ABANTE, Kenneth Isaiah, Ibasco "Ken"

Part Time
Contact No.: 

Ken Abante organizes and does policy research with collective action movements in public finance, public transport, and public data to help the Philippines recover from the coronavirus pandemic. His research covers local and national government budgets for coronavirus recovery, road-based public transport and mobility, civil society participation in tax reform, smuggling and customs reform, open government data for empowerment, open government contracting and procurement, inclusion of persons with disability, and the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola. He trains public servants and students on the discipline of completed staff work and budget research and advocacy. In 2012, Ken graduated class valedictorian and program awardee of the management engineering program, with a minor in philosophy, from Ateneo de Manila University. From 2012 to 2016, he served in the Department of Finance in roles covering tax, customs, local finance, budget, and economic policy. In 2017, he taught at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and was founding project director of the Martial Law Museum. In 2019, he finished his master in public administration in international development from Harvard Kennedy School, where he was awarded the class's two top distinctions: the Raymond Vernon Award for Commitment to International Development and the Outstanding Second Year Policy Analysis Award for "Minimizing Smuggling and Restoring Public Trust in the Philippine Bureau of Customs". He was also awarded two Derek C. Bok Center Certificates of Distinction in Teaching principles of economics at Harvard College. He organizes with civil society movements Move As One Coalition for public transport, Citizens' Budget Tracker for budget transparency and accountability, and Tarabangan Kontra COVID-19 to strengthen the local health response of Naga City and Camarines Sur. He serves as Managing Director of Practice at Partnerships at WeSolve Foundation, a social purpose organization that supports collective action movements.

Areas of Specialization: 

Policy and systems research, specializing in public finance and budgeting, to empower citizens and civic movements to engage in the political and governance systems that shape our livesMember, Philippine Economic Society, 2020 - .



Courses Taught: 

IS 161.8 - Youth Leadership for Engaged Citizenship (Ateneo de Manila University, 2nd Semester 2017)

EC10A - Principles of Microeconomics (Harvard College, Fall 2018)

EC10B - Principles of Macroeconomics (Harvard College, Spring 2019)

Research Interest: 

local and national government budgets for coronavirus recovery, road-based public transport and mobility, civil society participation in tax reform, smuggling and customs reform, open government data for empowerment, open government contracting and procurement, inclusion of persons with disability, and the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola


Latest research here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ken-Abante/research


Passing a COVID-19 Budget to Curb the Transmission of the Delta Variant. Lead Writer of the Joint Letter Signed by 54 Civil Society Organizations and Concerned Citizens and Taxpayers, including the Citizens’ Budget Tracker. 26 July 2021.


Tarabangan Kontra COVID-19: Collective Action for COVID-19 Response and Recovery in Metro Naga and Camarines Sur. July 2021. Presentation on Community Listening Exercises, Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 through Safety Audit and Safety Seal, Increasing Testing Capacity through Swab Cab, Improving Monitoring through E-Ataman, Patient Case Studies, Equitable Vaccine Distribution.


Extend Bayanihan 2: Joint Statement Signed by 48 Civil Society Organizations. “President Duterte, Senate President Sotto, House Speaker Velasco: Please do not commit the deadly blunder of allowing Bayanihan 2 to expire on June 30, 2021”. Paper with the Citizens’ Budget Tracker. 18 June 2021.


Pass Bayanihan 3. Joint Statement Signed by 15 Civil Society Organizations “There are funds available for Bayanihan 3. Our leaders should stop passing the buck.” Paper with the Citizens’ Budget Tracker. 24 June 2021.


Move People, Not Just Cars: Correcting the systemic underfunding in national road-based public transport in the Philippines (2010-2021). With Zy-za Nadine Suzara, Katreena Chang, Alyssa Encarnacion, Giorgino Naval, Christian John Rojo, John Gabriel Daos, Jeriesa Osorio, Lexxel Tanganco. Move As One Coalition Policy Research Team. Supported by the Netherlands Embassy in the Philippines. Paper. Presentation. Data.


The Systemic Shortage in Philippine Public Transportation: The Impact of the Infrastructure Flagship Project Pipeline on the Mobility Needs of the Greater Capital Region and Recommendations to Bridge the Gap. With Katreena Chang, Patricia Mariano, John P. Sevilla, Robert Y. Siy Jr., Jedd Carlo F. Ugay. Move As One Coalition Policy Research Team. Forthcoming. Paper. Presentation. Data.


Strengthening Procurement in the Time of a Pandemic: Evidence from the Philippines. May 2021. With Laurence Go, John Michael Lava, James Russel Ramos, Reinabelle C. Reyes, Ella Rosales, Jose R. Rueda IV. By the Citizens’ Budget Tracker, and WeSolve, funded by Hivos Southeast Asia. Study of P20 billion worth of publicly available coronavirus-related procurement contracts. Links to: Paper. Presentation. Data.


Biyahenihan for a Better Normal for Public Transportation: Move As One Coalition’s Budget Proposal for the 2022 Budget Cycle. With the Move As One Coalition Secretariat. Paper. Presentation. Data.


Active Transport Policies and the Budgets of the National Government of the Philippines as of February 2021. With Hya Bendana and the Move As One Coalition Policy Research Team.


Just Transition, Just Reform: Position Paper of the Move As One Coalition on the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program. February 2021. With Hya Bendana, Robert Y. Siy, Jr., Toix Cerna, Josua Mata, Mark Fernandez, Jr., Raymond Gascon, Jedd Carlo Ugay. Paper.


Data for Empowerment: Principles for an Inclusive Public Data Ecosystem in the Philippines. With Daniel Joseph Benito and Felicity P. Tan. WeSolve Working Paper. April 2021. Paper. Presentation.


Freedom of Information and Data for Empowerment: Position Paper of WeSolve and the Citizens' Budget Tracker on the Freedom of Information Bills. Submitted to the House Committee on Public Information. April 2021. Paper.


A Review of the Inclusivity of Survey Instruments and Administrative Data Collection Methods for Persons with Disability in the Philippines. along with Krissy Bisda, Laurence Go, Jim Nemeno, Jana Culla, Eline Prado, and Patty Carolino, consultancy with the Project Inclusion Network. February 2021 – present.


Investing in Public Transport Will Save Lives and Restart the Economy: Inputs of the Move As One Coalition to the 2021 National Budget Debates. September 2020. With Hya Bendana, Robert Y. Siy, Jr., Toix Cerna, Raymond Gascon, King Francis Ocampo.


Critical Collaboration: The Power and Limits of Civil Society Engagement in Tax Reforms in the Philippines. July 2020. Funded by the International Budget Partnership, DC, USA. Link to synthesis.


Building Consensus on the Philippine Customs Reform Agenda. As Access to Markets Independent Consultant. Funded by Chemonics International under the USAID Deliver Project. July 2020 – present.


Charting the Research Agenda for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. Project Inclusion Network (PIN). From May 2020 – September 2020.


Everyone Should Count: Barriers and Opportunities for Birth Registration in the Philippines. With Jesha Villasis. WeSolve Working Paper. Rappler Op Ed: Pay Now, Verify Later. April 2020.


An Open Data Set of Twenty Million Import Transactions from the Philippine Bureau of Customs (2012 – 2019). As Research Faculty of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, School of Humanities. Working Paper. February 2020.


Background Research for a Livelihood Program for Microfinance Client-Farmers Affected by the Rice Tariffication Law. Funded by Restart Microenterprises, Inc., for CARD Bank, ASA Philippines, Negros Women Foundation, and Taytay Sa Kauswagan Inc. December 2019.


The WeSolve Manual of Theory and Practice. For WeSolve’s Consulting Practice. Funded by WeSolve Inc. January 2020.


Report on the Internationalization Survey for Higher Education Institutions (HEI) of the Philippines. Contributor. With Jumela F. Sarmiento. ANTENA Network, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, coordinated by the University of Alicante in Spain. October 2019.


Citizens’ Budget Tracker

Spend Faster to Stop Hunger. 17 April 2020 . Paper. Presentation. Interview.

The Budget Process As Watering A Garden. 6 April 2020 Paper. Presentation.

Citizens’ Budget Tracker Open Google Sheet.

With Jahleel-An Burao, John Michael Lava, Miguel Sevidal, Leo Camacho, Ana Raymundo, and 60+ volunteers and contributors


Minimizing Smuggling and Restoring Public Trust in the Philippine Bureau of Customs,

Harvard Center for International Development Working Paper No. 113, March 2019.

Section Leader: Arvind Subramanian, Adviser: Anders Jensen. Cleaned and analyzed the publicly available data set of nine million import transactions over six years to lower opportunities for discretion and corruption and improve revenue collection in customs.


Using Machine Learning Algorithms to Improve Customs Fraud Detection in the Philippines,

Working Paper for Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics. Instructor: Soroush Saghafian. May 2019. 


Editor, Department of Finance Manual of Institutional Knowledge, a 7-volume compendium of completed staff work guidelines for 200 processes, learnings, data, and 4,000 government acronyms. Internal executive transition document and staffers’ training manual, June 2016.


Restart Micro-Enterprises, Inc. (RestartME) Advisories for Microentrepreneurs

1. Mga Programang Pang-Ayuda ng Gobyerno para sa Microentrepreneurs. Paper.

2. Briefer on Government Loan Assistance and Financing Options for MFIs. Paper.

3, 4, 5. Mapping of Areas and Economic Sectors Under General and Enhanced Community Quarantine Status

6. Digital Solutions for Microfinance Institutions

With Hya Bendana, Aika Robredo, Rapa Lopa


Academic Conference Presentations


57th Annual Meeting and Conference of the Philippine Economic Society. November 2019. “Minimizing Smuggling and Restoring Public Trust in the Philippine Bureau of Customs.”


58th Annual Meeting and Conference of the Philippine Economic Society. November 2020. “A Review of Philippine Government Spending for Coronavirus Response and Recovery in 2020.” Presentation.


Other Published Work


“Nang humigop ako ng sabaw ng sinigang”, Poetry, Heights Folio 67.1, 22 November 2019.

“nails of gold”, Poetry, Heights Folio 67.1, Ateneo de Manila University, 22 November 2019.

“Open data as public value chain.” "From Pork to Performance", World Bank Report, Jun 2016

“Open insights is the next step to Open Data,” World Bank Blogs, 27 November 2015

“On the vision of children,” Hope Springs: A Book on Ateneo Scholars’ Stories, 2015

“Why I have faith in our government,” Rappler, 17 April 2014

“Dios mabalos, Jesse Robredo,” Rappler, 28 August 2012

“A letter of gratitude to parents who dream with their children,” Rappler, 27 June 2012

“Paalam” (Farewell), Poetry, Heights LX Anniversary Issue, p. 113, 15 Dec 2012 

Selected Professional Associations, Awards and Recognition: 

Member, Philippine Economic Society, 2020 - .



Joint-Japan World Bank Group Scholarship, Harvard Kennedy School, 2017 - 2019

Ayala Scholarship, Harvard Kennedy School, 2017 - 2019

USAID-funded Urban Transportation Training, Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2015

USAID-funded Executive Education Program, TARF, Duke University, 2013

Academic Scholar, Ateneo de Manila University, 2008 - 2012

Top Student Scholar, Ateneo de Naga University High School, 2004 - 2008

Top Pupil Scholar, Naga Parochial School, 2002 - 2004


Leadership and Service

World Justice Challenge Honorable Mention, Citizens' Budget Tracker, 2021

Department of Finance Baldomero Aguinaldo Service Award, Sin Tax Reform Team, 2013

Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines, awarded by President Benigno S. Aquino III, 2012

Most Outstanding Individual, Loyola Schools Awards for Leadership and Service, 2012

St. Ignatius Award for Most Outstanding Scholar, 2012

Security Bank Student Excellence Award, 2012

Finalist, Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations as Co-Head of Ateneo Task Force, 2010 2011

Finalist, Jose Rizal Model Students of the Philippines, 2011

Participant, 9th Ateneo Student Leaders’ Assembly, 2011

Participant, Ayala Young Leaders Congress, 2011

Fr. Raul Bonoan, SJ Service Award, Ateneo de Naga University High School, 2008

Outstanding Achievement Award in Debate and Quiz Contests


Academic Distinctions

Raymond Vernon Award for Commitment to Intl Dev’t, Harvard Kennedy School, 2019

Outstanding Second Year Policy Analysis, Harvard Kennedy School, 2019

Program Award for Management Engineering, Ateneo de Manila University, 2012

Ateneo de Naga University High School Commencement, 2008

Pillars Award, for ranking first in all 16 quarters of high school, last awarded 1991

First Honors Medal, Mayoral Award for Academic Excellence

Mercury Drug Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science

Department Award for Math, Science, Religion, Social Studies, English, Filipino, Computer 

Distinction in Physics, 40th Ateneo Junior Summer Seminar, 2007



1st Best Speaker, Champion, 1st Raul Roco Cup, Bicol Regional High School Debate Cup, 2008

1st Best Speaker, Finalist, UP Harong Tingog nin Rason Debate Tournament, 2007

9th Best Speaker, Quarterfinalist, Philippine Schools Debate Championship, 2007

1st Best Novice Speaker, Octofinalist, National Asians High Schools Debate Championship, 2007



Finalist, Elements National Songwriting Camp for “Elie’s Night” and “Hugas Kamay”, 2015

First Prize, Filipino Songwriting Contest, Buwan ng Wika at Kultura for “Banyuhay”, 2011

Third Prize, Filipino Songwriting Contest, Buwan ng Wika at Kultura for “Ikaw Pa Rin”, 2009

Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, 2019 Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID) Raymond Vernon Award for Commitment to International Development Outstanding Second Year Policy Analysis Award Certificate in Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences Seoul Metropolitan Government: Urban Transportation Policy Training Certificate, 2015 Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy, Tax Analysis and Revenue Forecasting Certificate, Executive Education Program, 2013 Ateneo de Manila University, John Gokongwei School of Management, 2012 Bachelor of Science in Management Engineering, Minor in Philosophy Class Valedictorian, Program Award for Management Engineering, Cum Laude Ateneo de Naga University High School, Class Valedictorian and Pillars Award, 2008 Naga Parochial School, Class Valedictorian, 1998, 2004