How does everyday politics of participation manifest in post-disaster contexts? Can disaster prompt a political system to shift to more inclusive, open, and participatory governance of disaster? In this article, we draw on our ethnographic work in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and Nepal after the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015 to explore these questions. Our comparative ethnographic analysis shows that attempts at institutionalising participation served to further entrench authoritarian practices rather than promote citizen voice and government accountability. Post-disaster policies that invoke people's participation, we argue, tend to (a) control rather than democratise information; (b) silence rather than promote citizen voice; (c) distort rather than respond to grievances. Our findings call for a reorientation of understanding of participation and accountability in post-disaster governance. Decision-makers, not merely disaster-affected communities, deserve to be the focus area of scholarly attention and policy reform, if community-led reconstruction agenda is to be realised in practice. Our conclusion has implications for the study and practice of democratic governance of disasters in unequal societies prone to disasters.