Like many countries, the Philippines faced severe economic, social, and political challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020 President Duterte issued an executive order announcing a national state of emergency that introduced a highly restrictive system for community quarantine and lockdown. While these measures led international observers to rank the Philippinesʼ pandemic response among the worldʼs most stringent, it is unclear whether subsequent health outcomes were sufficient to justify the severity. In this article, we evaluate discrepancies between COVID-19 policy goals and outcomes in the Philippines via a compelling but under-utilized method of democratic deliberation, the ‘mini-public’. The mini-public that we held brought together a random sample of citizens who heard testimony from local public health experts and political leaders, and then used this information in conjunction with their own experiences to identify policy shortcomings and develop recommendations for policymakers. The most substantial challenges to the governmentʼs pandemic response were reported to be inadequate enforcement and under-resourcing of government officials tasked with policy implementation. These challenges created a disconnect between policy objectives and their performance in practice. We conclude by summarizing the mini-public participantsʼ recommendations.