A perspective for NGOs
At last Wednesday’s silver anniversary of the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), I was one of the panelists asked to present a perspective on what nongovernmental organizations should address at this time. I gave my personal opinions, not the stand of SWS as an institution.
I started from the position that: Any political regime that is truly interested in serving the people needs the citizens’ trust and confidence, not just in its first year, but for much longer. The new administration did receive high ratings in its first quarterly survey, late last September. No one knows for how many more quarters they will continue.
I organized my remarks around four observations that I think NGOs today should bear in mind as they formulate their roles in the development of our country.
Observation 1. There is a creeping reintroduction of authoritarianism.
The unabated extrajudicial killings (EJKs) manifest a contempt for human rights, above all the right to life.
What evidence do NGOs have on the true scale of the threat to public security of the traffic in illegal drugs? What do they know about the efficacy of EJKs as a means of eliminating it?
The burial of the remains of the corrupt dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes) is inconsistent with a sincere stance against corruption.
The floating as “policy options” of a suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, a declaration of martial law, and a revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant project, are suspicious signs of a desire to emulate the dictator.
Observation 2. The “federalism” advocated by the administration is extremely vague, without even general guidance as to its desired end, and its desired system of transition.
Do NGOs expect “federalism” to be a decentralization, or a recentralization? How will it promote social unification, rather than social separation?
Observation 3. Instead of a rational, well-thought-out foreign policy, what we see is diplomacy by bluster—constantly in need of correction, with unpredictable consequences for security capability, foreign trade and investments, cross-border migration, and general international cooperation.
The foreign policy pivot is contrary to long-held Filipino grassroots attitudes toward the United States and China.
Habitually expressing open disrespect for world leaders is not a Filipino trait, and is unlikely to benefit the country.
Observation 4. The peace process has been widened, which is very good, but raises key questions.
The Moro National Liberation Front has been newly reincluded; how will cooperation between the MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front be achieved? Talks with the National Democratic Front have been activated; what comes next?
The new administration should publicly share details as to how it intends to proceed. This will allow the people as individuals, and the people’s institutions such as the NGOs, to understand their role in the peace process, and to contribute new ideas that may lead to its success.
Every NGO has its own specific mission, vision, resources, and capabilities. One reason Philippine NGOs were the earliest in the region to develop is the failures of the authoritarian Marcos regime (see “Non-Government Organizations and Human Development: the ASEAN Experience” by Lim Teck Ghee, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1988).
It is up to the individual NGOs, and to their collectives such as CODE-NGO, to determine their proper roles under these circumstances. I believe that, all together, we NGOs can make a difference.
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