Tag Archives: National Council of Churches in the Philippines

History of networking in the Philippines (1986- present)

Ebbs and Flows of a Painful Transition (1986-1992)

The EDSA event and the wave of political democratization that followed changed the national terrain overnight. Development efforts continued to flourish as NGO works increased significantly amidst the newly won democratic spaces. In acknowledgement of their role in organizing and mobilizing the popular forces before and during the EDSA Revolt, the contribution of NGOs (and POs) to national development was formally recognized.

The 1987 Constitution clearly acknowledged the role of NGOs and POs in a democratic society by including them in its key provisions. In a sense, the role of NGOs was institutionalized, so much so that during the first years of Cory government, many of the appointees came from the NGO community. Even funds from government and international bodies were coursed through the NGOs. As a result, there was a proliferation of NGOs all over the country, covering all possible areas and lines of work. Abad (1990) observed that this made the Philippines one of the most dynamic NGO communities in Asia, if not in the world.

Traditional politicians, entrepreneurs, and even government units that set up their own NGOs for vested interests, however, took the situation. This was so prevalent that so-called development NGOs were forced to band together to distinguish themselves from pseudo ones. Two new networks were formed during the post EDSA period, namely: the Council for People’s Development (CPD) and the Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA) in 1986 and 1988, respectively. Others strengthened their unity, stepped up their coordination efforts and responded frequently to unfolding events as networks– and not merely as individual NGOs.

The formation of the Caucus of Development NGOs (CODE NGOs) in 1990 was one of the high points of this trend. In a move unprecedented in the history of the Philippine NGO movement, ten of the largest NGO networks in the country, including the church-based networks and the cooperative sector representing about 1,500 NGOs nationwide, came together in the first ever National Congress of NGOs in December 1991. The networks agreed to work on three areas of concern: (1) training a successor generation of development NGO leaders; (2) Relating with government as a sector, especially the military authorities in the national and regional level;  (3) Relating with the donor community both here and abroad.

Among other objectives, the following are worth mentioning: (1) to convene the different Development NGO networks especially in confronting pertinent development issues collectively; (2) to provide the venue for dialogue, linkages, and cooperation among the member networks; and (3) to formulate and popularize an alternative development paradigm.

Among 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.

Maturation and Renewal (1992 to the Present)

The NGO community has become an important actor in Philippine politics after the EDSA phenomenon. This position was further strengthened by the Local Government Code of 1991. The Code highlighted the role of NGOs in the local governance process and provided for their participation in the following areas: membership in local special bodies, partnership with the government in joint ventures in development projects, and participation and sectoral representations in local legislative bodies.

The Code requires the local government to allow accredited NGOs, POs, and, in some cases, private sector individuals to take at least twenty five percent of the seats in local development council and to have at least one seat in four other boards, dubbed local special bodies: school board, health board, peace and order council, and pre qualification, bids and awards committee.

The local government Code has also institutionalized NGOs as active partners in the local governance. The LGU may enter into joint ventures with NGOs in the delivery of certain basic services. NGOs or POs are also given preferential treatment with regards to the use of aquatic resources and in the grant of franchise in the construction and operation of such facilities. The LGU may also extend financial assistance to the NGO for its economic, socially oriented environment and cultural projects.

NGOs play a very significant role in the recognition of “civil society” as an indispensable partner of the government in development endeavors and in nation building. The legitimacy and prominence of the NGO sector has been carried over up from the Aquino leadership to the present administration. As in the past, people with links to the NGO movement have been appointed to cabinet positions. NGO communities are also involved in numerous consultative mechanisms as a distinct social sector. Alegre (1996) noted that another indication of the NGOs continuing significance is the increasing leverage of some of the larger and more established NGOs and the major NGO networks and coalitions with various funding agencies and multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank and other various United Nation-based commissions.


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History of Networking in the Philippines (Coping with Repression- NGO Support to the Surging Mass Movement)

In the previous post we 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). We also discussed two periods namely: American Colonial Period to Post WWII: Relief, Rehabilitation and Welfare and The Deepening Social Crisis and the Rise of New Social Movements (1965-1972).

This article will cover three periods in the history of NGO networking in the Philippines, as follows:

Coping with Repression, Carving a Niche (1972-1978)

When the late President Marcos used a hard line stance to establish a New Society, the NGO community was included in a systematic crack down on opposition groups. All legal attempts at organizing for popular empowerment were paralyzed. NGOs responded to the situation in various ways. While some went underground to wage armed struggle, others were either coopted or forced to lie low. After an initial wave of repression, those that did not join the underground movement continued with their commitment through institutional work, which eventually came to be known as NGO work.

Three significant developments in the networking took place during this period. In 1974, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) came together and adopted a statement defining the priorities and strategies of the development work of the church and its related organization. This development resulted to the formation of a body similar to NASSA- the Commission on Development and Social Concerns. Four years after, as an offshoot of the split of PECCO, a fellowship of pastors and lay workers to assist churches in development efforts was organized into a network known as the Ecumenical Center for Development (ECD).

In 1977, a network among cooperatives came into existence as a response to the government’s attempt to regulate the cooperatives. Known as National Association of Training Center of Cooperatives (NATCCO), the network was later renamed National Confederation of Cooperatives, Inc. It was observed that these church-related networks were more political compared to the first three networks established earlier, namely: National Council of Social Development, Philippine Business for Social Progress and Association of Foundations.

As seen by Soliman (1990), this period witnessed the birth of secular NGOs established by activists who had been working within the church umbrella wanting to institutionalize social development work outside the church. Their endeavors concentrated on uplifting the conditions of the people through cooperatives and provision of start-up capital for income-generating projects. In the words of Alegre (1996), “the intersection of three efforts – the church reaching out, the growing needs of POs, and the development concerns of secular NGOs – gave birth to creative programs that showed NGOs coping amidst repression.”

The situation also became favorable to groups and organizations with political and ideological leanings directly opposing the martial law regime. With their relatively advanced coping mechanism, these groups became influential in the NGO movement. They even set up different NGOs and exerted a considerable influence in the programs and projects of existing ones to become more effective in the latter part of this period

Expansion and Innovation (1978-1983)

Learning from the past experiences, NGOs refined their strategies. This effort resulted to qualitative increase in the organized mass movement, as reflected in the formation of more alliances and federations of people organizations. The NGO movement itself experienced tremendous increase in numbers. Human rights advocacy was broadened to include other areas of concern like indigenous people’s rights, ecology/environment problems, and women rights. As a result, more NGOs were organized bannering on respective sectoral issues. This period also witnessed the utilization of new approaches and tools for development like the micromedia, participatory action research, popular education, alternative medicine, and appropriate technology.

Following the increased unpopularity and isolation of the Marcos regime in the international scene, foreign funds flowed freely in support of development work. Many Northern NGOs and funding agencies even went to the extent of setting up their Philippine desk making the country their base of operations in Asia because of the bulk of projects being supported here. Repression in various forms, however, was also intensified.

As NGOs grew in number, networking as a strategy became attractive because of its effectiveness in lobbying and advocacy work. More regional and national networks were formed during this period, e.g., Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PHILDHRRA) which was established in 1983. Moreover, the other regional and provincial NGOs were integrated into new networks. With these developments, NGOs have become “key players in the country’s sociopolitical landscape.”

NGO Support to the Surging Mass Movement (1983-1986)

The Aquino assassination in 1983 became a rallying point of growing opposition and outrages which gave birth to the “parliament of the streets.” It was a period of multi- sectoral organizing and alliance building as regional and national federations and alliances of POs were formed with NGO support. Similarly, NGOs strengthened their existing networks and formed new ones to share resources and find security in their numbers amidst continuing military harassment. NGOs’ support to the surging of mass movement culminated in their participation in the Snap Election and the subsequent EDSA Revolt.

(To be continued)


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