Bucay has been ruled by one political family for almost 40 years until 2010, when a local businessman and former vice-governor was elected municipal mayor. Since then, the town has seen improvements in their access to clean water, paved rural roads, electricity, disaster preparedness, and education. Women are taking leadership roles in the villages and people actively participate in identifying their own development needs and in implementing them. Citizens attribute such improvements to the participatory governance style of the new leadership with a strong support from the central government – emphasizing participation of citizens, especially of women, bottom-up budgeting, and community-driven development. Bucay still faces enormous challenges with poverty and unemployment and it is beginning to feel the impacts of climate change on its community-managed water systems. The positive changes in the last 10 years, however, shows that participatory local governance is an important factor in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and in upholding the rights of citizens. Starting in 2016, the country has been sliding back to centralized governance focused on law and order. Support to local governance has subsided and replaced with a bloody campaign against drug pushers and “red-tagging” of activists and political opposition. How can Bucay sustain its transformation in the face of an unsupportive national government and the threat of climate change impacts? This case study conducted in 2019 calls for a closer look at Bucay and other municipalities in search of options for local governments and the civil society groups they work with towards good governance, human rights, and the SDGs against the backdrop of an unfolding national crisis.