Citizen Accountability Efforts as an Integral Part of the Philippines' COVID-19 Response

By: Joy Aceron

In my April 2 Rappler article entitled ‘Challenges facing social amelioration for the coronavirus, I underscored the importance of citizen accountability efforts given the immense powers and resources that the Executive now wields:

“Given the sheer volume of the assistance to be extended by the government and the amount of money involved, all citizens need to take part in ensuring that benefits and entitlements  during this crisis situation get to the right beneficiaries at the right time following quality standards without anomalies.”

I noted that this is particularly crucial “given our country’s political-social history, [wherein] position of authority and connection in the allocation of resources are likely to figure out more prominently at times of scarcity and crisis.“

It is remarkable how the central government’s response to COVID-19 that has been lacking of coherence, clarity and transparency has created a fertile ground for citizen accountability efforts. In the Philippines, citizens are holding the central government to account for its immense powers and resources to respond to COVID-19 through various bottom-up, social media-based, voluntary efforts.

There are several worth noting.

There is the COVID-19 Dashboard that monitors the progress of the interventions of the government according to outcomes that are critical to be tracked. The metrics being used by COVID-19 Dashboard are as follows:

Under Outcome "Contain and Prevent Virus Spread":
- Testing capacity per day
- Number of beds in mass quarantine facilities

Under Outcome "Treat Infected Patients":
- PPEs for healthcare workers
- Bed capacity for critical patients
- PCSO donation to COVID-19 hospitals and provincial hospitals
- Quick reimbursement of PhilHealth to hospitals

Under Outcome "Mitigate Impact on Livelihood and Economy":
- Recipients of Social Amelioration Program (4Ps, PUV drivers, Emergency Subsidy Program with LGUs, CAMP or assistance to displaced formal workers, rice farmers)
- Securing food supply through (DA Kadiwa Outlets)
- OFW Repatriation Support
- SME Support
- Distressed Industries Assistance

Under Outcome "Ensure Adequate Funding for LGUs":
- National government transfers to LGUs
- LBP Heal 5% interest loans to LGUs

The other remarkable initiative is the #COVID19PH Citizens' Budget Tracker. It provides a detailed tracking of the government budget for the COVID-19 response, particularly expenditures and sources of financing with focus on the social amelioration. It also includes a briefer on public budget, the list of emergency powers given to the presidents, outputs according to the action plan, data wishlist and others.

The other is called Bantay Bayan that mobilizes citizen-volunteers to rate local government response. It checks the following criteria: responsiveness, social and economic services, peace and security and rule of law.

G-Watch, on its part, has released the COVID19 Citizen Entitlement Map (C-CEM) that lists what citizens are entitled to as the government responds to COVID-19. 

G-Watch has started coordinating its 12 local sites on how C-CEM can be useful to their efforts in responding to COVID-19, particularly in ensuring that citizen needs and entitlements are attended to by the government, as they are enabled to hold government to account.

There are others. For example, in the legal accountability front, progressive lawyers are pushing back against pronouncements and actions of the police that disregard human rights: (see This is also a critical accountability effort as power gets concentrated more in the hands of the Executive, particularly the security forces.

With these efforts, platforms and tools, it is now easier to keep track where the government is at in its COVID-19 response. These efforts do not only ensure that the government’s exercise of power is checked, they also provide a framework that could guide government response. The COVID-19 Dashboard provides target outcomes critical for us to prepare in the long-haul. The Citizen Budget Tracker the clarifies - as its details and explains - the budget. Bantay Bayan looks at citizen assessment of local government performance. G-Watch’s C-CEM lists specific citizen entitlements at different levels. It is accountability that constructs and enables governance - if the government listens and responds accordingly.

Joy Aceron is convenor-director of G-Watch and research fellow-adviser at Accountability Research Center