The core Government Watch (G-Watch) network is present in 12 localities in nine regions in the Philippines. It is composed of 11 local core groups of grassroots volunteers, local civic leaders and good governance champions in government developed through constituency-building initiatives in the past decade. The G-Watch Network is coordinated and supported by the G-Watch Center with its collective oversight, the G-Watch Executive Board.
G-Watch also works with four national and sub-national CSO partners involved in social accountability and rights-based campaigns. For over two decades, G-Watch has produced numerous publications on transparency, participation and accountability and has developed tens of monitoring processes covering key public services and policies.
G-Watch works to provide an effective intellectual and civic bridge between the local, national and global arenas in the participation and accountability field to inform theory and practice. Having done several pioneering social accountability initiatives with its extensive network and with its independent citizen monitoring and research profile, G-Watch models a strategic way of doing transparency, participation and accountability.
G-Watch core leaders hold a planning workshop in Palawan. G-Watch regularly convenes its core leaders from all over the country for collective conjunctural analysis, learning-reflection session and agenda-setting.
Strategic Transparency, Participation and Accountability
1. People Power: Sustaining Citizen Action and Accountability Frontliners
The Philippines is home to some of the known approaches and innovation on transparency, participation and accountability. Yet, sustaining gains remains a challenge in the Philippines and elsewhere.
G-Watch movement orientation has been key in sustaining strategic citizen action and research that addresses root causes of accountability problems. Even with the life-threatening dangers of COVID-19, G-Watch monitors continued to check social assistance and health services. These G-Watch monitors are ‘accountability frontliners,’ i.e., citizens who are the frontlines of accountability work: securing and sharing important and accurate information, utilizing accountability mechanisms, generating government response and being active citizens.
G-Watch learns with, from and about accountability frontliners as it explores, in general, the ways and means citizen action for accountability are sustained. What motivates accountability frontliners? What is an environment and support system that enable accountability frontliners? How can movement-based approaches be mainstreamed and strengthened in organizations working on accountability?
G-Watchers in Cebu check government COVID assistance. The Tagolog phrase “Ako, Ikaw, Tayo May Pananagutan” appearing on the back of the G-Watcher’s shirt can be translated into English as “All of Us Have Accountability.”
2. Action Research on Multi-Level Monitoring of Social Programs
Since 2017, G-Watch has been engaging several pro-poor participatory government reform programs at different levels of decision-making to understand how and whether their citizen engagement and accountability features work. A key part of engaging these social programs involve exploring the application of multi-level civil society monitoring in enhancing accountability.
Multi-level monitoring involves covering the different levels of decision-making: local level, sub-national, national and international. G-Watch examines social programs including the Philippines’ conditional cash transfer program or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan (KALAHI) that employs the community-driven development approach and participatory budgeting. When COVID-19 hit, G-Watch adapted to look into health and social assistance, also with multi-level citizen action for accountability.
3. Scaling Accountability through Youth-Led Engagement
G-Watch has been exploring youth-led accountability engagement as a way of addressing the question of ‘scale’ and sustained impact. What does youth-led mean? Can youth organizing enable accountability to scale towards sustainable impact? How can the scaling of youth organizing sustain collective action to make a clear dent in governance situation? How to scale civil society initiatives that result in powershifts?
Initially through support from Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, G-Watch has been engaging Sangguniang Kabataan [youth councils] in the Philippines to explore its potential as an accountability mechanism in local governance.
G-Watch is currently undertaking a 3-year education monitoring project with the Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN) funded by Global Partnership for Education (GPE) under its Education Out Loud program. The project called MultiplY-Ed aims to improve transparency, participation, and accountability in education governance through a youth-led, multi-sectoral and multi-level approach to monitoring government education policy and service-delivery in addressing the education needs of the Filipino youth in the time of the pandemic (and post-pandemic).
4. Learning to be Strategic: TPA Now!
The challenge of achieving an impact that addresses the root causes of social problems through transparency, participation and accountability (TPA) initiatives points to the need for a different way of doing accountability. To advance the discourse and practice of ‘strategic TPA,’ in 2020 G-Watch launched TPA Now! A Paper Series on Transparency, Participation and Accountability. TPA Now! is a platform for practitioners, researchers and action strategists to present evidence and reflect on the practice and research on strategic TPA and to broaden awareness of the importance of accountability in governance.
Here are some TPA Now! papers:
Rebooting Accountability: An Introduction to the TPA Now! Paper Series
By: Francis Isaac
By: Isnihayah Binumbaran
Monitoring the Philippine Conditional Cash Transfer: Gains, Lessons, and Ways Forward
By: Aniceta Baltar
5. Strategic Accountability in Peace-Building: the Bangsamoro Engagement
G-Watch has long been present in the autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao, conducting monitoring, facilitating good governance dialogues and helping build peace alliances. With the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that created the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), G-Watch further explores the role of strategic accountability in peace-building, especially in a post-conflict context by collaborating with BARMM-based grassroots partners and allies.
Strategic Accountability initiatives that G-Watch champions are multi-pronged, create an enabling environment for voice, take accountability to scale and with realistic assessment measures. It involves what G-Watch refers to as ‘demand-supply synergy,’ demands referring to citizen voice and action, and supply referring to state mechanisms for accountability to continuously scale and build accountability. The goal of this work is to explore whether and how strategic accountability can/ will be enabled in BARMM. G-Watch and partners have a proposed plan for a comprehensive accountability system called the BARMM Monitor. G-Watch has also been working with BARMM-based leaders to continue to track the progress of transparency, participation and accountability in BARMM at BARMM’s inception stage even amid the pandemic.
6. Alliance-Building, Multi-Media Engagement & Advocacy
G-Watch builds on its policy monitoring, research and advocacy through alliance-building and multi-media engagement. Aside from its core network and cadre of monitors, G-Watch has also engaged with allies in government and civil society at different levels of governance. G-Watch disseminates its ideas, proposals and findings through direct dialogues with its stakeholders, an active multi-media engagement and direct interface with journalists. Through its allies in government and civil society and its multi-media engagement, G-Watch pushes out its monitoring findings and recommendations to influence policy discourses and decisions.
Below are recent G-Watch’s pieces published by media and covered by journalists based on data collected and analyzed by G-Watch accountability frontliners:
Anti-corruption under Duterte: Reactive and ineffective
[OPINION] A big step towards building strong accountability in BARMM
[OPINION] A double dare to the government: Take charge of people’s welfare or give up powers
[ANALYSIS] Citizen entitlements during the coronavirus crisis
[ANALYSIS] Amid the coronavirus crisis, where have all the sin tax funds gone?
[SPECIAL REPORT] Delays, anomalies in Lanao infra projects haunt Bangsamoro region
7. Ecosystemic Approach and Making Elections an Accountability Platform
One of the key challenges of accountability work is how to grapple with shifting civic spaces. In the case of the Philippines, from being the darling of open government reforms several years ago, one political transition suddenly turned it into a country facing a human rights crisis. This has certainly made efforts to secure government responses to accountability efforts precarious. Using an accountability ecosystem approach, G-Watch has explored alternative ways to secure government responses: engaging local governments and government audit institutions and ‘making the elections an accountability platform.’
G-Watch’s Making Elections an Accountability Platform (or MEAP) asserts that elections are part of an ecosystem of accountability mechanisms that need to be activated and engaged alongside other accountability efforts. MEAP promotes voter education with ideas about accountability and citizenship. It seeks to provide a safe and open platform for citizens, citizen groups and communities to collectively reflect on the situation of the country, reaffirm basic democratic values and processes and try to identify shared agendas on democratic deepening.
G-Watch in Lanao conducts a Making Elections an Accountability Platform session.
Browse all G-Watch resource documents and publications including G-Watch Monitoring Manuals, Governance Reform Studies, Political Democracy and Reforms (PODER) Publications, and Vertical Integration Research.
‘Accountability Frontliners’: Citizen Monitors are on the Frontlines of the Pandemic Too (Joy Aceron 2021)
Vertical Integration: Localizing the Concept (Francis Isaac and Joy Aceron 2021)
Pananagutan: Accountability and the Struggle for Filipino Nationhood (Francis Isaac 2021)
Action Research Collaboration on Multi-Level Accountability Politics: The ‘Different’ that Makes a Difference (Joy Aceron 2021)
Bibingka Strategy: A Conceptual Summary (Francis Isaac and Joy Aceron 2021)
Pitfalls of Aiming to Empower the Bottom from the Top: The Case of Philippine Participatory Budgeting (Joy Aceron 2019)
Francis Isaac on Multi Level Accountability Politics in Land Reforms in the Philippines (video 2018)
Going Vertical: Citizen-led Reform Campaigns in the Philippines (Joy Aceron, editor 2018)
From the Ground Up: Multi-Level Accountability Politics in Land Reform in the Philippines (Francis Isaac, Danilo Carranza, Joy Aceron 2017)
Construyendo la rendición de cuentas de manera diferente: Una propuesta para la integración vertical del monitoreo y la incidencia pública (Jonathan Fox, Joy Aceron, and Aránzazu Guillán Montero 2017)
Going Vertical: Citizen-led Reform Campaigns in the Philippines (Joy Aceron and Francis Isaac 2016)
Doing Accountability Differently. A Proposal for the Vertical Integration of Civil Society Monitoring and Advocacy (Jonathan Fox, Joy Aceron, Aránzazu Guillán Montero 2016)