G-Watch Conducts Health Budget Monitoring Workshop


Last February 14 to 16, 2024, Government Watch (G-Watch) held a Briefing Orientation Seminar (BOS) on Health Budget Monitoring with its PRO-Health partners-organizations. The event gathered more than 30 participants from ten national and Greater Manila Area-based organizations.

Composed mostly of mothers, LGBTIQ rights advocates, student activists and youth leaders, the organizations that attended the BOS included the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), Multiply-Ed, the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation of Quezon City, the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation of Barangay Pag-asa, KULAY (Kapisanan ng mga LGBTIQ+ ng Pilipinas), Samahan ng mga Nagkakaisang Pamilyang Pantawid (SNPP), Central Caring Alliance Philippines, Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN), and SIKLAB Pilipinas. 

In her opening remarks, G-Watch convener-director Joy Aceron emphasized that allocating the budget for the needs of ordinary citizens will always be determined by who is in power. “Ang usapin ng budget ay usapin ng kapangyarihan,” she said. [The budget issue is an issue of power.]

Diane Cheng-Fernandez, the officer-in-charge of the Health Planning Division of the Department of Health (DOH), was the first resource persons, presenting the highlights of the 2024 health budget. (See the 8-point agenda here.)

During the open forum, one participant asked about how resources are allocated to beneficiaries when our country’s bureaucracy is prone to political intervention.

“When we request for additional budget, we always request it for the constituents, particularly medical assistance to indigent patients,” Fernandez answered. “We want to ensure that the resources will go to our constituents and not to any politicians,” she added.

Anna Bueno of G-Watch concluded the first day of the BOS by discussing the current state of important health policies and programs, including reproductive health, First 1000 Days, and mental health. She highlighted how the SIN Tax Law has led to the steady increase of the health budget, but is not being spent efficiently.

“While the overall health budget has been increasing, the budget for primary health care programs like reproductive health and First 1000 Days have been are decreasing yearly,” Bueno pointed out. 

After Bueno’s presentation, a participant asked why the government could not see the significance of the First 1000 Days. Bueno responded by saying that, “The government puts less priority on early development programs.”

She further asserted that though the budget should be transparent, participatory, and accountable, there is no guarantee that the inputs and recommendations from social movements and civil society will be included by the government. Bueno, therefore, emphasized the need to strengthen citizens’ engagement to ensure that their advocacies are included in public health spending.

The second day began with a discussion about the public financial system and budgeting process by Assistant Secretary Ronaldo Toledo of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

During the open forum, one participant shared an insight, stating, “It is critical that we participate in the budgeting and monitoring process from preparation to execution, as well as holding our government accountable on how the money is spent.”

This was followed by a presentation by Aceron who explained the G-Watch Accountability Approach and G-Watch’s new initiative called PRO-Health. She began her talk by pointing out that democracy in the Philippines is weak due to the lack of accountability. Aceron, therefore, emphasized the need for citizens’ groups like G-Watch to promote “constructive accountability," where citizens and governments co-construct how to continuously improve governance. One core idea in G-Watch approach that sets it apart from others, says Aceron, is how it believes that participation should be citizen-led and how it brings and designs participatory processes "where citizens are at."

“We are clear by what we mean by constructive accountability, and this refers to the engagement of government, civil society and even the private sector to jointly undertake accountability processes to achieve a shared goal,” she said.

Aceron ended her presentation by outlining the five elements of monitoring to guide the participants in their monitoring for PRO-Health.

For the afternoon session, Aida Carpentero, former procurement director of the Department of Education, now a procurement expert and recognized trainer by the Government Procurement and Policy Board (GPPB), gave a discussion on ‘Procurement 101’. This included the key features of the Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA), the standard bidding processes of goods and infrastructure, and alternative methods of procurement.

The second day ended with the participants forming ‘Accountabiliteams’ and coming up with their respective PRO-Health Budget Tracking and Procurement Monitoring Activities. The participants were formed into campaign teams around PRO-Health priority programs and policies. Each team was tasked to push for higher budget as well as transparency, participation and accountability in public financial management of health.

The team composed mainly of SNPP opted to handle reproductive health and First 1000 Days as these programs are closely aligned with the health conditionalities of 4Ps. They prepared a plan that employs the same strategies and tactics that enabled SNPP push for the passage of the 4Ps Law, which include direct lobbying with politicians and mass action when necessary.

The team composed of Multiply-Ed and other youth will cover mental health and feeding programs. Their approach is to try to increase the health budget by participating in ongoing legislative deliberations on proposed laws relevant to health, especially to mental health and nutrition. They have, so far, identified seven legislative bills, namely: 

  1. House Bill 296 (An Act Providing Magna Carta for Public Mental Health Professionals) filed by Rep. Greg Gasataya.
  2. House Bill 299 (An Act Strengthening the Mental Health Services of State Universities and Colleges and Appropriating Funds Thereof) filed by Rep. Greg Gasataya.
  3. (Senate Bill 2200 (Basic Education Mental Health and Well-being Promotion Act) filed by Sen.Win Gatchalian.
  4. Senate Bill 1843 (Amending Republic Act 11037: Expanding Free School Meals Program and Mandating Procurement from Small Scale Farmers for National Feeding Program) filed by Sen. Raffy Tulfo.
  5. Senate Bill 915 (Expanding Feeding Program in Secondary Schools) filed by Sen. Sonny Angara.
  6. House Bill 09811 (Extending the National Feeding Program to Undernourished Children in Secondary Schools and Appropriating Funds Thereof) filed by Rep. Camille Villar.
  7. House Bill 8910 (Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention that will allow teens to have access to reproductive commodities without parental consent) filed by Rep. Edcel Lagman.

The G-Watch Quezon City team chose First 1000 Days as some of the participants are already involved in early childhood care and nutrition programs in their locality. Their plan is to create more allies among barangay officials and local civil society groups and undertake relevant monitoring in Quezon City.

The three-day BOS ended with a ceremonial activity called Commitment Circle, wherein each participant pledged a commitment to pursue the goals of the group and the plans crafted during the briefing-orientation. Gab Peralta of G-Watch Quezon City committed to propagate G-Watch among his fellow youth: “I want to give back the efforts that G-Watch provided me, which became part of my journey and leadership.”

An SNPP member gave a heartfelt message of gratefulness for the knowledge she acquired from the briefing-orientation and for learning the meaning of “pananagutan” [accountability] that she remembers singing regularly in church, but only fully comprehending its meaning of now through her “third home, G-Watch.”

Matthew Silverio of SCAP and Multiply-Ed hopes “to organize various student councils through our networks, including the Model SK Network, Pantay for Gender, Youth for Mental Health Coalition, and Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking.”

For her part, Jai Catacio of SNPP committed to continue being assertive. “Asserting is part of social accountability because there will always be failures. We do not always win on what we fight for, but being assertive is what allows us to thrive and win the causes we care about—that’s what we have as mothers,” she said.  



See related Facebook posts here: