Sunday, September 29, 2013

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.

Photo credit:  Prinx  Vencer
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.

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.

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.

Haribon Foundation officers and personnel
guesting  our CATV show 
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.

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.

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
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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