On NGOs and social development work-A A +A
Thursday, September 12, 2013
NON Government Organizations or NGOs as they are commonly known are already part of our social structure. Their existence came as a response to the signs of the times. Whenever there is a cry for fiscalizer, social critic, and counter movement, the NGOs easily come to life to give their organized response.
NGOs in the 60s and 70s were not so many. Most of them were church supported and involved in self-help activities, cooperative services, organizing Christian communities, and some sorts of social and political advocacy work. There were also some organized and operated under the auspices of the government, particularly the Presidential Council for Social Development, during the Macapagal and Marcos regimes.
At the height of Marcos fascsit dictatorial rule a number of NGOs with support from local churches through social action programs and progressive international development agencies mostly from Europe, Australia, and North America, became actively involved in anti-Marcos activities led by the national democratic movement.
In Negros and Panay, local churches and development funding agencies were instrumental in the formation of Free Farmers Federation, National Federation of Sugar Workers, the movement of Basic Christian Communities, and few other support service organizations and institutions - all fighting for land reform, social justice and human rights and varrying degrees of dedication.
When Cory Aquino came to power after people power uprising in EDSA, one of her major declarations is the empowerment of people in restoration work and governance. Not long after, NGOs of all sorts and brands sprouted like mushrooms to grab the new opportunities for their continued existence, while a number scrambled for positions in the government for bigger influence and fund barrels.
By the close of 90s, some research studies put the number of NGOs around some 10,000 to 12,500, siphoning billions of funds from government, international funding agencies, Official Development Assistance (ODA) of other countries, philanthropic institutions, for various development works. One major explanation to this is the minimal or easy legal requirements to put up NGOs with little capitalization and a registration with Security and Exchange Commission.
NGOs were also typologized as non-government development organizations or NGDOs, business-initiated NGOs or BINGOs, the GRINGOs or government initiated NGOs, the CHONGOs or church organized NGOs, the PONGOs or politician-organized NGOs, the MONGOS or mass-oriented NGOs, and not the least, thousands others fly-by-night NGOs or ghosts organizations with ghost projects.
By the onset of millennium, NGOs began to form alliances, networks, caucuses and federations to expand their formation and corner bigger funds from government, private funding agencies and international multilateral funding institutions.
In the last five to ten years, hundreds more added to the SEC directorate of NGOs, especially in view of increase of pork barrels, local governments' Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA) and government special projects in partnership with private sector among them.
As of 2010, registered NGOs, both genuine and fake, are estimated between 25,000 and 30,000 grabbing billions and billions more of funds.
By official and unofficial records, only a small percentage of them are monitored to be doing real social development work and making impact in the lives of the people especially rural communities.
The list of 82 questionable NGOs linked to a mafia in the Senate, House of Representatives and Malacanang being investigated by the Commission on Audit (COA) for involvement in the pork barrel scam is just a tip of the iceberg so to speak. There are more, and many are intrinsically linked to the disposition of the ruling party from the regimes of Ramos, Erap, GMA to President PNoy.
Why is this so?
The concept of NGO as a private channel undertaking development initiatives among the marginalized sectors often unreached by the government services is a good one. NGOs decentralize development initiatives, offer alternative approaches and innovations to development work, and often perform better than government because of its less bureaucratic system and processes.
But NGO's intrinsic weaknesses of lacking in funds and positive strengths like closeness among poor communities, adeptness in community organizing and mobilization, have been seized and abused by the powers, by some foreign funding agencies, and the careerists, opportunists and plain hustlers among NGOs and people's organizations.
Together, they created the conditions for the corruption and perversion of many NGOs. They taught easy ways including sophisticated methods of circumventing the laws to easily register and accredit NGOs. The use NGOs as conduits for the misuse and rechanneling of funds for private enrichment and activities of private interest. They bribe NGO officers and leaders with unlimited funds and perks to suit their organizations to meet private vested interests.
The most notorious donors and funders, both domestic and foreign, government and private, have used NGOs to defend the status quo, promote private businesses, and propagate reformist programs and projects. The ideological agents of the ruling class backed by the funds support of the known CIA-conduit funding agencies like the National Endowment Fund, USAID, and unknown institutions claiming to be pro-democracy oriented, are deliberately using some NGOs to discredit and vilify genuine NGOs and people's organizations doing real pro-people sustainable development, promote neoliberalism and free trade, and attack revolutionary ideas and the left movement in general.
These organizations are reported to be the same sources of huge funds for so called opposition groups, civil society movements and even so called democratic and independent media in countries like Libya, Iran, Syria, Egypt now under the offensive of US borderless wars of terror.
It is a pity that the image of few sincere and pro-people NGOs with little or barely any funds for real development work and rely mainly on self sacrificing organizers and on the support of the people they organize, are being tarnished and further marginalized by the scams of the many in cahoots with state bureaucrats and politicians.
While those gloating over the huge public funds and private donations and grants in their pockets are tolerated to continue with their anti-people, anti-democratic, anti-national activities in the name of "people empowerment and sustainable development".
Negros is a classic example of how these BINGOs, GRINGOs, CHONGOs, PONGOs and fly-by-night NGOs have use their state and private links and heavily-funded public relations work to corner billions for their private vested interests.
Despite, or in spite of the billions of development funds poured in Negros since the 80s to present, it is a bare fact that the lot of our workers, farmers, farm workers, fisher folk, upland settlers, small miners, indigenous peoples, urban poor, even media practitioners, remain miserable and despicable.
At this point, I doubt whether the investigation of those involved in pork barrel and other plunderous scams would ever yield conditions for better governance and management of public funds. At the most it would hit and discredit the anti-ruling party oppositionists and some anti-PNoy NGOs as it appears now. At the least, it would be another executive, legislative and judiciary exercises in futility.
Our state and country are now being taken not seriously by international communities.
Meanwhile, the real struggles for social change on the ground continue unpublicized.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 12, 2013.