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The Accountability Deficit in the Philippines: Implications and Prospects for Democratic Consolidation Aries A.

One of the major challenges that consolidating democracies such as the Philippines needs to address is how to combat and control the problems of corruption, abuse of power, and other forms of particularism. The absence of effective institutions and mechanisms to counter them would result in one major democratic deficit the lack or weakness of accountability. This paper attempts to expose the manifestations of the accountability deficit in the Philippines by looking at the problems, limitations, and inadequacies of elections and horizontal state agencies of restraint as institutions of accountability. It also probes into the emergence of an alternative means known as societal accountability using the resignation, impeachment, and ouster (RIO) campaign against then President Joseph Estrada as a case study. This paper concludes with some thoughts on the implications of the accountability deficit to the prospects for democratic consolidation in the Philippines. Keywords: democratic consolidation; accountability; civil society; Joseph Estrada; People Power II

Introduction One of the core principles of democracy that has enticed people across the world is its promise that those who are the objects of political power should also participate in some capacity as agents in the exercise of that power. Almost all scholarly definitions of democracy incorporate the concept of accountability (Dahl 1971; Riker 1965; Schmitter and Karl 1991) or emphasize its significance (Sklar 1987). Political leaders continuously displayed the appreciation that accountability is crucial for their regimes stability and legitimacy. International multilateral institutions aimed at promoting and improving democracy have pursued programs towards more accountable governance. But despite this consensus, the lack or weakness of accountability remains to be one of the most serious challenges that confront fledgling democracies.

A good case in point would be the Philippines, one of the members of the so-called global third wave of democratization. While it has passed the conventional two turn-over test (Huntington 1991), elections have not been sufficient to determine democratic consolidation. Doubts continue to pervade the analysis of scholars and observers on the

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maturity and efficacy of its democratic institutions making it difficult to deny that it suffers from severe democratic deficits (See Anderson 1988; Hutchcroft and Rocamora 2003; Putzel 1999).

One of the main challenges that the Philippines should immediately address is how to combat and control the problems of corruption and other forms of particularistic behavior (ODonnell 1996). The absence of effective measures to counter these perennial demons would result in an accountability deficit.1 This was displayed when the impeachment of then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada on charges of cronyism and corruption was aborted, inevitably opening the floodgates of public discontent and what resulted was another popular uprising known as EDSA 2 last January 2001.

This paper attempts to decipher the various manifestations of the accountability deficit in the Philippines. It then explores the emergence of societal accountability in lieu of the gap created by such a deficit by looking at the case of the resignation, impeachment, and ouster (RIO) campaign against Estrada. By way of conclusion, this paper examines the implications of the current state of accountability in Philippine governance to the prospects for its democratic consolidation.

Accountability Deficit There is a substantial body of literature that discusses the debates surrounding the concept of accountability (Borowiak 2004; Keohane 2002; Moncrieffe 2001). For purposes of brevity, this paper adopts the definition proposed by Schedler as the ability of institutions or mechanisms to ensure that officials are answerable for their behavior and are sanctioned for misbehavior (1999: 17). Thus, it involves two elements: answerability which is being

This paper owes the term accountability deficit from Shugart, et al. (2000).

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responsible for past decisions and/or actions; and enforcement which is the availability and application of sanctions for illegal or inappropriate actions.

How is accountability exercised in a democracy? Conventional typologies on how to hold government accountable comprise notions of political and legal accountability, wherein the former is grounded on the ability of citizens to elicit accountability through their vote (i.e. elections), while the latter delves into the ability of laws and institutional mechanisms to impose accountability (e.g. constitution, or checks and balances) (March and Olsen 1995: 6). In the sphere of public administration, the stress has been the managerial or financial side of exacting accountability from the government bureaucracy (Behn 2001; Cario 1983). With the emergence of rational choice approaches in the study of politics side by side with the burgeoning democratization literature, the typology is now derived through specifying the locus of accountability and identifying principals and agents. Such a classification also stresses the direction of the accountability relationship as well as the arena where the accountability exchanges take place. Using such a spatial metaphor, ODonnell (1999) pioneered its dichotomization into vertical and horizontal types.2

Vertical accountability implies the existence of an agent of control external to the government the public and is primarily exercised through elections. The basic underpinning of a democracy is that the ruled has the ultimate authority to select their rulers. This enables them to either punish them through the withdrawal of their vote or reward them through reelection. It is fairly established in democratic theory that electoral exercises, given that freely contested, widely participated, and anchored on the observance of civil and political liberties, have the ability to elicit accountability. As such, elections should be seen as an opportunity to hold governments responsible for the results of their past actions. This in

Using a temporal dimension, Schmitter (2003) offered an alternative way of conceptualizing accountability.

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turn would supposedly influence governments into choosing or adopting polices and decisions that would result to a positive assessment from the citizenry. This retrospective nature of elections was perfectly captured by Manin, Przeworski and Stokes when they defined electoral accountability as a contingent renewal accountability mechanism where the sanctions are to extend or not to extend the governments tenure (1999: 10).

It would not be long before democratic polities realize that exercises of the ballot are insufficient guarantees that leaders will pursue the public interest. Elections, in practice, have proven to contain inherent weaknesses that severely constrain their promise for exacting accountability. Democratic theorizing and empirical research have spent a great deal in explaining its limitation as a mechanism of control (Przeworski et al. 1999; Samuels 2004). In the belief that rulers themselves must also share the burden of accountability, a complementary type surfaced. Guided by the principle of self-restraint, horizontal accountability imposes the state to willingly police itself by creating institutions and other mechanisms mandated to monitor its own performance. Its first manifestation was the socalled checks and balances between relatively distinct and independent branches of government such as the courts and parliamentary committees. They are supplemented by institutions like the ombudsman and anti-corruption bodies that are conferred with a degree of autonomy in order to generate accountability from within the state (ODonnell 1999).3

However, given the different conditions that surround third wave democracies, both the vertical and horizontal types have fallen short of their expectations, thereby creating an accountability deficit. This concept is considered as a more specific category of

He defines horizontal accountability as the existence of state agencies that are legally enabled and empowered, and factually willing and able, to take actions that span from routine overseeing to criminal sanctions or impeachment in relation to actions or omissions by other agents or agencies of the state that may, presumably, be qualified as unlawful(1999: 38). Draft Manuscript

democratic deficits popularly used not only in democratization discourses but in international relations as well (Beetham et al. 2002; Moravcsik 2004). It refers to the various problems and inadequacies of institutions of accountability and the apparent divergence between the ideals and practice in real-world democracies (Luckham et al. 2003). Diamond also arrived at a similar conclusion when he argued that all democracies, even those wellestablished ones, fall short of democratic ideals. He stated that continuous democratic development is a challenge for all countries, whether new or established (1996: 18-19).

An accountability deficit exists on two cases.4 On the one hand, it could simply be the mere absence of laws, regulations, and formal institutions providing for accountability in governance. In this case, both vertical and horizontal accountability are nonexistent, palpably inviting blatant encroachment and the abuse of authority. There are no legal and institutional provisions for free and fair elections. On the side of horizontal accountability, there is the absence of checks and balances among the branches of the government. The executive possesses tremendous power delegated to him by the electorate such that the controls afforded by the political system are simply overwhelmed resulting to the unaccountable exercise of power (ODonnell 1996: 98-101).

The more common manifestation of this deficit lies in actual application or practice of accountability. While there is no dearth of laws and institutions, they are mere formalities and exhibit a cosmetizing function since they lack sufficient independence and/or resources to effectively perform their responsibilities. Furthermore, accountability cannot be fostered because of the existence of countervailing norms or practices which jeopardizes their operation as instruments of constraint. Elections are not seen as opportunities to elicit accountability given that the pervading informal norms of patronage, personalism, corruption.

The notion of the two fronts of the accountability deficit was drawn from Luckham et al. (2003: 22-23).

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Instances of fraud and violence also disallow them from having any semblance of democratic meaning and promise to hold power to account. Furthermore, the electoral authority or institution mandated to manage oversee elections is prone to the influence of and manipulation by the incumbent and other influential political forces. On the side of horizontal accountability, laws that impose accountability exist but a culture of impunity denies their effective implementation. Governmental checks are distorted and safeguards are neglected by officials who have mastered the art of surviving accountability. Independence is also lacking in the real sense, as most of the institutions are not insulated from internal and external pressures. Lastly, inadequate resources hinder the successful dispensation of their duties (Diamond 2002).

Vertical Accountability Deficits in the Philippines The problems and inadequacies of Philippine democracy have received significant attention from scholars. The country was not spared from being labeled as a democracy with adjectives (Collier and Levitsky 1997) to illustrate the both the weakness of its political institutions and the dominance of particularistic interests in most of its governance structures and processes (Hutchcroft 1998; Quimpo 2005). Others have specifically identified the problems of consolidating Philippine democracy either in broad strokes (Abueva 1997) or with emphasis on a particular aspect such as instituting democratic civilian control over the military (Hernandez 2002) or concluding struggles launched by armed social movements (Rivera 2002). Its most recent articulation was provided by Hutchcroft and Rocamora when they argued that the existing democratic deficit in the Philippines is manifested in the inability of the state to [respond] to pent-up demands and pressures from below, as well as the incapacity of the countrys democratic institutions to do so with any degree of

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effectiveness (2003: 259). The discussion below specifically fleshes out the manifestations of this deficit but focuses more on the vertical and horizontal dimensions of accountability.

With regard to Philippine elections, the literature has described them less as the means of the public to hold governments to account and more as instruments of patronage. Kerkvliet (1997) argued while the country has a long history of democratic elections to which it primarily depends for political legitimacy, they are devoid of an element of accountability whether they concern citizens weighing issues and policy positions of candidates or the electorate choosing who are the most qualified to govern. Empirical research on Philippine elections substantially confirmed their limitations to exact accountability from political leaders (Alejo et al. 1996; Franco 2000; Paredes 1989; Teehankee 2002).

The vertical accountability deficit is seen primarily in the motivations of the main actors of any electoral exercise in the Philippines. From the perspective of both politicians and the electorate, elections are not seen as opportunities to assess the performance of incumbents and in turn, take appropriate actions. Retrospective evaluation of the incumbents action and decisions are at the backburner since what is pivotal are kinship-based relations, popularity, and the existence of political machines that provide immediate material rewards and inducements to voters (Hutchcroft 1991). This perpetuates a vicious cycle wherein candidates for office do not have any rationale to make their previous performance as political capital for reelection since its the possession and effective use of various kinds of resources money, favors, networks, coercion, etc that is the proven formula for electoral victory.

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From the viewpoint of the Filipino electorate, an attitude of cynicism over the promise of electoral accountability is also conspicuously observed. People are cognizant that elections are nothing but contests among elites who have minimal interest in the electorate except getting their votes come election time. In contrary to popular belief, Filipino voters are not nave as they often see through the democratic dressing of electoral contests (Kerkvliet 1997: 145). Thus, the electorate cannot avoid but participate in this charade of democracy by likewise adopting an instrumental approach, treating it as a chance to get redeem something for themselves with no expectations of getting some longer-term return for their vote (Brillantes 1992)5.

The vertical deficits of elections are not only evident on the perceptions of its participants but are also apparent in the design of a countrys political institutions. Linz made the argument that there is no way to hold accountable a president who cannot be present for reelection (1994: 12). Given that the Philippine presidency is held for a single term with no reelection, some scholars have blamed this provision for the lack of accountability and the occurrence of policy incongruences. In theory, this could be mitigated by the existence of political parties that act as intermediaries between politicians and the electorate.6 However, these political institutions also exhibit problematic features in the country. Montinola noted that the reason for the weakness of accountability in the Philippines lies in the character of electoral competition or the quality of choices that voters face, something which is highly dependent on political parties. Throughout the countrys democratic history, parties policies and legislative behavior have been virtually indistinguishable and highly unstable over time (1999: 133-135). Furthermore, Philippine parties were also constantly vulnerable to mass

This has recently been validated by a study of Institute of Philippine Culture on the voting behavior of the Filipino poor (PCIJ 2003). 6 Even if the outgoing president cannot be made personally accountable for misdeeds and abuses of authority, the electorate could exercise accountability either to the candidate that the he endorses or to the candidate that belongs to his party. Draft Manuscript

defections, thereby making it difficult to track political associations, a fundamental prerequisite in exercising electoral accountability. Party switching and turncoatism have been long-standing practices among political parties ever since their creation.

Even if one assumes that elections are free and fair in the Philippines, their leaves much to be desired on the actual outcomes given the limitations posed by the administrative infrastructure. The electoral process itself is often mismanaged, the guiding policies are not implemented, and the laws are violated with relative ease. The Philippines could boast of a comprehensive set of laws that assures a reasonably fair and honest voting and counting procedure. Yet the institutions mandated to ensuring the integrity of the ballot, investigating alleged electoral violations and anomalies, and rendering sanctions are characterized by inefficiency and incompetence.

Being the prime institution for managing elections in the country, the performance of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) leaves much to be desired and unfortunately has been blamed to the inability of elections to reflect the will of the people. Excessive politicking among its highest officials, lackluster performance, and allegations of corruption have plagued this supposedly independent constitutional body. This is compounded by the partisanship of most of its officials towards the incumbent who made their appointment to the COMELEC possible. Furthermore, its inability to carry out the administration side of electoral reform (i.e., electoral modernization) has been the basis of criticism and condemnation from all sectors of society7 (Patio 2002; Rood 2002).

Politicking inside the COMELEC was vulgarized in the infighting between then Chairman Alfredo Benipayo and Estrada-appointed Commissioner Luzviminda Tancangco that severely jeopardized the institution. This even led to the filing of an impeachment complaint against Commissioner Tancangco by civil society groups and individuals led by the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) before the House of Representatives in early August 2002 (Patio 2002: 30-32). Draft Manuscript

Aside from a much-politicized COMELEC, a culture of impunity with regard to violations of electoral laws has developed, which indicates another vertical deficit. Violations hardly result in swift and fair sanctions. This lack of effective disincentives spawns the widespread use of fraud and violence in the pursuit of electoral victories. Bionat argued that the problem with enforcing election rules is primarily logistical. There is an enormous mismatch between the large numbers of electoral law violations vis--vis the COMELECs capacity to pursue the perpetrators (1998: 93-94).

To recapitulate, one major deficit of vertical accountability in the Philippines through elections could be seen in the failure on both candidates and voters to view them as exercises on accountability. In addition, the institutional design of the countrys political system hinders accountability given that it does not afford for the reelection of politicians and its inability to cultivate accountable political parties. Lastly, several problems confront the mandated political institution to ensure free, fair, and honest elections.

Horizontal Accountability Deficits in the Philippines It could be observed that the Philippines has long recognized the imperative to address the metastasized state of corruption in the country. This is obvious given the wide range of its specialized institutions of horizontal accountability. The accountability of public officials is well enshrined in Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, which describes in detail their obligations and the available mechanisms that will check the exercise of their authority.8 In particular, it provides in detail an impeachment procedure and the creation of an independent ombudsman and a special anti-graft court called the Sandiganbayan. This is

This is substantiated by the following legislative acts and codes: the Administrative Code of 1987 which details the sanctions for administrative misdemeanors, Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees), Republic Act No. 6770 (The Ombudsman Act of 1989), Republic Act No. 7080 (An Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder), and Republic Act No. 8249 (The Act Further Defining the Jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan). Draft Manuscript

aside from offices especially created by the government such as the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) for presidential appointees and the Office of Ethical Standards and Public Accountability (OESPA) for the military.

Among these institutions, it is the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) that was intended to be the lead agency for enforcing accountability. 9 The OMB was a post-EDSA political innovation, guided by the idea of an independent institution empowered by the constitution to serve as a watchdog against the abuse of public office. To infuse it with a degree of autonomy, the ombudsman is not subject to confirmation by the legislature. While the OMB enjoys broad powers10 supposedly to create strides in the crusade of the country against corruption, assessments concluded that its performance is far from general expectations. For example, Melgar (2001) based her poor evaluation of the OMB on two factors: its mediocre record in its dispensation of cases and credibility problems that haunted those that were appointed in this institution. The dismal performance could mainly be attributed to the unsatisfactory disposal rate that inevitably produced a huge backlog of cases annually. Cario (2000) attributed this lackluster record on the inadequate human, technical and financial resources that beleaguered the agency.

A low disposal and sanction rate ultimately impinges upon the ability of the government to police its own ranks. From the point of view of deterrence, misdeeds in public office tend to proliferate to a great extent since it is unlikely that their perpetrators

The present-day OMB traces its roots to the Tanodbayan, a body set up by then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1978 with a mandate to investigate wrongdoings in government. But like most political institutions at that time, the Tanodbayan would eventually be used by Marcos to deodorize his regime, especially before the foreign media, and to intimidate his critics within the bureaucracy and government (Balgos 1998: 249). 10 According to RA 6770, the OMB is mandated to give priority to complaints against officials in high ranking or supervisory positions, as well as those involving grave offenses or large sums of money and/or properties. Also, the OMB need not wait for a citizen to file a complaint against an erring official; it can on its own, launch an investigation if it sees good reason to do so (Melgar 2001). This makes the OMB one of the most powerful ombudsmen in the world. Draft Manuscript

would be successfully prosecuted and punished by the responsible institutions. From another viewpoint, Gordolan (2001) argued that the OMB is under-performing since it has failed to fulfill its housekeeping function. This entailed generating recommendations for preventive ways for government agencies to eschew corruption and other particularistic behavior. It is also noteworthy that assessments on improving the accountability potential of the OMB comprise the inclusion of more stringent qualifications for top officials of the OMB such as professionalism, respect among peers, moral integrity, and the absence of a criminal record (Gordolan 2001: 22). Moreover, Romero (2002) stressed the importance of democratizing the selection of the ombudsman from being solely a presidential prerogative to a consultative process that includes other relevant stakeholders such as civil society and the legal community.

Complicating the problems of the OMB is the public perception that it is not to be trusted as an institution to curb corruption. This stems from the apparent lack of credibility of officials being appointed to leadership positions in this agency of constraint. For example, previous ombudsmen were accused of being unfit of being a public defender given their previous association with the martial law regime. The OMB has also been accused of being against the public interest by protecting highly controversial cases of people associated with the Marcos regime and other powerful interests. Lastly, an ombudsman almost faced impeachment when a complaint was filed that accused him of bribery and the mishandling of the plunder case against former president Estrada. Thus, it does not help that the institution that is supposed to exact accountability from government is in itself accused several times of the very acts that it was supposed to help eradicate.

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Aside from the OMB, there are also other anti-graft bodies created by the executive branch. Although most of them have been criticized for their overlapping functions and mandates with existing horizontal accountability agencies, many of them may offer nuances that serve to tighten the slack that the OMB, for instance, has left unattended. An example is the PAGC which is mandated by Executive Order (EO) No. 12 to assist the President in her campaign against graft and corruption by investigating administrative cases or complaints involving presidential appointees. As can be seen, the agency can help clear up the Ombudsmans backlog by focusing on a specific set of public officials.

Analysts have also identified the PAGC as a problematic accountability agency by its very nature as being more of a token anti-corruption institution than an actual prosecuting and sanctioning body. Its ephemeral nature was seen in the number of times it was replaced every time there is a new president. It does not serve the interests of institutionalization of accountability if successor administrations would not continue the efforts and build on the any gains in the fight against corruption achieved by their predecessors. Like an agency in its infancy, the PAGC is also haunted by a lot of problems. They are understaffed and in dire need of personnel asides from major budgetary constraints. The agency also lacks teeth or a sanctions mechanism that is an important component of accountability since its output is strictly recommendatory. And while the public has access to the complaints that are filed, they have no access to its recommendations to the President, which are held in the strictest confidence (Gordolan 2001).

From the above discussion, it is evident that the deficits in horizontal accountability do not emanate from the absence of laws or institutions designed to prevent, prosecute, and punish corruption but from their actual operation and performance. It could be impugned to

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several factors including insufficient resources and capacities to deal with a multitude of cases and complaints, reputational problems of appointees to head these agencies, and the weak design of the institutions of horizontal accountability

The Politics of Societal Accountability: The RIO Campaign against Estrada11 In lieu of an accountability deficit, a nascent means in generating accountability is emergent to democratizing countries, such as the Philippines. These are in the form of efforts of the sphere or realm located between the individual and the state, otherwise known as civil society, which to a great extent, has been neglected by scholars of accountability. Borrowing the concept of Smulovitz and Peruzzotti (2000), this section applies the concept of societal accountability the case of the RIO campaign against former President Estrada. The exercise of societal accountability through different strategies became the appropriate response of the societal actors as they realized that traditional mechanisms of accountability are fraught with several problems and limitations.

Accountability Through Other Means Societal accountability is grounded on a growing recognition of the significant role of civil society and independent media in keeping an eye on political authorities, exercising control over governments, and fostering democratic governance. It is defined as a nonelectoral, yet vertical mechanism of control that rests on actions of a multiple array of citizens associations and movements and on the media. Employing both institutional (legal actions or claims before oversight/horizontal agencies) and non-institutional (social mobilizations and media exposs) means, its agents monitor the actions of public officials, expose governmental wrongdoing, and can activate the operation of horizontal institutions. (Peruzzotti and Smulovitz 2005: 9).

This section draws heavily from Arugay (2004; 2005).

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Societal accountability addresses some of the limitations of electoral and horizontal mechanisms. First, unlike electoral mechanisms, societal accountability can be exercised between elections and does not depend upon fixed calendars. Second, it is activated on demand and can be directed toward the control of single issues, policies, or functionaries. Third, it is not a reactive type of fostering accountability since it can oversee the performance of politicians while making policy. Fourth, unlike electoral and horizontal controls, actors that use societal mechanisms can perform watchdog functions without the need for special majorities or constitutional entitlements. Fifth, the sanctions of societal mechanisms may not be formal or mandatory, but they are symbolic through incurring reputational costs (Peruzzotti and Smulovitz 2005: 9-10). This is extremely significant in democracies since politicians rely on the votes of the electorate for their political survival.

There are three interrelated strategies employed by civil society in the exercise of societal accountability. First, there is the juridical or legal strategy. It entails the submission of societal actors of legal claims or of legally framed petitions to the courts or to other accountability agencies. Societal mechanisms are able to control since they can activate horizontal agencies and force them to intervene in disputes that the government may want to avoid or ignore. Working within the legal framework, societal demands for accountability could have a seal of legitimacy and therefore operate and respect democratic procedures and processes (Peruzzotti and Smulovitz 2002: 9). Second, there is the mobilizational strategy. Control can be achieved if organized societal actors are able to call attention by exposing and denouncing perceived wrongdoings. Exposs bring issues to light in ways that the citizens can relate to, help put them on the public agenda and as a result, the number of matters for which public officials can be held responsible increases. The third is the media strategy

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which is the reliance on the potential of media to transmit the claims and issues to a wider audience increasing both the intensity and extensity of abuses of authority. Societal accountability requires visibility and the media is the most important instrument to achieve this goal. It is argued that successful imposition of societal accountability depends upon the careful utilization and coordination of the three strategies. For example, the media follows and reports about the organization and mobilization of civil society; civil society informs and is informed by media; and, at the same time, it activates legal actions and forces state institutions to take up once-neglected problems (16-17).

Holding Joseph Estrada Accountable In 1998, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, a politician who started as a movie actor, was elected the 13th president of the Republic of the Philippines in a relatively overwhelming fashion by garnering 40 percent of the national vote. His relatively overwhelming electoral victory could be significantly attributed to the support he received from the masa (masses), which constitutes more than 70 percent of the countrys population. Estradas campaign slogan, Erap para sa Mahirap [Erap for the Poor] basically summarized his heavily populist political platform a focus on the needs and issues of the often neglected Filipino poor. But he was also was severely criticized on the basis of incompetence and the lack of moral qualifications12 to be the countrys chief executive. One indicator of the belief that he could genuinely play a vital role to the upliftment of the plight of the millions of Filipinos living in poverty was the incredibly high approval and trust ratings at the beginning of his term. However, Estrada was forcibly ousted through a peaceful People Power last January 2001, on grounds of cronyism and corruption. This happened after the breakdown of the political institutions charged to make Estrada accountable the impeachment process was incapable to deliver its promised mandate.

Estrada has been branded as a drunkard, gambler, and womanizer.

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As stated, societal accountability could be activated when certain issues are overlooked or ignored by political authorities. It is a means of controlling the behavior of political institutions if there are demands or claims that are unheeded, especially, if they concern society or the public interest. In this case, the corruption scandals involving Estrada served as the main issue of accountability raised by civil society. This was compounded, however, by other related issues: Estradas penchant to favor his kin and friends (or cronyism) and his inability to appreciate the complexities of the presidency (or competence deficit) (Doronila 2001; Laquian and Laquian 2002). In the end, it was the dynamic interplay of these issues that paved the way for the politics of societal accountability to emerge.

Claiming that the responsibility of exacting accountability is not the monopoly or preoccupation of the state but must be expanded to include the participation of other actors, major segments of civil society initiated what is known as the RIO campaign. Composed of a huge array of groups, the anti-Estrada campaign was a civil-society led, directed, and controlled initiative of various formations of social movements, nongovernmental organizations, church and other faith-based organizations, professional associations, civic groups and others. There was the realization that it would take a tremendous amount of coalition-building and alliance-making in order to organize the campaign, achieve visibility nationwide, and succeed in holding Estrada accountable. In a way, this civil-society initiative to obtain accountability had no precedent in post-Marcos politics. Some observers noted that the coming together of these diverse groups was an achievement in itself as odds of uniting was almost next to impossible, given their different nature, motivations, and interests. This momentary convergence of getting rid of Estrada forced groups that historically located themselves at opposite ends of the ideological-political spectrum to unite (Carroll 2001).

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It was not difficult convincing the constituents of civil society and in the end, even the politicians and the public at large on the veracity of Estradas corruption scandals. As early as July 2000, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) has produced several exposs that substantiated the allegations of corruption against the former President. Being considered as a highly credible and independent media organization greatly contributed to PCIJs ability to exercise societal accountability at both the non-institutional and institutional levels. On the one hand, it was able to impose social sanctions on Estrada through the exposition of the various anomalies and instances of corruption that directly involved the President. They became symbolic punishments as they negatively affected Estradas political reputation. On the other hand, the more strategic impact of the PCIJ to societal accountability was at the institutional level. In the end, three of the reports were cited in the historic impeachment complaint filed by the House of Representatives against Estrada.

Societal accountability claims that for initiatives of civil society and media to be formally recognized by state authorities, they must be anchored in juridical or legal processes. The driving motivation for societal actors to pursue the Presidents impeachment despite the numerous obstacles they faced was adherence to the principles of democracy, particularly constitutionalism and the rule of law. It could be argued then that it was the legal strategy that best reflected the linkages between societal initiatives and democratization. By becoming the initiators, advocates, and campaigners in the impeachment of Estrada, they were able to provide another angle in the highly politicized interplay between politicians. The active role of civil society prevented the demand for his accountability from becoming an alltraditional elite affair. It also refuted the allegations that it was an attempt of the marginalized

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political elites to sabotage Estrada and his administration and forwarded the impression that it was a genuine and broad popular movement to demand for his accountability.

While there were sporadic mobilizations primarily exerted by civil society groups often located in the left of the political spectrum, the character and intensity of protest actions dramatically changed during the RIO campaign. Not only were they enjoined by a broad coalition of other forces, they were also conducted in a more organized manner with certain strategic objectives aimed at producing certain tactical impacts. Civil society coalitions like the Kongreso ng Mamamayang Pilipino [Congress of the Filipino People] or Kompil II and the Estrada Resign Movement (ERM) used the mobilizational strategy through concerted and coordinated protest and mass actions. By reviving the so-called parliament of the streets and giving it new dimensions and peculiarities, the organized collective action was successful in its numerous objectives.

During the resignation phase of the campaign, the protest actions were aimed at sounding off alarms by pinpointing the issues against Estrada that were considered to be at the center of the public agenda. These rallies reflected the intolerable problems of having a sitting president that had lost the moral credibility to govern. The protest actions had the objective of seeking Estradas resignation as the most practical way of resolving what was a national crisis of governance. The rallies were centered in Metro Manila but had its counterparts across the other urban centers of the country. They were successful in exacting preliminary social sanctions towards the President as they elevated the issues in the public agenda. While Estrada had categorically denied his involvement in the charges thrown against him, this did not ameliorate the severe damage that was inflicted on his reputation and political capital.

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Estradas counter-maneuvers to regain support for his administration led civil society coalitions to shift to another strategy and thereby change the nature and the goal of the mobilizations. With the impeachment process gaining ground in Congress, Kompil II and ERM focused their energies and efforts in becoming societal watchdogs of the historic trial that was intended not only to systematically present the evidence of Estradas wrongdoings but to even give the President a fighting chance to defend himself. The Jericho March and the information campaigns of Kompil II were aimed at educating the people of the significance of the impeachment process. It was also a stark reminder to the political institutions that they, the people, were actively monitoring the procedure. Indeed, the daily vigils and mobilizations under the Senate Watch illustrated this resolve to monitor the trial and keep it under the keen and watchful eye of civil society.

The mobilizations were further modified to its final form when the impeachment trial failed to exact accountability from Estrada. Exogenous developments beyond their control dramatically modified the political landscape and civil society organizations had no choice but to resort to mobilizations as the final form of collective action that could deliver the promise of accountability. Perhaps the final mobilizations that contributed to the ouster of Estrada could be interpreted as the venue for the public to participate in the process of exacting accountability. As much as this was delegated to the political institutions of the country that should be representatives of the popular will, their failure had driven people to assume that task and confront the injustice that was inflicted because of the flagrant suppression of the truth by the loyal allies of the President.

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The role of technology was also significant for the mobilizational strategy. The case of the Internet-based initiative such as the eLagda was indicative of the power of technology as a means of political participation. What started as a reactive signature campaign aimed at pressuring Estrada to resign, the campaign of eLagda soon included active lobbying and participation into the protest actions in alliance with other civil society coalitions. What was novel was the inclusion of the politically apathetic middle class and the disempowered overseas Filipinos. The power of text messaging was also heavily exploited. Emergency meetings among civil society groups could be announced and passed around leaders instantly. Furthermore, the diffusion of information on upcoming rallies and mass actions became possible with text messages. Indeed, People Power 2 started when a text message was sent urging the people to proceed to the EDSA Shrine.

Implications and Prospects for Democratic Consolidation The events that unfolded and the actions of civil society and media geared towards holding Joseph Estrada accountable can be considered as a watershed for Philippine politics. However, it cannot be oversimplified as either a boon or bane to the countrys pursuit for democratic consolidation.13 It has a Janus-faced character as it both manifested positive and negative indications on the state and health of Philippine democracy.

On a positive note, the ability and efficacy of civil society to demand accountability from government displayed a significant trademark of Philippine politics. The RIO campaign against Estrada demonstrated that the arena of accountability could no longer be seen as an intra-elite affair whose outcomes are predominantly determined by the postures and maneuvers of contending political elites and with society often relegated to being passive and

While popularly used, democratic consolidation remains a contested concept on its actual definition and measurement. For a discussion of the debates surrounding what constitutes democratic consolidation, see Schedler (1998; 2001) and Kapiszweski (2001). Draft Manuscript

immobilized spectators. Organized civil society groups have reconceptualized the means and locus of accountability that was formerly restricted to elections and state institutions that was a product of the realization that the legal-institutional mechanisms of enforcing accountability have failed to discharge their duties.

The other side of the coin seems to suggest that Philippine democracy remains uninstitutionalized, hollow, muddled and weak. The breakdown of the constitutional process of impeachment was the culminating indicator of the accountability deficit of the Philippine political system. As the main mechanism to be able to hold the most powerful public official in the land accountable, it was not insulated enough from the pressures of clientelism and partisan loyalty that are unfortunately devoid of the public interest of eliciting accountability. Indeed, the first experience of the democratic polity of undergoing an impeachment process accompanied by its unfavorable result has produced a very dangerous precedent in the future. As the proponents of the concept of societal accountability have warned, possible clashes between legal-institutional and societal mechanisms of accountability could pose dangers to the democratic stability of a country. Future impeachment procedures might also be aborted and the relevant actors opting for the societal or extra-constitutional route in order to exact accountability once they realized that they would obtain their desired outcomes.

From another viewpoint, the RIO Campaign against Estrada also placed into perspective the glaring weakness of the Philippine democratic state vis--vis a robust and vibrant civil society. This has far-reaching repercussions on the capacity of the state to manage and aggregate demands and successfully resolve disputes and conflicts and in particular the provision of accountability in governance. Societal accountability may be

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indicative of the active and dynamic state of political participation but it must not be necessarily lead to the disrespect of democratic political institutions and processes. It must be stressed that the contribution of societal accountability towards democratization could only ensue if it is directed towards the consolidation and deepening of political institutions that have the legitimate mandate to exact accountability. More than collective mobilization, the contribution of civil society could be to restore trust in the democratic order, inspire popular involvement in institution building and strengthening, and to produce a minimum consensus for support of the rule of law and other principles of democracy. The challenge for civil society is how to make the crucial shift of collective mobilization from the predominantly adversarial mode of protest to the constructive and facilitative mode of participation in the pursuit of political accountability.

It is imperative for all stakeholders to seriously carry the agenda of accountability reform. Democratic consolidation theorizing has emphasized that in order to be consolidated, regimes have to possess fundamental and self-enforcing restraints on the exercise of power (Diamond 1999: 70). Not only would it avoid the specter of authoritarian regression, but also a democratic state that is able to monitor itself from acts of encroachment or abuse of authority will definitely enjoy popular legitimacy. A state with weak capacities for control and self-restraint are captive to threats of instability and challenges from anti-democratic forces and other marginalized or disgruntled groups not benefiting from the status quo. Further, corruption and particularism erodes public support for democracy and fosters discontent from all sectors of society.

Definitely, the accountability deficit should be a concern for all relevant stakeholders as a perception of the prevalence of corruption definitely causes undue duress on the

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legitimacy and stability of the government. Indicators coming from both domestic and foreign surveys on the ability of the government to impose accountability have not been that desirable. For example, the countrys scores in the Transparency Internationals (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index have been decreasing for the past three years. It is also noteworthy that the same international anti-corruption NGO has placed former presidents Marcos and Estrada as among the most corrupt political leaders of all time.

The challenge for Philippine democracy is how to address the accountability deficit on the countrys institutions and at the same time balancing it with the emergence of societal accountability carried by a relatively powerful civil society. The case of the RIO campaign against Estrada cannot be totally categorized as a successful case of societal accountability given that its outcome must ultimately result in the strengthening of the vertical and horizontal institutions of accountability. Unfortunately, the prospects for reform would ultimately have to include at most the participation or at least the content of the countrys political elite. As the beneficiaries of the current political order, any efforts to impose checks on their exercise of political power would necessarily pass through them. Perhaps this is where the countrys civil society could play a role. As claiming to be representatives of the popular will, pressures from this sphere for reform would be substantial in narrowing the accountability deficit.

Despite its problematic nature, elections should ultimately be considered as the main and fundamental mechanism of accountability. This would absolutely demand entail longterm institutional reform and civic education that requires tremendous resources, energies, and time. But the primary step in addressing the electoral accountability deficit is in ensuring that the process would be fairly credible, clean, honest, and well managed. Moreover,

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introducing measures to strengthen and build political parties could enable them to become viable instruments of accountability at the intermediate level. Societal actors including civil society and the media should also enter the picture to help government in inculcating the notion that elections are ultimately exercises of accountability. Their roles could include citizen education, assessing the performance of incumbents, the provision of adequate information to guide voters, and as societal watchdogs that monitor the government. Improving the electoral process will definitely facilitate democratic consolidation.

However, the electoral process is an inadequate indicator of democratic consolidation. In order to be the only game in town a democracy should have strong and effective political institutions that are not captured by private and vested interests. Moreover, as much of democratic politics is situated after elections, the Philippines should also seriously consider improving its horizontal institutions of accountability. Definitely reforms should include infusing resources to this office for it to have a credible investigation and prosecution capacity. Civil society could enter the picture in order to help the reform efforts while capacity building is still taking place.

As the country continues to tread the path toward democratic consolidation, it may have a more difficult, protracted and dangerous journey if it continues to carry the burden of an accountability deficit.

The author is grateful to the Philippine Social Sciences Council (PSSC) for their assistance to this research and to Nathan Quimpo, Bastiaan van de Loo, and Frederic Schaffer for their very helpful comments. The author is also thankful to the comments and suggestions of the anonymous reviewer but assumes full responsibility for this article.


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Aries A. Arugay is assistant professor at the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines-Diliman and Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies (ISDS). He also serves as a technical assistant to the Presidential Adviser tasked to implement the Feliciano Commission Recommendations.

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