Keep DSWD leadership civilian
We, the faculty of the College of Social Work and Community Development, University of the Philippines Diliman, are deeply concerned over the recent appointment of Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Bautista is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy with a military career that spans 33 years. He has impeccable credentials as an expert on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, as commander of the Presidential Security Group, and commanding general of the Philippine Army.
His stay in Mindanao also partly covered the 2017 Marawi siege, a five-month war against the Maranao people that resulted in thousands of internally displaced persons and hundreds killed.
The DSWD is the national agency mandated “to develop, implement and coordinate social protection and poverty reduction solutions for and with the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged.” It is not in the business of counterterrorism and warfare. To many impoverished and marginalized Filipino families and children, the DSWD is a lifeline, a lifesaver, a source of opportunity and hope.
The DSWD is a civilian institution that has been headed by civilians even during the martial law years. Its leadership and workforce are composed of various professionals such as social workers, psychologists, educators, and lawyers who strive to live up to the agency’s commitment to provide “tunay na malasakit sa mahihirap; maagap at mapagkalingang serbisyo sa mamamayan (genuine compassion for the poor; prompt and nurturing service to the people).”
Thus, we question the fit of Bautista’s military credentials for the DSWD. Counterinsurgency and counterterrorism skills are not and should not be part of social welfare. People’s empowerment and human rights are moorings of our society, and the DSWD is a crucial institution to fulfill these. We call on our colleagues in social work, social welfare and development to make a direct stake in ensuring that these moorings remain.
The field of social welfare and development in the country has produced more than enough leaders and public servants whose professional competencies are attuned to the mandate of the DSWD. There is no dearth of qualified candidates for DSWD secretary.
SYLVIA ESTRADA-CLAUDIO, MD, PhD,
Dean UP College of Social Work and Community Development
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