Looking back, I realized that what sustains us for years is POLITICS. It has been defined in various ways to capture the complexities of relations of people in the society involving authority or power. Some even thought of politics as sort of “intrigue or maneuvering within a political unit or group in order to gain control or power.” While we might have experienced these elements in our 12 years of struggle, I want to qualify what I mean by politics that sustains our network. It is an acrostic/acronym which capsulizes the sustaining elements in our organization, as follows: Participation, Optimism, Lobbying, Integrity, Tact, Interdependence, Coordination, Spirituality.
Historically, the Non-government organization s and People’s organizations (NGO PO) Week was a by product of participation. When seemingly moderate organizations decided to take an active role in the mainstream of politics in the development council, dominated by veteran leaders, and subsequently captured the slot for the civil society organizations representative. Thereafter, we have sustained our activities throughout the years, as well as our relationship, because of your participation. As development workers and empowerment advocates, we share common understanding of participatory approach and apply such in our network.
Our existence as network has been characterized by ups and downs. We experienced both worlds – the peak and the lowest condition in mobilization. Since its inception, ICON is a story of struggles – from the lobbying stage for the institutionalization of the NGO PO Week to subsequent pioneering days in organizing the network. The struggle in lobbying with fellow development workers and NGO partners to support the resolution for the declaration of NGO PO Week. The task to convince veteran organizers of various persuasions to form the coalition had been taxing and wearisome. But we succeeded against all odds for the first decade because of our optimism. Such optimism will continue to guide us for another decade of struggle.
An effective tool but less applied by NGOs because of its association with traditional politics, lobbying sustains our relationship with government partners. The provision of the local government code for our participation in the development councils and local special bodies become a sort of leverage in our lobbying. Having represented the NGOs in the Executive Committee of the provincial development council for many years, I have learned how to maximize such privilege in lobbying. There was a time when we our budget for the annual celebration of the NGO PO Week was affected by the transition in the change of administration after election. However, being a member of the executive committee and signatory to any resolution, I was able to lobby our budget when the proposed supplemental budget was deliberated by the committee.
With pride I can say that, as a whole, ICON has maintained its integrity. Of course, there were tensions and even skirmishes among officers in the past but as a network our integrity remains intact as far as relationship with the government and the public is concerned. We were never accused of using others for our own needs or advantage. Neither did we allow our network to be used by others, much more the politicians. We always work in partnership with others for mutual advantage.
(to be continued)
Message delivered by Rev. Edwin I. Lariza, ICON president, during the General Assembly of the Iloilo Coalition of NGOs and POs to culminate the 13th NGO PO Week on December 6, 2012.