CANA leads citizen monitoring of Yolanda recovery funds 

 

MANILA – Three days into the first month since super Typhoon Yolanda flattened many parts of central Philippines, media groups, netizens, and disaster risk reduction advocates come together to talk on steps to ensure that the funds and goods donated for Yolanda victims will be accounted for and will match of the needs of about 11 million people it affected.

Leading the roundtable discussion called “Watching Where the Aid Goes” December 5 in Quezon City are the Yolanda Citizen Watch (YCW) of the Citizen Action Network for Accountability (CANA), Blog Watch, #AidMonitorPH, and the Disaster Risk Reduction Network Philippines (DRRNetPhils). About 100 people from media, civil society, international NGOs, schools, and other sectors took part in what may be the first public roundtable that puts spotlight on the need to collectively monitor and report funds intended for relief and recovery of Yolanda victims amid past reports of abuse of funds for victims of recent calamities in the country.

“It is our moral obligation to help ensure things don’t go missing, get stolen or wasted,” says Rorie Fajardo, program manager of CANA, which launched the Yolanda Citizen Watch few days after the super typhoon. “We need real People Power to make sure every single centavo counts.”

Fajardo said national government funds are among those which need to be closely monitored. Some key questions: Which government departments, agencies and local government units are receiving funds – and how much and which designated bank accounts do these go? What contracts are being awarded, and to whom? Is the money being spent on the ground the way it should? Are timely audits happening?

Blog Watch co-founder Noemi Lardizabal-Dado said her group immediately used social media tools to track aid flows for Yolanda-affected communities following increasing demand from netizens for more accessible data on this. “Through hashtag #AidMonitorPH, we want to ensure that the current outpouring of financial aid translates to immediate relief on the ground.”

The roundtable invited officials from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which is among agencies producing information on extent of damage from Yolanda, and the Department of Budget and Management, which leads the newly launched Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH). Former senator Panfilo Lacson, whom the President handpicked to oversee the reconstruction of the affected regions, declined to speak for now and preferred to “quietly organize, plan and do some networking with the stakeholders while waiting for my appointment papers.”

DRRNetPhils convenor Malu Cagay urged government to use funds not only for recovery but to strengthen resilience of communities from disasters. “The poor gets poorer if we spend only for emergency response and not on measures to help communities prepare for and prevent disasters.”

Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) executive director Red Batario said partnering with citizens and media in affected areas will help closely monitor use of funds. “They will help provide feedback: What help did they receive and did this match their needs?”

Social Watch Philippines lead convenor Leonor Briones called on citizens to monitor more the government funds for Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation. “We emphasize monitoring foreign aid, but we should be more worried about accountability and transparency of money from the government itself.” She also urged citizens to translate and share plans with the communities which need these most, especially the most vulnerable like children, elderly and persons with disabilities.

CANA’s Fajardo raised possible ways to move forward: (a) building a loose network which will collectively monitor funds and donations coursed through the government and other channels; (b) coming up with a unified statement engaging national and local governments on the citizens’ intent to monitor funds, particularly how it is being used; and (c) collective sharing of information through a common online portal.

The Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines through Programme Manager Eric Galvin also expressed support for the initiative. “This is the least we could do for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. This is a symbol of solidarity.”

The Delegation supports the CANA, a three-year program aiming to increase local government transparency and accountability by helping citizens better understand, monitor, and report on LGUs through social media and crowdsourcing technologies. CANA is a joint initiative of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), the MindaNews and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).


 

Roundtable presentations could be downloaded here:

Citizen Monitoring & Reporting Yolanda Recovery by CANA 

Monitoring Yolanda Aid: What Citizens & Media Could do by CCJD Red Batario

Understanding Relief & Recovery by NDRRMC 

Understanding Disaster Risk Reduction & Management by DRRNetPhils

 AidMonitorPH by Blog Watch Jane Uymatiao

Yolanda aid monitor by Blog Watch Noemi Dado