Session 4 of Pilipinas Conference 2020: “Opportunities Within the COVID-Crisis: Towards Transparent and Accountable Governance”

The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the virus from Wuhan has brought a multifaceted array of issues to the fore of our national consciousness and discourse. Besides the issue of health, the scale and urgency of the crisis has highlighted the importance of cooperation between the private and public sectors, and, most importantly, the steep cost of errors and mismanagement by public servants and public institutions.

The main issue lies in the yet-unseen mass mobilization of funds, with most being able to bypass traditional methods of public accountability, transparency, and checks and balances. Such misallocation of funds, or worse, misappropriation of properly allocated funds, may literally come at the cost of Filipino lives.

This is where the interplay of transparency and accountability in governance comes into play.

We are now witnessing issues rapidly arising around the question of data gaps, the integrity of data, and the speed at which data is transmitted. The availability of public data on government programs, funds, protocols, and policies are in place play a two-fold role. First, they are a pre-emptive guard to ensure transparency and public involvement. Second, they facilitate accountability by empowering a smooth and coordinated response against COVID across all sectors.

The value of data is by no means surprising, especially when the rapid digitalization of public and private life is taken into account. When framed in this manner, the digital nature of our lives can combine the catalyst-like qualities of the pandemic to create an opportunity for transparency and accountability, not only of funds, but of government performance.

A critical realization as we work towards open governance is that transparency is only the first step. While easily available data on its own presents powerful opportunities, it must be systematically harnessed through inter-sectoral collaborations towards accountable governance. Data without action is inert and does not institute change.

A key tool that can harness data moving forward is the full and coordinated use of digital tools and cloud-based technologies for the purposes of e-governance. The use of such technologies, combined with civil society efforts to translate raw data into actionable information, brings the government closer to the public, increasing overall engagement, and securing meaningful democratic participation and accountability.

Genuine democratic participation and awareness of government performance and fund allocations must be built as early as now, given that we are quickly moving towards the 2022 presidential elections. Transparency is essential in empowering the voting public to make informed decisions –decisions which will propel our society towards an institutionalized culture of multi-sectoral accountability, meaningful public-private and civil society cooperation, and a dismantling of the culture of impunity.

Driven by these advocacies, the Stratbase ADR Institute has dedicated the fourth day of the week-long Pilipinas Conference to tackle governance, election integrity and upholding transparency and accountability in government. This program is entitled “Opportunities Within the COVID-Crisis: Towards Transparent and Accountable Governance,” wherein government stakeholders, civil society organizations and the academe will share their perspectives in encouraging civic-engagement to promote democratic values and good governance.

This pandemic is an accelerant that has driven unprecedented socio-political changes. We must work together to make sure these changes are for the better.

Program

Opening Remarks
Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit
President, Stratbase ADR Institute

Keynote Address
Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales
Former Ombudsman;
Former Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the Philippines

Part 1: Government Mechanisms in Upholding Transparency and Accountability

The branches of government are designed to have equal powers of checks and balances. It is imperative for any democratic society to maximize the systems of government to create clear transparency and accountability mechanism

Ensuring Accountability through Public Participation and Innovative Audit Initiatives
Atty. Michael G. Aguinaldo
Chairperson, Commission on Audit

Formulating Civil Society Responses to Government Corruption in the Midst of Crises
Ms. Huguette Labelle
Chair, International Anti-Corruption Conference Council;
Former Chairperson, Transparency International;
Former Chancellor, University of Ottawa

The Estonian Digital Governance Experience
Mr. Ratko Mutavdzic
National Technology Officer,
Microsoft Central and Eastern Europe

Part 2: The Key Role of Civic-Engagement in Upholding Transparency and Accountability

Civic-engagement through the active involvement of civil society organizations, non-government organizations and the academe play a key role in the balance of power in any democratic society. Public participation in government programs, legislative deliberations and other public engagements ensure a whole-of-society approach in crafting public services. This portion will present the programs, projects and research studies of organizations and academic institutions who are vigilant advocates of good governance.

Preserving Independent and Accountable Public Institutions
Mr. Vasu Mohan
Regional Director for Asia-Pacific,
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)

Preventing Government Corruption in Crises
Ms. Katherine Ellena
Senior Global Advisor, Legal,
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)

Building Digital Communications Strategy for Public Accountability
Ms. Zy-Za Nadine Suzara
Executive Director,
Institute for Leadership, Empowerment and Democracy

Resiliency and Transparency for E-Governance in Times of Crisis
Dr. Maria Fe Villamejor-Mendoza
Deputy Secretary-General, Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration;
Former Dean, University of the Philippines – National College of Public Administration and Governance

ADRi Special Study: “Regaining Public Trust in Democratic Institutions: Transparency and Accountability Reforms”
Dr. Francisco Magno
Trustee and Program Convenor, Stratbase ADR Institute
Senior Fellow and Founding Director, De La Salle Institue of Governance

Closing Remarks
Mr. Francesco “Paco” A. Pangalangan
Executive Director, Stratbase ADR Institute

Moderator:
Atty. Jenny Domino
Non-Resident Fellow, Stratbase ADR Institute

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