Pitfalls of Aiming to Empower the Bottom from the Top: The Case of Philippine Participatory Budgeting

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This paper explains why and how a reform program that opened up spaces for participatory budgeting was ultimately unable to result in pro-citizen power shifts that transformed governance. The study reviews the design and implementation of Bottom-Up Budgeting (BuB), the nationwide participatory budgeting (PB) program in the Philippines, which ran from 2012 to 2016 under the Benigno Aquino government. The findings underscore the importance of institutional design to participatory governance reforms. BuB’s goal was to transform local government by providing more space for civil society organizations (CSOs) to co-identify projects with the government and to take part in the budgeting process, but it did not strengthen CSO or grassroots capacity to hold their Local Government Units (LGUs) accountable.

Table of Contents

About the Author

I. Introduction
II. Philippine Decentralization and Civil Society Participation in Local Governance
III. Designing Participatory Budgeting for the Philippines
IV. BuB Implementation Process, Major Gains and Key Misses
V. Centralized Implementation Design
VI. The Civil Society Empowerment Pillar was Constrained and Weakened
VII. Failure to Enable Downward Accountability
VIII. Recap, Concluding Analysis and Final Reflections

Annex 1: BuB Menu of Programs
Annex 2: What Percentage of Counterpart Funds are Required from Local Government in BuB?