#UnitedAgainstCorruption: G-Watch’s Citizen Action for Accountability

December 9 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Day of Anti-Corruption. For this year, G-Watch is sharing the video recording of its Convenor-Director Joy Aceron’s two-part interview from Far Eastern University’s Public Intellectual Series conducted in 2019.

The interview, entitled “Fighting Corruption Through Citizen Action for Accountability and Democratic Leadership” talks about what corruption is, why it happens, and how citizens can fight it. As such, it is an important source on anti-corruption studies and efforts and has been one of the most watched in the series.

Corruption as part of culture

Corruption has already become a norm in the Philippines. It manifests in everyday bureaucracy, as well as in the country’s electoral system. Aceron points out that “this is a vicious cycle that happens over and over again where we actually get to elect government officials who would justify stealing money from public coffers, because that’s their way of staying in power, which people legitimize by getting them elected over and over again.”

Unfortunately, the Philippines has a weak accountability and justice system which results in a culture of impunity “where those who are stealing money from public coffers, who are doing corruption, are not put to jail, are not held to account,”  she notes.

Citizen action for accountability

Given this state of impunity, Aceron puts forth that the way to counter it should be through accountability–”the other side of power in a democracy”, she says.

In order to fight corruption, G-Watch proposes the use of vertically-integrated advocacy and monitoring wherein citizens on the ground up to the international are organized and involved in campaigns. 

According to Aceron, “…just the simple process of participation of citizens [in monitoring] at different levels enables that kind of complete accountability, that comprehensive accountability and a complete oversight,” which prevents the government from passing the blame on others.

Lastly, she underscores the importance of participation and taking part in collective actions in combating corruption. Piecemeal, technocratic changes can work for some time, but systemic reform requires making governance more inclusive. People must be able to feel involved and demand change, which would eventually lead to generating trust and confidence that the government will respect and act upon their stake. However, this invitation must not be tokenistic–it should lead to a diffusion of power that will enforce change towards democracy.

“Most of the time people do not care about their actions and decisions because they probably think that they are not part of any society and they’re not linked to any part of society and collective action, especially the collective action and specific initiatives that are quite simple but would open up awareness.”

This approach that uses G-Watch’s key tenets of Transparency, Participation, and Accountability (TPA) has since been recognized as an effective means of achieving good governance, such when the late Jesse Robredo institutionalized them in his time. More and more local governments are looking at TPA mechanisms to replicate, and begin building constituencies that communicate the demand.

20th Year of United Nations Convention Against Corruption

This International Anti-Corruption Day, G-Watch expresses its solidarity to the anti-corruption movements all over the world. May we all reaffirm our commitment for the fight against corruption as we collectively reflect on the 20th year of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. While there have been progress, the rollback in anti-corruption efforts along with the shrinking of civic space and overall democratic decline need to be overcome. We can only do so with the strengthened commitment to the anti-corruption agenda informed by the lessons of the past and with conscious efforts to win back the people and broaden the anti-corruption agenda.    

G-Watch calls it strategic approach to accountability that utilizes and advances movement-based and -led approaches in sustaining reforms that leads to powershifts in favor of the people. If we are to make a dent on the fight against abuse of power and impunity, citizens will have to be at the frontline and the center of that fight. G-Watch adopts the said approach in its ongoing monitoring of health and education with some of its volunteer-monitors meeting on the week of December 9 as part of the International Anti-Corruption Day and the International Human Rights Day.  

See here for the videos: Part 1, Part 2