Reforms from below

The third article in Dean Tony La Viña's series on the G-Watch and social accountability. Here he discussed G-Watch's project in the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS). He shows how the project, a tax collection accountability mechanism, was met with skepticism, but was eventually successful through the efforts of grassroots organizations.

"Skepticism will always be attendant to democratic politics. I had commented in other columns that principled opposition need not be a bar to productive cooperation, particularly in policies that find wide acceptance or are of urgent priority; the act of constructive engagement that's the hallmark of G-Watch. The big-picture lesson is the importance of establishing and maintaining mechanisms of trust (G-Watch being one such mechanism) to facilitate such cooperation among political opponents. When they break down, policy deadlock can happen, as it has happened before. For G-Watch, the immediate lesson was the importance of paying attention to local political rivalries among stakeholders.

But the fight for the top—the local political rivalries—did not dampen the spirits of those who had to fight for the bottom: the other stakeholders whose concerns for citizen monitoring were less political, more personal and social. G-Watch observed the strong commitment given by participating Samal monitors such as Pastor Nuñez, as well as secular organizations like the local Transport Federation, even given the challenges of little preparation time, the need to fit monitoring into their respective schedules, and even some financial challenges. The researcher and academic in Prof. Aceron, as well as the rest of the G-Watch team, was understandably proud of the “voluminous” data collected, enough to identify, even as a tentative result of the analysis, a flaw in EUF implementation."