313
CONCLUSION
Through the data analysis of transcribed talks and semi-structured
interviews, three problems that the municipal council members encountered
during budget deliberations surfaced: (1) technicalities of the budget
process and documents, (2) lack of information and (3) politics.
To address these problems, they have employed communicative
strategies to facilitate comprehension and/or consensus, stall, or fast-track
the budget deliberation, namely: (1) code switch, (2) referral and deferral,
(3) establishment of openness, assertion of competence and making a plea,
(4) clarication and suggestion, (5) repetition, (6) show of empathy for
constituents, (7) sarcasm, (8) redirection and restriction, (9) silence and
(10) termination. These communicative strategies are also used to achieve
the situated ideal of duty-centred budget deliberation minus sarcasm and
silence.
While the budget deliberation as communicative practice might be
considered imperfect based on the standards of deliberative democracy,
this article nonetheless highlights its usefulness in the exploration of the
the municipal council members’ situated ideal. The study demonstrates
that despite communicative problems, the municipal council members have
employed communicative strategies that best address the problems that
they encounter and ultimately, help them carry out what they consider as
their duties. In a way, the study provides a reection and rationalisation
embedded in the communicative practice of budget deliberation.
By reecting on the problems, strategies and situated ideals, the
municipal council members have realised that much can still be improved
in the budget deliberation and the budget process in general. Improvements
revolve around the need for transparency, which could be achieved by
disclosing every item in the budgetary documents, providing progress
reports for the past projects, programmes and activities where the budget
has been appropriated, and conducting a series of fora with the local chief
executive. These suggested improvements mean that while the municipal
council members conduct the budget deliberation, an eective and ecient
budget process could be achieved if they are also informed and updated
for the whole budget cycle.
In the conduct of the study, the pragmatic lens of GPT provides
an understanding of the incommensurability that occurs during budget
deliberations. However, a study of budget deliberations with consideration
of the philosophical and socio-political underpinnings of competing
IJAPS, Vol. 17, No. 2, 283–319, 2021 Budget Deliberation in the Philippines
314
positivist and constructivist paradigms should also be welcomed.
In particular, future researchers may also assess municipal budget
deliberations using quantitative indexes such as the Discourse Quality
Index (Steenbergen et al. 2003). A hypthetico-deductive approach would
also establish causalities among factors that contribute to the success or
failure of municipal budget deliberations. A cultural lens may also be used.
Since budget deliberations are embedded in the culture of the municipality,
it would pay to study the organisation of the municipal government to
further understand the nuances of its budget process. It is also imperative
to look at municipal budget deliberations with a critical lens because it is
set in a political environment where power plays a key role.
Also, while this article analyses the naturally occurring data
through the transcribed talks that are further informed by semi-structured
interviews, it can benet from the use of participant observation. The
said method will yield more extensive and more grounded data since it
will cover non-verbal codes. Participant observation will also be useful to
those who consider the end-to-end analysis of the entire municipal budget
process, not just the budget authorisation phase, where the municipal budget
deliberations take place. Participant observation could provide future
researchers with the opportunity to hear o-the-record conversations during
recess. Exploration of such conversations could be informative, especially
if the objective is to study muted voices in budget deliberations.
Overall, this study has managed to come up with the descriptions
of the communicative practice and the normative model of duty-centered
budget deliberation despite its limitations. Since the ndings are based on
data, they are unlikely to suer from counterfactualism, which Gillespie
et al. (2014) have pointed out in the set of ideals for deliberation. The
ndings also partially address Min’s (2009) concern regarding the use
of Western ideals of deliberation in the context of the East. Since this
article relies on transcribed talks, there is a need to conduct participant
observations to understand non-verbal codes that are prevalent in Filipino
communicative behaviours. Moreover, this research was conducted in
just one municipality where the descriptions and the normative model are
plausible. Similar undertakings must be done in other municipalities and
cities, particularly those classied as 1st class and 6th class, to understand
the dynamics of municipal budgeting with either ample or limited resources.
These undertakings could help the municipal council members reect and
improve their budget process and as a result, improve their governance.
IJAPS, Vol. 17, No. 2, 281–319, 2021 Louise Antonette S. Villanueva
315
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The author wishes to thank the members of her advisory committee at
the University of the Philippines Los Baños: Dr. Serlie Barroga-Jamias,
Dr. Alexander G. Flor and Prof. Girlie Nora A. Abrigo. Their insights guided
the conduct of the research that served as the basis of this journal article.
NOTES
* Louise Antonette S. Villanueva obtained her bachelor’s degree in Communication
Research from the University of the Philippines Diliman and her master’s degree
in Development Communication cognate in Sociology from the University of the
Philippines Los Baños where she is serving as Assistant Professor. At the College
of Development Communication, she handles courses in critical perspectives in
communication, interpersonal communication, distance learning, media and society and
community broadcasting. Her research interests include development communication,
life course, governance and rural sociology.
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