What’s in store for us?
Seventeen development and humanitarian NGOs have joined forces to form a network of NGOs called Ascent. Even before this union, the NGOs have been implementing their own, separate community-based health and disaster risk reduction programs; and managing, as well, social enterprises, alternative schools, and other socioeconomic initiatives beneficial to the poorest of the poor.
However, instead of getting the recognition and support of the government, their workers have been placed under surveillance, harassed and threatened by state security forces and paramilitary groups. Making things worse, trumped-up charges have been filed against the workers.
With the elections over, Ascent and its workers want to know what is in store for them under the Duterte administration. They ask this because in the past, under the pretext of promoting “daang matuwid,” government soldiers and paramilitary groups would attack
Ascent workers—the very people that bring much-needed socioeconomic services and projects to far-flung communities long neglected by government; and they would sow intrigues in the communities, even “Red-tagging” much-needed humanitarian and development projects (including those aimed at achieving food security and providing livelihood development and shelter for disaster-stricken communities).
Worst of all, they killed humanitarian and development workers. Among the well-known cases were those of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, last Sept. 1; Willem Geertman, executive director of Alay Bayan-Luzon, who was shot on July 4, 2012; and development workers engineer Fidela Salvador and William Bugatti who were killed in 2014.
To this day, no one has been held accountable for these killings.
As the attacks continue, Ascent dares to ask president-to-be Rodrigo Duterte: Are you going to continue the bloody “daang matuwid” littered with the dead bodies of murdered humanitarian and development workers? Are you going to continue paying lip service to participative governance and grudgingly accommodate our “involvement” just for show? Or will you engage us in meaningful consultations and dialogues to pave the way for productive cooperation as part of the democratic process?
—ESTRELLA CATARATA, spokesperson, Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (Ascent), firstname.lastname@example.org
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