MANILA, Philippines — Requiring civil society organizations (CSOs) to ask the military or police for clearance before they can participate in the processes of running local government units (LGUs) is a move to “restrict civic space.”
This was part of a statement issued by the Department of Social Work (DSW) of the College Social Work and Community Development at the University of the Philippines as it denounced the requirement, which is specified in a memorandum circular (2021-012) issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
In a statement, the college department cited Article 14, Section 15 of the Constitution which states that the state should “respect the role of independent people’s organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means.”
“The memorandum is yet another deliberate move to restrict civic space and curtail participatory processes in local governance. As an academic unit, the DSW promotes a ‘development praxis anchored on people’s participation and empowerment,’” the department said.
“For many years, CSOs, including social service agencies and development NGOs, have been our active partners in our field instruction programs by providing a learning environment for our student-interns,” it added.
It pointed out that the CSO accreditation has long been established through local and national government agencies. The Philippine Council for NGO Certification also certifies CSOs that meet established minimum criteria for financial management and accountability.
The department also pointed out that CSOs had become more crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic as they had been at the “forefront in responding to the needs of the poor and marginalized.”
“We call upon the government to repeal the MC 2021-012, and stop any form of intimidation and harassment against CSOs, including NGOs, trade unions, and social movements,” it said.
“We appeal to the government to protect civic space and provide an enabling environment for CSOs to operate, as true partners in development,” it added.
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