G-Watch welcomes 2023 with 2nd Learning Exchange with Accountability Frontliners

G-Watch welcomes 2023 with 2nd Learning Exchange with Accountability Frontliners 

Government Watch (G-Watch) greeted the new year by holding its Second Learning Exchange in Iloilo City on January 6-9, 2023. Held in cooperation with Accountability Research Center (ARC), the event was attended by accountability frontliners and G-Watch volunteers from eight G-Watch sites: Puerto Princesa, Lanao del Sur, Dumaguete, Cebu City, Naga, Bacolod, Southern Leyte, and Sibagat, Agusan del Sur with the Integrity Watch for Accountable Governance (IWAG).

Hoping to draw insights from their experiences, the event sought to answer the question: How can accountability agendas and rights defenders survive the pandemic, closing civic space and rollback of past partial wins?

The Learning Exchange began with welcome remarks from Professor Jonathan Fox of ARC and Convenor-Director Joy Aceron of G-Watch. Each site then presented their assessment of the state of their local transparency, participation and accountability (TPA) initiatives. This was followed by a plenary discussion, which aggregated the results from each of the presentations. It also highlighted the salient points that will later be used for the monitoring tool and documentation protocols.

Some key takeaways from the site presentations highlight gaps in information access, opportunities that utilize the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG), the potential of engaging with mandated Local Participatory Bodies (LSBs), People’s Councils, and the youth, as well as the importance of a normalized G-Watch process contributing to organization credibility.


New Concepts and Pressing Agenda

Resource speakers were invited to talk about relevant development concepts that can aid each site in crafting designs that align with G-Watch’s annual thrust.

Ms. Rafaela David, one of the original core team members of G-Watch, presented the concept of Theory of Change (ToC) and facilitated a workshop for the sites to craft their own ToCs.

Dr. Rebecca Gregorios from the Iloilo City government shared their progress in developing health services and facilities by engaging with local stakeholders. Prof. Jessica Dator-Bercilla of University of the Philippines-Visayas talked about evidence-informed risk governance and how the integration of social vulnerability analysis puts information as a vital element in informing Iloilo City’s development plans, especially in health and disaster governance.

Atty. Ana Bueno introduced related policies relating to health rights and the Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Childhood, Adult Health (RMNCAH) agenda. Sites then designed plans relating to RMNCAH based on their local contexts.

For the second round of resource speakers, Mr. Randee Cabases from Oxfam Pilipinas and Dr. Julia Fisher-Mackey of ARC presented the concept of Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) and how it applies to and within development organizations such as G-Watch. Another workshop was facilitated for sites to integrate a MEL framework for each of their ToCs.


Moving Forward

Nearing the end of the workshop, Ms. Joy Aceron emphasizes RMNCAH as one of the main thrusts of G-Watch for 2023. Inputs from each site will supplement the organizations’ plans in monitoring health services delivery across the country through TPA. In addition, grassroots initiatives from G-Watchers were given the opportunity to share the current situation on: (1) integrating TPA as a viable route for CWTS/NSTP in the tertiary education system in Southern Leyte, (2) mobilizing Barangay Health Workers to protect health rights in Cebu City, (3) and organizing student bodies in the basic education sector across Western Visayas. These are the proposed targets in expanding G-Watch’s network and push for coalition-building.

The Learning Exchange was designed to inform and improve the work of accountability frontliners across the different sites. At the height of the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, G-Watch volunteers were the first to mobilize, ensuring TPA is integrated into local pandemic service delivery. Programs, projects, and initiatives were done since the launch of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), vaccine distribution, and even the monitoring of election campaigns and voting across the country. Adopting the term “accountability frontliners,” G-Watch was able to present a model that energizes civic engagement and constituency building to check local governments. These efforts did not go unnoticed, and has received positive response from government agencies such as the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).