GRIEVANCE MECHANISM

Introduction

The Mediators Network for Sustainable Peace (MedNet) is a network of individuals and professionals from non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (POs), Church and government that uphold and promote the principle of Empowering Dispute Resolution/Dispute Management Processes or EDRMP in conflicts on land tenure, natural resource and inter and intra-organizational disputes involving or affecting marginalized sectors and other key stakeholders. MedNet envisions itself as a resource center of consensus builders who are committed to community empowerment, gender equity, justice, democracy and ecological balance towards the attainment of a peaceful nation.

The Grievance Redress Mechanism is a tool to promote social accountability. It allows MedNet to be fully responsive to its beneficiary partners and communities. This mechanism was designed to attend to complaints, problems and issues that arise out from EDRMP/ADR interventions. These issues may include unethical behavior of EDRMP/ADR practitioner; inappropriate intervention by outside parties; and violation of policies, principles or procedures. It will also respond to simple requests for information to clear up a misunderstanding.  

The mechanism upholds the principle of transparency and accountability and demonstrates the commitment of MedNet to provide opportunities for the empowerment of communities. It is for this reason that the system ensures the participation of the partner organizations or community leaders in the handling and redress of grievances.   

Principles

The Grievance Redress Mechanism is anchored on the following principles that guide MedNet’s implementation of all its projects: 

Transparency

The system encourages comments and feedback (negative and positive) to improve EDRMP/ADR interventions. The community must be aware of all complaints, grievances and problems reported; must be involved in their redress; and must be kept informed on progress made in resolving grievances. 

Empowering and Participatory

Communities, project implementers, NGOs and other civil society actors and journalists are encouraged to participate and bring complaints, grievances and comments to the attention of MedNet management.  More importantly, communities are responsible for resolving problems and the system will prepare them to do so.

Social Inclusive and Open

The whole community (and even those outside) is given the opportunity to raise concerns and the right to be accorded a response.  The grievance system will allow anyone, especially the poor, the disadvantaged groups, the women, to raise grievance or complaints, be heard and be involved in its redress.

Institutional Capacity-building for good governance

Through the system, partner government institutions like the NCIP, DENR, DAR and local government units can strengthen channels of communication and mechanisms for grievance redress at the community level. The system enables the government to be accountable to the people and work transparently to resolve problems - not on behalf of the people but with the people. This enhances responsiveness of local governments and develops people’s trust. 

Simple and Accessible

Procedures to file complaints and seek redress are kept simple and easy to understand by the communities. Complaints and queries may be sent through different accessible means.

Quick and proportional action

Response to grievance and comments is ensured within an acceptable timeline and that the corresponding action is responsive and commensurate to the complaint or comment. The system does not over-react to problems and strives to provide solutions which shall address the problem rather than penalize the people or communities.

Objective and Independent

The system entails objective and independent process so that it will be perceived as fair and encourages people to use it, thus enhancing the EDRMP/ADR intervention’s contribution to good governance. In all instances, conflict of interest or perceptions of conflict of interest will be looked into and avoided.

Anonymity and security

To remain accessible, open and trusted, the grievance system ensures that the identities of those complaining are kept confidential. This encourages people to openly participate and file complaints or comments.

Due Process

Implies the right of a person to be present and be heard before a duly constituted body assigned or formed to hear, settle, mediate or conciliate complaints or grievance.

Rights and Obligations of Participants in EDRMP/ADR Intervention

A complaint or grievance is usually filed because of a personal or collective belief that there was a violation of a right or a non-fulfillment of an obligation.

Barangay residents, LGU officials, employees of national government agencies, media representatives, NGOs and civil society groups and the EDRMP/ADR practitioners are accorded the following rights as EDRMP/ADR intervention participants:

Right to Information

The principle of transparency and good governance dictates that all participants should have full access to information on the EDRMP/ADR intervention. Information that will enable the communities to make an effective decision on matters affecting their welfare should be made readily available. 

Right against Intervention

The EDRMP/ADR intervention supports localized and demand-driven decision-making.  The right of communities to choose the people who will represent them in the process and the manner by which grievance and complaints will be resolved – free from interference from other sectors or agencies – shall be respected. Provision of a sound technical assistance by MedNet staff to the community could not be considered as a form of intervening community decisions. Proper technical assistance would guide the community to make the most appropriate, effective, and efficient solution to their needs.

Right to a graft-free intervention

Among the objectives of the principle of transparency is to ensure that intervention chosen and implemented are graft-free.  If people fully participate and take charge of their own development, corruption will be lessened, if not eradicated.

Right to participate and be heard

The EDRMP/ADR intervention advocates for participation in the selection, design and implementation of the appropriate intervention and in the election of  community representatives. The right of all participants to be heard and to air grievance, comments, and opinion is   also respected.

Right to informed consent

Only after the communities are informed of all options available to them and the possible consequences of their choices should they be asked to make their final decisions.  The right of the people to information and technical advice is premised on the assumption that they are only able to make right decisions after full information has been given to them.

Obligations of Participants in the Project

Parties joining the EDRMP/ADR intervention will assume certain obligations inherent to or explicitly provided by the intervention. These obligations are categorized into four general areas, as follows:

Obligations arising from the principles of the intervention

Adherence to the core principles of EDRMP/ADR is required.   The operationalization of these principles is mostly contained in the MedNet manuals.  The manuals therefore serve as a reference on these obligations.

Localized decision-making

All deliberations and decisions are taken at the community level.

Empowering and participatory

This ensures that communities, with assistance from technical experts, will be able to prioritize intervention needs and make decisions on how resources are to be used. 

Transparent

The stakeholders will know every aspect of intervention decision-making.

Socially inclusive

The affected community members will have the opportunity to be involved in the planning and decision-making process. Special effort will be taken to ensure gender-balance and active participation of the poorest segments and minorities in the community.

Demand-driven

Communities will prioritize their intervention needs, participate in activity design, seek technical expertise, and make informed choices on how available resources are to be used.

Simple

All decision-making, financial procedures and components of the intervention will be kept simple for all stakeholders to easily understand and become fully involved.

Sustainable

Long-term operations and maintenance plans are set up to ensure sustainability. 

Obligations arising from the provisions of the Memorandum of Agreement(MOA) among parties participating in the EDRMP/ADR intervention.

These MOAs contain the responsibilities of different parties and become a source of obligations. Obligations also arise because the intervention confers and recognizes certain rights of stakeholders.  Violation of any of these rights may result in the filing of grievance or complaint. Discussed earlier, these rights are as follows: Right to information Right against intervention Right to a graft-free project Right to participate and be heard Right to informed consent

Lastly, obligations arise from generally accepted norms of conduct dictated by legal precepts or cultural practices. These are contained in:  Civil Code as the basic law guiding human relations; Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Employees; Traditional and Customary Laws of the areas where the intervention is implemented.

Grievance

  • Non- contentious questions/clarifications regarding the project 

  • Issues/concerns that result due to non-performance of obligation of any of the parties involved to EDRMP/ADR processes and documents

  • Grievances or offenses pertaining to conformance with government procurement and finance guidelines such as misuse of funds, allegations of corruption, falsification of public documents, in cases where the government is a partner in the EDRMP/ADR intervention

Types of Grievance

Type A

Non-contentious queries, comments, and suggestions. 

This type is non-contentious and merely requests for information/updates, seeks clarification or a response and suggestions to enhance the intervention design, improve operations and facilitate administrative/logistical support to the intervention.

Type B

Compliance with intervention processes, MOA and other implementation arrangements. 

This type of grievance results from the non-performance of obligation of any of the parties involved to intervention processes and documents.  

Type C

Conformance with government procurement and finance guidelines. 

This includes grievances or offenses pertaining to conformance with government procurement and finance guidelines such as misuse of funds, allegations of corruption, falsification of public documents.

Components of the Grievance Redress System (GRS)

Installation

The Grievance Redress System must be accessible to everyone who wants to file a grievance or ask clarifications regarding the EDRMP/ADR intervention. Grievance installation should be done at the initial stages of the intervention. The GRS is considered installed once the following key activities are completed:

GRS orientation at the community level

Grievance orientation to be provided to all covered areas of the EDRMP/ADR intervention.  During the orientation, the GRS is explained, and an agreement forming a grievance committee composed of MedNet grievance committee representative/s, partner government agency representative/s, if applicable, and volunteer community member/s.

LGU partners, for example, may pass a resolution forming the grievance committee which includes representatives from the Municipal Interagency Committee/Municipal Development Council and representatives from the barangay grievance committees. The municipal resolution in general stipulates the commitment of the municipality to include representatives from the barangay grievance committees as members of the municipal grievance committee.  

Government agency partners, for example, may enter into an agreement forming a grievance committee which includes representatives from the government agency, MedNet, and the community affected by the intervention.

GRS information materials available

Information materials such as brochures, tarpaulin or posters should be present in the area. The materials should contain information regarding the GRS and contact numbers or hotline of MedNet and should be translated into local dialect.

Grievance Committee established and trained

The community should have a functioning grievance committee who are oriented on the GRS and trained on basic EDRMP/ADR.

If the affected community is at the barangay level, the community may elect three volunteers coming from different purok as members of the GRS Committee. The GRS committee should as much as possible link up with the Lupon Tagapamayapa or other existing grievance resolution bodies in the barangay to harmonize their systems of resolving grievances.   For IP communities, the grievance committee members will automatically be the members of the IP’s conflict resolution system.

Community Empowerment Facilitator (CEF) – The community shall elect a community grievance monitor who is responsible for recording all grievances in an intake form and ensuring that these are referred to the GRS Committee.  The CEF shall document grievances that were raised during community assemblies/meetings or submitted through other channels such as the grievance box.  The CEF also ensures that the GRS has been installed in his/her community. The CEF should regularly monitor the status of resolution of grievances.

Means of reporting grievances available

This includes putting up the grievance box in the community and other means to receive complaints such as e-mails, grievance hotlines or complaints desk.

The Grievance Box - The grievance box aims to provide a means for anonymous complainants to raise their concerns without revealing their identity.  Renaming the grievance box to a more culturally-sensitive term is encouraged. Box should be secured and locked before placing in an accessible area in the community.   It should be opened by the CEF on a regular basis (at least once a month) during community assemblies or meetings in the presence of at least one GRS volunteer to ensure proper documentation.  

Handling and Monitoring Structure

Roles of GRS Committee

Once formed, the GRS committee will link up/coordinate with the Lupon Tagapamayapa and other grievance structures to harmonize the various systems, if applicable.    In cases when there is a need for fact-finding, the GRS committee will assist community volunteers in calling for community assemblies, and securing means of verification and other pertinent documents regarding the grievance.

The Grievance Committee will also inform the Community Empowerment Facilitator about existing issues in the community and how they were addressed or what actions are expected from the management.  

Roles of MedNet

MedNet shall:

  • Ensure the installation and functionality of the GRS to EDRMP/ADR intervention areas

  • Conduct GRS orientation and create greater awareness to various stakeholders (community, NGOs, NGAs, etc.)

  • Simplify and localize the grievance information materials

  • Monitor resolution of grievances/complaints and response to queries, comments and suggestions

  • Provide coaching/training on the GRS handling process and conflict resolution

  • Provide sufficient grievance intake and report forms at intervention areas

  • Institute review of common cases, sharing of lessons learned, and effective strategies in redressing grievances

  • Prepare semi-annual reports to MedNet Board of Trustees 

  • Conduct spot checks or site visits to check on installation and functionality of the grievance system including the process and outcome of grievance resolution

Roles of MedNet Staff

Executive Director

Issues operational directives that will have impact on operations including that of the GRS.  Provides overall supervision to the GRS by ensuing that it is properly functioning at all levels.

Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao VPs

Ensure that the grievance cases in the areas are promptly acted upon. The responsibility includes supervising the strengthening of the system and making it viable for institutionalization at the local level.

Training Specialist

Provides technical assistance to the CEFs in building the capacity of the people to install, operate and sustain the system through community training activities in grievance handling, tracking, and documentation.

Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist

The M&E specialist shall establish and maintain a GRS database.  He/She consolidates the grievance reports coming from the areas and enter the same into the database.

Fact-finding Body

A person or group of persons designated by the Grievance Committee to conduct validation of facts related to the grievance. The function may also include provision of technical assistance to clarify issues in the project.

Handling Process

The grievance handling process involves four major steps, namely:

1. INTAKE 2. VERIFICATION & ACTION 3. FEEDBACK 4. FOLLOW UP

Intake

  1. This is the first step in the process whereby a grievance, comment, suggestion or query is filed.  

Who may file?

Anyone with a complaint against the EDRMP/ADR intervention, its implementation, MedNet staff, local personalities in the areas of the intervention, and others may file grievance. This includes:

  • Any or all residents of the barangay and municipality where the intervention is being implemented 

  • Officials of local and national government agencies

  • Staff of non-government organizations, faith-based institutions, consultants, media representatives and local business groups

  • Non-residents of the barangay or municipality who stand to gain or lose from the intervention

 

How is a grievance or comment filed or initiated?

A grievance or comment may be channeled or initiated through:

  • Letters 

  • E-mails

  • Text messages

  • Verbal narration from walk-in complainants 

  • Phone calls  

  • Suggestion boxes to be placed in non-political/religious institutions

  • Reports on visits to project offices and sites by MedNet staff, independent monitors, government officials, or any interested persons or special groups like IPs, elderly, etc. 

  • Reports of staff, consultants, NGOs, LGUs and journalists

  • Call in questions, comments or complaints from radio programs

  • Media newscasts, newspaper articles, and other publications

 

In what form may the comment or grievance be filed?  

The comment or grievance can be in writing or given orally.   It can be in hard copy or in the form of e-mails or text messages.  It may or may not be signed by the sender. 

Where should the grievance be filed? 

A concerned individual or group may file a complaint or address queries/comments at the office of MedNet using any of the means identified earlier. 

Who may receive grievance, comments or queries? 

The following are authorized to receive and intake the grievance:

  • Community Empowerment Facilitator

  • Grievance Committee Members

  • MedNet Executive Director

  • MedNet M&E Officer

 

They shall accomplish the intake form to record the complaints they received.

Verification and Action

This second step in the grievance handling process covers two activities, namely Verification/Fact-finding and Action.

 

Verification - This activity includes gathering of facts and clarifying information in order to have a clear picture of the circumstances surrounding the grievance or complaint. 

Conducting Verification/Fact-finding

  • Analyze issues that need to be validated and the persons/parties involved. 

  • Determine facts to be verified and how to gather them.

  • Validation methods include site visits, review of documents, interviews and meetings with concerned individuals/groups. 

  • Secure all documents/means of verifications (MOVs) that will support the findings. 

  • Ensure that whole procedure is properly documented (such as minutes of meeting, recordings or photos), fair and transparent.

  • Present findings/results of validation to the Grievance Committee.  

 

Action

  • This step reflects the steps towards the resolution of the case. Actions to a grievance include openly discussing the issues to the community and arriving at agreements and decision as well as imposition of sanctions, if needed. 

  • In general, the process is kept simple and all grievances will be dealt with at the lowest level possible of the community. This is because the ultimate users of the system are the residents of the community participating in the EDRMP/ADR intervention. They should therefore be kept informed and involved in determining actions to be taken.  

  • Any decision made by the body should be contained in a minutes of meeting or proceeding. This would serve as supporting document to the resolution of the case.

Processing of Grievances Per Type

Type of Grievance

Type A: Non-contentious queries/clarifications on the project

Examples: Positive comments/appreciation on the project clarification on roles and responsibilities of volunteers

Inquiry on schedule and timeline of intervention

Action and Processing Timeline

Responded to at the point of intake or referred to appropriate office/person who can address the inquiry

Should be addressed within 5 days from the date of receipt

Type of Grievance

Type B:  Compliance with processes, MOA and other implementation arrangements 

Example: Collusion of ADR practitioner and a party in the EDRMP/ADR case

Action and Processing Timeline

CEF or authorized person to receive and intake the grievance will endorse grievance to GRS committee   
 
GRS committee may conduct initial fact-finding or call for community consultations where involved parties will arrive at decision/consensus/ agreement 

Grievance committee will gather/secure MOVs (ex. Minutes of the meeting) and coordinate with CEF on status of resolution

Should be addressed within 15-30 days from the date of receipt 

Type of Grievance

Type C:  Conformance with government procurement and finance guidelines   

Example: forgery of documents

Action and Processing Timeline

CEF or authorized person to receive and intake the grievance will endorse grievance to GRS committee  

 

GRS committee may conduct initial fact-finding

 

Grievance committee will gather/secure MOVs (ex. Minutes of the meeting) and coordinate with CEF on status of resolution

 

Should be addressed within 30-60 days from the date of receipt

A grievance case is considered resolved when:

  • An inquiry or clarification regarding the program/project has been responded and the person who raised the concern is satisfied with the response provided. 

  • When unfulfilled obligations/commitment of one of the parties involved had been complied and all parties are satisfied with the actions taken. 

  • When violations committed had been corrected in accordance to program policies and guidelines  

  • Appropriate sanction to group/individual involved in the case has been imposed when necessary

Sanction

Depending on the gravity of the act or omission, sanctions may be imposed by the Grievance Committee for community concerns and recommend sanctions to the MedNet Executive Director for staff concerns or MedNet Board of Trustees for members’ concerns.  Sanctions can be imposed only when there is a majority vote of the members of the Grievance Committee or Board of Trustees.   Any sanction shall be without prejudice to the penal, civil or administrative sanctions that may be imposed by pertinent laws or guidelines.

Possible Sanctions

Sanctions that may be imposed by the Grievance Committee:

  • Warning

  • Reprimand

Sanctions that may be imposed by the Executive Director to MedNet Staff

  • This shall be governed by the MedNet Human Resources Guidelines

Sanctions that may be imposed by the Board of Trustees to MedNet Members

  • This shall be governed by MedNet Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws and Code of Ethics

Appeal

Any person who does not agree with the decision on a complaint or grievance may file an appeal with the next higher level of the grievance redress system or to any appropriate office. The appeal shall be resolved by the receiving office within 30 working days.

Deciding body

  • Grievance Committee

  • Executive Director

  • Board of Trustees

Appeal to

  • Executive Director

  • Board of Trustees

  • General Assembly

Feedback

This refers to the process of replying to the grievance sender and informing the complainant or aggrieved party of the status of his/her complaint. If complainant is unknown, the status or the redress documents covering the complaint will be posted in the community bulletin boards. Response to grievances under Type A must be presented to community meetings or assemblies to provide clear and complete information to people about their queries. 

Follow-Up

This involves determining the result/outcome of resolved grievances. Follow-up must also be done to all resolved grievances immediately upon the feedback was provided to the complainant to determine if the final resolution yielded positive result to the aggrieved party and to the community in general. This involves asking the complainant whether or not he/she was satisfied or not satisfied with the resolut