The Philippines’ NGO Sector
By: Joanna Moshman
Charity and welfare work in the Philippines dates back to the beginning of colonization. The motivation behind Kawanggawa (“charity”) is based on the notion of Pakikipagkapwa, meaning “to holistically interact with others” and Kapwa, meaning “shared inner self.” When charity and volunteer work are carried out, it is implied that there is “an equal status between the provider of assistance and the recipient,” as exemplified by Damayan—the assisting of peers when in crisis—and Pagtutulungan, which mens “mutual self-help.” These conceptions have acted as a backdrop to the successful development of the large number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country today.
The Rise of NGOs: A historical Context
The communist movement emerged right after the Philippines gained independence and it was seriously resisted by the “government, religious organizations, and non-communist NGOs.” The Institute for Social Order was started in 1947; at the same time, many NGOs were focusing heavily on farmers, agriculture, and rural development. In the 1950s, NGOs dedicated to welfare were beginning to network and the Council of Welfare Foundations of the Philippines, Inc. (CWAFPI) was created, an organization that later became known as the National Council for Social Development Foundations (NCSD).
In 1965, the election of President Ferdinand Marcos was problematic for NGOs because he “envisioned a ‘new society’ in which there was little space for civil society and no tolerance for advocacy NGOs. His administration became increasingly associated with the suppression of civil, human, and political rights.” This caused NGOs to move underground; they had to join the National Democratic Front or become associated with a church or university institution to shelter themselves.
Marcos’ dictatorship became known as the Martial Law Period (1972-1986). Despite being underground, many NGOs were focusing on social development issues and were strengthening and building relationships with poor communities. Although the NGO community was not that large at the time, the action taken by these organizations focused on similar “ideological forces.”
This led to the “Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), the Association of Foundations (AF), the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the Ecumenical Center for Development (ECD), the National Association of Training Centers of Cooperatives (NATCCO), and the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PHILDHRRA) [to be] formed.” All of these were NGO networks that united the organizations based on similar community-based programs.
When Marcos’ regime was overthrown in 1986 (known as the People Power Revolution), CSOs and NGOs began to resurge from underground. During his repressive dictatorship, a lot of international development support came into the Philippines, and when President Corazon Aquino assumed power in 1986 the number of NGOs only increased. In the 1987 Constitution, the government “formally recognized” the roles of NGOs in Filipino society.
From 1992 to 1998, President Fidel Ramos served the Philippines and was highly active in promoting NGO and civil society involvement in politics and public policy. Topics that NGOs addressed, “such as violence against women and the rights of indigenous people” were previously critiqued and labeled “inappropriate for legislation.” Under President Ramos’ term, these issues became common and important subjects debated in legislation.
At first, a number of NGOs were supportive of Joseph Estrada (June 30, 1998 to January 20, 2001) as Ramos’ successor. However, he disappointed them and they disagreed with him over issues such as foreign investment and economic governance. Most importantly, a...
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