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Role of Social workers in the history of NGO networking in the Philippines


The Yuletide break has given me the opportunity to work on my other blogs. It was not difficult for me to update some as there are recent activities related to their particular niche. Others are continuation of the series of articles being posted or reposted. It is on the last three remaining blogs where I take a pause. Although I have already topics for the two blogs which only need to be developed, I am at loss on Social Work and Development blog. There seems to be no significant activities or issues to relate with. Fortunately, while reading my series of article on NGOs, I came across the history of networking in the Philippines and found the role of social workers as pointed out by Alan G. Alegre (1996) on his book Trends and Traditions; Challenges and Choices. This solves my problem.

The story of Philippine NGOs and subsequent networking generally follows the trend of the world history of NGOs- from relief and welfare endeavors to social reformation which eventually led to the transformation approach. Alegre divided the history of NGOs into six distinct phases rooted in key points in the country’s recent past. He then traced the beginning of NGO networking in the Philippines from the formation of the Council of Welfare Agencies Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (CWAFPI), the forerunner of the present-day National Council of Social Development (NCSD).

As early as 1952, a group of social work leaders organized the Philippine National Committee of the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW). This eventually evolved into the Council of Welfare Agencies Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (CWAFPI), the umbrella organization of the various welfare and civic organizations, e.g., the Catholic Women’s Clubs, Boy/Girl Scouts of the Philippines, National Red Cross, etc. which, up to this day, cater to such sectors as traditional women’s groups, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

The early organizational formation, however, is only one part of the story of networking with particular focus on welfare agencies. In his book, Alegre presented a comprehensive discussion of the factors that contributed to the growth and development of networking in the Philippine NGOs. Such observation is complemented by a chronological presentation of the formation of nine mainstream national networks after NCSD in From the Present Looking Back: A History of Philippine NGO by Karina David (1998).

The milestone of NGO networking in the Philippines happened in 1990 with the launching of the Caucus of Development NGOs (CODE NGOs). This solidarity, however, did not happen overnight. It was a culmination of decades of common struggle similar to what other NGOs in other countries experienced in the course of historical development characterized by diverse intensity and highlights.

Those represented in the congress were Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PHILDHRRA), Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA), National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO), National Council of Social Development (NCSD), National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Council for People’s Development (CPD), Ecumenical Council for Development (ECD), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and Association of Foundations (AF).

This coalition resulted further in the ratification of a historic document – the Covenant for Philippine Development. No wonder, some development workers considered this period as the golden age of networking and coalition building in the Philippines because NGOs of different orientations and historical context agreed to act as one in responding to the opportunities and challenges of the new conjuncture.

(To be continued)

NGOs: reel or real?


Since the expose of the alleged multi-billion pork barrel scam by the whistleblower Benhur Luy in July, Filipinos have been both enraged and entertained by the seemingly incredible development and extent of the conspiracy to steal taxpayer’s money. Worse, the alleged brain (although many won’t consider her as such but a mere pawn) Janet L. Napoles seemed to besmirch the noble aim and name of non-government organizations (NGOs) in cohorts with some legislators and other officials of the implementing government agencies.The public outrage appears to build up as more revelations and denials are reported by the mainstream media and netizens. Hopefully, it will not die down until significant changes are undertaken by the government itself or by people’s initiatives nationwide.

Photo Credit: Prinx Vencer

Photo Credit: Prinx Vencer

In an attempt to do our share in responding to today’s challenge, the board of directors of our NGO- PO Network met some weeks ago to discuss the issue and unite on a particular stand. Being a loose coalition of various aggrupation of non-government organizations (NGOs) and people’s organizations (POs) with diverse programs, services, directions, leanings and persuasions, our network seldom makes an organizational stand, not until we reach a consensus. Yet, when it does, the result has greater impact.

Haribon Foundation officers and personnel guesting  our CATV show over Channel 8, Skycable

Haribon Foundation officers and personnel
guesting our CATV show over Channel 8, Skycable

We have seen two angles in the current controversy- the systemic graft and corruption practices and the role of the NGOs. We considered the act a double injury. The large -scale misuse of the people’s money is outrageous. Siphoning money out of government coffers thru fake NGOs adds insult to injury. For it besmirch the good image established by the genuine NGOs for decades. Worse, it provides justification to some government officials and local chief executives who do not feel comfortable with the watchful eyes of NGOs and their seeming intervention as provided for by the local government code in the Philippines.

It is in this second angle that the Iloilo Coalition of NGOs and POs (ICON) decided to focus, While some members continue to actively take part in the local anti pork barrel movement representing their respective organizations, ICON has committed to inform the public about the existence and corresponding programs or services of genuine NGOs.

Co -host Rev.  Talha asks Boyet Areno and Ted Aldwin Ong (extreme right)  regarding the stand of the  Iloilo Caucus of Development NGOs (ICODE) on the pork barrel scam

Co -host Rev. Talha asks Boyet Areno and Ted Aldwin Ong
(extreme right) regarding the stand of the Iloilo Caucus
of Development NGOs (ICODE) on the pork barrel scam

For the past months, I have discussed in my CATV show the history and development of NGOs and related issues and concerns. A segment featuring member NGOs of our network, as well as those of the Social Welfare and Development Learning Network (SWDL-Net) has been a regular part of the show. This way, we give the public the opportunity to ask questions to clear their doubts and reservations brought about by the pork barrel scandal.We consider the crisis an opportunity to bring to the public consciousness the role of NGOs in nation building.

For indeed, one way of averting the systemic robbery in our government is to involve genuine NGOs in monitoring projects. As Alegre (1996) once contends: NGOs have emerged as a new catalyzing, social organization and as a significant player in development. They are increasingly significant actors in global governance and in international development.

But what are NGOs? How can they contribute to development? What are their roles, strategies, strengths and vulnerabilities? All of these and more will be the subject of the upcoming series of posts on NGOs.

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First published on PADAYON, this article is part of the series of posts on NGOs. Admittedly, the current pork barrel controversy in the Philippines  involving the Napoles  network of fake NGOs has besmirched the noble aim and name of  non-government organizations (NGOs). However, we consider the crisis an opportunity to bring to the public consciousness the role of NGOs in nation building.