Tag Archives: ICON

Open letter to our colleagues and partners in welfare and development endeavors

Today starts the celebration of the 14th NGO PO Week in Iloilo. Spearheaded by the Iloilo Coalition of NGOs and POs (ICON), the annual celebration is done in partnership with the provincial and city government to give due recognition to the role of Non-government organizations (NGOs) and People’s Organizations (POs), and other civil society organizations in nation building. It has been institutionalized by Provincial Ordinance No. 2000-042 and City Regulation Ordinance 2001-190.

ICON  2013

This year’s theme is “Reclaim our Noble Heritage: Sustain the Power of Networking.” It was supposedly intended to respond to the multi-billion pork barrel scam that has besmirched the noble aim and name of NGOs. In fact, the planned highlight of the celebration is the big gathering of NGOs and POs in the city and province of Iloilo to tackle the current national crisis brought about by the pork barrel scam. As well, as the subsequent backlash even to genuine organizations that have been consistently serving the marginalized sectors of the society. At the planning stage, we felt the need to strengthen our ranks through linkages and networking to safeguard the organizations from fly-by-night ones. We consider the crisis an opportunity to bring into the public consciousness the noble heritage and role of NGOs in nation building.

In fact, in a statement published after the finalization of the plan last November 2, ICON has deplored the use of fake NGOs in a conspiracy to steal taxpayer’s money which besmirched the noble aim and name of non-government organizations . The Coalition has observed two angles in the current controversy- the systemic graft and corruption practices and the role of the NGOs.

We considered the act a double injury. The large -scale misuse of the people’s money is outrageous. Siphoning money out of government coffers thru fake NGOs adds insult to injury. For it besmirch the good image established by the genuine NGOs for decades. Worse, it provides justification to some government officials and local chief executives who do not feel comfortable with the watchful eyes of NGOs and their seeming intervention as provided for by the local government code in the Philippines. For indeed, one way of averting the systemic robbery in our government is to involve genuine NGOs in monitoring projects.

MASIPAG Visayas handles the relief operation of the Philippine-Misereor Partnership, Inc.-Panay Cluster to famers in San Dionisio, iloilo

However, as we started our information-dissemination campaign Typhoon Yolanda had overtaken us, as it battered the Central Philippines. We almost forgot our plans as respective NGO members started their initial response in the form of relief operation. It was just last week, when the board of directors reviewed the theme and the activities for the week-long celebration. We have decided to continue with the theme, as this current crisis provides the same opportunity to reclaim our noble heritage. Such nobility is manifested, among others, in the quick response of NGOs to the recent needs, havoc, and ravages brought about by Typhoon Yolanda to supplement the government’s intervention.

We have simplified the celebration, though, due to pressing needs of the time which have also made our officers and member organizations busy in respective relief operation and rehabilitation plans. The following are the activities we decided to retain out of the previous plan:

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December 2, 2:00 pm Opening of Photo Exhibit, Robinsons Place,                                                              Iloilo City
December 3 – 8:30 am, Forum on Volunteerism, 4th floor                                                                              Henry Luce III Libraries, Central Philippine University
December 6- 8:30 am NGO-PO Fellowship and Capability Building                                                           Seminar, 4th floor Henry Luce III Libraries, CPU
December 7- Advocacy- Dialogue with NSTP students in various                                                             universities and colleges

The supposed highlight of the celebration on December 6 will be spent, instead, to discuss how we can maximize our participation  in the  on-going relief operation and  how we can sustain linkages and networking in helping in the rehabilitation or rebuilding process. In this way, our theme will still be relevant in responding to the crises in our country in various fronts or aspects. Despite the  crises, let us continue to celebrate this milestone of networking in Iloilo.

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We need more politics to sustain our network

Now that we have reached the 13th year of celebration, we are certain to sustain the activity in the coming years. For number 13 has been considered both unlucky and lucky number. Countries around the world associated the number 13 with either luck or disaster. Let the debates go on. Regardless of the result, the fact remains that we have survived the 13th year which, for me, assures us of a bright future.

Slide1For the past 12 years we have experienced both worlds – the peak and the lowest condition of the Iloilo Coalition of NGOs and POs (ICON) advocacy work particularly in spearheading the NGO PO Week celebration. To quote the wedding vow, we were together in “times of plenty and times of want, sickness and health, joy and sorrow, failure and triumph.” There was a time we had two full time staff, at other times, none.

ICON is a story of struggles – from the lobbying stage for the institutionalization of the non-government organization s and people’s organizations (NGO PO) Week to the subsequent pioneering days in organizing the network. We also struggled to sustain both the coalition and politics in the government.

A review of the history will help us understand the state of our coalition, learn lessons from the past to guide us in another decade of development. Circumstances, indeed, had determined the nature of the organization. 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.”

ICON 1

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, and Spirituality.

Participation

Historically, the NGO PO Week, which gave birth to ICON 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, which was 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.

Optimism

Our existence as network has been characterized by ups and downs. The task to convince veteran organizers of various persuasions to form the coalition and sustain it had been taxing and wearisome. We also struggled to sustain both the coalition and politics in the government. We even had the foretaste of tug-of-war of politicians at Capitol during elections.But we succeeded against all odds because of our optimism. Such optimism will continue to guide us for another decade of struggle.

Lobbying

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.

Integrity

ICONWith 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.

Tact

Our delicate condition as loose organization and task in coalition building has developed in us the skill to handle or deal with difficult or delicate situations. We have experienced crises but handled it with tact. I can still recall an instance when some of the member organizations protested against an electric company related to power supply and used our office for mobilization which created friction from other members who were supportive of the company. More important than citing other cases is the fact we were able to handle all these with tact and further developed our skills in handling more issues.

Interdependence

I always relate our relationship in the network to the beauty of the rainbow which is an excellent representation of systems theory. While there are only three primary colors (red, yellow, blue) there is a multiplication of colors when these link, interact, and overlap. Try to separate one from the other, and the beauty of rainbow is gone. Yes, it is our interdependence that gives color to our relationship, no mater how fragile it may be.

Coordination

The nature of our network is ambivalent. Since we are not implementor of projects we do not have much fund. On the other hand, we are not a threat to other organizations as we just facilitate and coordinate the welfare and development activities of NGOs and POs, as well as the government agencies in order to maximize resources.

Spirituality

By spirituality, I do not necessarily mean religiosity. Although we have religious sectors in our network since its founding. In fact, their presence have been instrumental in sustaining our integrity. However, spirituality is meant here as relationship among people, the non human environment and God. Thus, spirituality is eclectic and inclusive than religion. It encourages diversity and encompasses other relationship and beliefs. It is spirituality that serves as the well spring of our voluntary endeavors.

Yes, it’s  politics (participation, optimism,lobbying, integrity, tact, interdependence, coordination, and spirituality) that sustained our network for a dozen of years. We need more of these  politics  to sustain us in the next decades of networking towards development.
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Message delivered during the ICON Assembly of Leaders on December 6, 2012 at  the Conference Room, University Research Center, Central Philippine University to culminate the 13th NGO PO Week celebration in Iloilo.

Resurrection: A Payback?

Article first published on PADAYON: Our Life Journey and Ezine articles.

Let me propose this angle in addition to the unlimited significance of the resurrection of Jesus. Viewing resurrection as a reward to the greatest volunteer the world ever had. A precedence that may inspire millions of nameless volunteers worldwide. No matter how unsolicited this inspirational piece appears to some, though. Others may dislike this proposal. Volunteers will even protest the title. But certainly majority will agree with the claim that Jesus is the greatest volunteer. So, let’s start from this commonality and settle the differences later in this article.

Biblical writers have various description of the voluntary act of Jesus. But I like the Pauline version in Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV): “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

The Gospel records instances when Jesus insists on undergoing the voluntary process despite the supposed favor from people who know him as the messiah. When John the Baptist appears reluctant to perform the baptism ritual, Jesus prevails on him: “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 4:14-15)

Many times, Jesus rebukes his disciples in their actuations to seek redress to injustice and discrimination against his dignity. Unwelcome in his attempt to bridge the gap between warring cultures, he suffers discrimination in one Samaritan village. When James and John insinuate punishment to the humiliating experience, Jesus forbids them. (Luke 9:51-55). Jesus calmly tells Peter to hold peace, in the latter’s attempt to fight back against the savagery of his captors: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew26:53)

He washes his disciple’s feet at the height of leadership struggle position during the last supper. The lobbying of both John and James and their mother for position in the kingdom might have sparked the internal conflict. Hence, nobody appears willing to do the menial t ask which earlier they enjoy taking turns. Jesus volunteers.

Jesus consistently exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism in his lifestyle and teachings. He voluntarily follows all the requirements of the law, although in some instances, he deliberately skirt man -made unreasonable insertion and imposition to the requirements of God. He successfully passes the final challenge in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Subsequently, the divine justice expedites the awarding ceremony for the greatest volunteer in the world. St. Paul beautifully uses this clincher to the narrative of Jesus voluntary act: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

I am not advocating pay back mentality. The bible abhors the practice of giving favor or doing service. Jesus even issues a strange rebuke to the perpetrators and perpetuators of this kind of mentality in Luke 14:12- 14. “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Youth volunteers pose for posterity after the forum on volunteerism sponsored by ICON. An umbrella network of volunteers and development advocates, ICON allocates a day for volunteerism endeavors in the week-long celebration of NGO- PO Week in Iloilo.

Certainly, volunteers do not expect rewards. The last parable in the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46) confirms this with the scenario of great surprises. In the final end, during the awarding ceremony, as the chaff is separated from the grain, sheep and goat divided, the result is beyond expectation. But volunteers receive their awards.

True, volunteers do not expect awards. But who can question God’s divine justice to recompense the faithful? Is there something wrong in viewing resurrection as a payback for volunteerism?

EDSA Revolution: A Shift in Life’s Direction

Our forum on EDSA Revolution was successfully conducted this morning at the Reading Area of Henry Luce III Libraries of Central Philippine University. It was our way of celebrating the 26th Anniversary of the People Power Revolution. The activity was co sponsored by the Department of Social Work, Office for Student Affairs, and the Iloilo Coalition of Non-government organizations and People’s organizations (ICON).

Dubbed EDSA Revolution: Recollections, Lessons and Relevance to the New Generation, the forum was an attempt to bring into the consciousness of the young historical insights to make them value the God-given freedom. Our resource persons were consistent advocates of human rights and front liners in local mass actions even until now. They were joined by a young Baptist pastor who shared his theological reflections on the relevance of the unprecedented event in our faith.

I could not help being nostalgic even at the start of the program when my social work students sang the Bayan Ko. The song was often sung during the protest rallies and even religious prayer rallies during the dictatorial rule. It has become popular that some considered it the unofficial national anthem of the Philippines. Inevitably, memories flashed back in my mind when we joined the people’s struggle at that time.

Yes, Protestant Christians, or should I say Baptists, were participants in the struggle, too. Some of our youth and pastors who dared to brave the “darkest nights” were gone without seeing the dawn. Their contribution was never documented, neither appreciated by the Baptist community. Others continue to live with the stigma of the haunting past.

Unlike others, we were not there in EDSA to experience the birth pangs of restored democracy and jubilation in winning the battle. But we were with the group of peasants, workers, student activists holed in Sta. Teresita Church, Iloilo City for some days. At that time, there was a stalemate in constant clashes between rallyists and government troops. Cornered, the former found refuge in the church and started to appeal for help from middle forces.

I was among those who responded, representing the church sector. Bringing blankets, food contributed by seminarians, pastors, church members, and some CPU students and faculty, I was not able to leave the place due to security risks brought about by heightened tension. There, we served as negotiators, peace keepers, counselors, planners for the ecumenical services and prayers, advocates to get more support to sustain the needs.

My political conversion took place some years earlier while doing pastoral ministry to political detainees in Camp Delgado. Raised up in seemingly apolitical environment, my primary motivation was to witness for Christ which I did. However, when they also shared their work and struggles, I could not help but being awed by their commitment, dedication, courage and strong resolve in the service of people.

I felt humbled to think that these people who were not even so much concerned about their faith in God or the lack of it have this kind of love to the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters. Unlike those who confessed and professed to be followers of Christ but failed to put such faith into practice.

Thereafter, I became interested in studying Philippine realities, attending symposium, forum on human rights, joining prayer rallies, organizing seminarians and pastors. At times, I just enrolled part-time in the seminary to have more time doing volunteer work in church-related organizations. In 1984, with only one semester left before graduation, I decided to work full time doing solidarity work during the intensification of the people’s struggle.

After the historic EDSA ’86, I decided to go back to the seminary to resume my studies. It was then that I realized the price I had to pay. For technical reason my return to the seminary was disallowed. Upon our dean’s advise, I shifted to social work and return to the seminary upon compliance of the requirements.

My first year was sort of a test on how to survive the isolation from Christian community because of past experiences and the trauma attached to my involvement. With the help of my family and my beloved and the support of significant people, I finished my Bachelor of Science in Social Work degree and employed in the University. Thereafter, I also earned my Theology degree.

Gradually, I recovered from the isolation and was given more opportunities for development including masteral study at University of the Philippines- Diliman. It was also within those period that a major split and bloody rift among former comrades began to intensify. Confronted with various crossroads, I tried to find other means to continue my commitment to serve the people. Hence, the shift in my life’s direction.

Breakthroughs

Mother and Son

Our youngest son, Krislenn Edz, who claimed to be an aspiring novelist, made a breakthrough by posting the first chapter of his “novel.” Born in December 1999, during the transition of millennium, my wife and I agreed to christen him with a combination of Christmas and millennium.

I have also populated the Published Articles with new links and added another page. Dubbed Breakthroughs, it will highlight significant initiatives that have contributed to the promotion of social work profession, as well as advocacies in development work. Soon, I will include milestones in my stint as national president of the Convention Baptist Ministers Association (CBMA).

These breakthroughs share something in common. They are by-product of linkages and networking which, to my conviction, are the essence of the community of faith designed by God. Although known by various names in different circumstances or beliefs, the terms are popular in development endeavors.

My fondness in the concept of networking began while conducting a study on the subject as development strategy of non-government organizations (NGOs) for my Master of Social Work thesis in the University of the Philippines- Diliman. Since then I have internalized the learnings and live with it in whatever development endeavors I engage in.

Foremost, is the yearly observance of the Non-government Organizations and People’s Organizations (NGO PO) week in Iloilo every first week of December. During my stint as co-chairman of the Provincial Development Council, our network, Iloilo Council of Social Development, Inc. (ICSD) spearheaded a move for such declaration. Subsequently, it has been institutionalized by Provincial Ordinance No. 2000-042 and City Regulation Ordinance No. 2001-190 to give due recognition to the role in nation building. This gives birth to the broadest network of civil society organizations, Iloilo Coalition of NGOs and POs (ICON). ICON has become a point of convergence to enhance the participation of NGOs and POs in Iloilo.

Next, is the “Pilgrimage for Peace” to call and pray for an end to violence and for peaceful elections Initiated by Central Philippine University (CPU), CBMA and ICON in 2004, the pilgrimage is held every national elections in our country to dramatize the call for clean, honest and peaceful elections.

Thirdly, the Social Work Week in Western Visayas. I could still recall the event in 2005 while presiding the meeting of social workers in Region VI in 2005 to discuss and plan out activities to promote the social work profession. We wanted to highlight the Ruby Anniversary of the Social Work Law in that year. The Social Work Law (R.A. 4373) was passed on June 19, 1965 to regulate the practice of social work in the Philippines. However, it was noticed that the significance of the date of the passage of the Social Work Law had not been officially observed unlike other social welfare legislations which were passed even later.

Prof. Dz Patriarca-Lariza, leads the celebration of the First Social Work Week in Iloilo.


The consultation sparked the move to advocate for the declaration of June 13-19 as Social Work Week. It gained strong support from other social work-led organizations and alliances in the region, as well as government officials and NGO leaders in the Regional Development Council (RDC). The resolution was endorsed RDC and the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Soon, the move gained nationwide support.

As a response, almost all of the provinces and major cities in Region VI through respective Sangguniang Panlalawigan/Panglunsod have already declared June 13-19 as Social Work Week in support of such initiative. Eventually, the national association of social workers has declared a nationwide celebration every June.

Other breakthroughs in succeeding blogs.