Legitimate NGOs call for transparency and accountability

On 18 July 2013, we had a roundtable attended by more than 50 legitimate NGOs, funding/partner agencies, media and the DSWD that was held at the Commission on Human Rights. The roundtable was called at the instance of concerned NGO workers on women and children’s rights who felt the need to gather opinions, constructive feedback and suggestions about how they may learn from disturbing developments involving fraud allegations and unethical conduct against NGOs. One of the action points identified during the roundtable was the issuance of a statement by the group to address these disturbing allegations.

We have put in many years of our lives serving the Filipino people and have been able to make many changes in policies as well as contributed to concrete improvements in the lives of children and women especially those needing special protection. Thus, we feel we should not be silent while our credibility and reputation are put in question. We also believe that legitimate NGOs must muster a common agenda that will further our commitment to uphold children and women’s rights using transparent and accountable systems of governance and self-regulations.

These appalling fraud allegations involving NGOs, particularly the pork barrel scam made possible by utilizing fake NGOs, will never serve to prevent us from pursuing our work to serve the Filipino people, but these disturbing events gave us all pause for thought. In the course of our service, it has become quite customary for us to work on constricting budget and resources, encountering insufficient funds to support desired size of operations yet faithfully scrimping to fully implement and operationalize our visions and missions. We have built our credibility, experience and expertise through years and decades of hard work recognized nationally and internationally. Finding out about these alleged fraudulent and unethical conducts leaves us shaken, deeply alarmed and betrayed.

A recent article in the Inquirer stated that, “The Commission on Audit last Friday reported that some P6.2 billion from the TPDAF of Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Gregorio Honasan III were transferred to 82 non-government organizations, which could not be accounted for, from 2007 to 2009. Ten of the NGOs had links with Napoles, who allegedly through her company JLN Trading Corp., converted P10 billion in pork barrel fund into kickbacks over 10 years, using dummy foundations, fake beneficiaries and bogus signatures of officials.[1]” This report does not include yet the questionable transfer of funds by administration-allied legislators.

The 10billion pesos siphoned off to fill the pockets of private individuals and politicians is staggering. This amount alone could have gone a long way to alleviate the suffering of the poorest of the poor and most vulnerable of Filipinos. There would have been no need for mothers to leave their children and look for menial jobs in cities and outside of the country. Studies validated by our on-the-ground work have shown that children whose mothers are absent are most vulnerable to abuse. Further, the migration of women and girls have made them vulnerable to trafficking, prostitution, forced labor and slavery.

In addition, not only are we NGO workers doing legitimate work, we are also taxpayers. This pork barrel scam is the height of betrayal by our public officers and officials who we trusted to ensure that public funds are utilized for the benefit of the country and the Filipino people. The scam happened and continued to happen for a long time because legislators and government officials were not mindful about exercising due diligence in safeguarding public funds entrusted to them. Instead, they directly or indirectly participated in defrauding taxpayers and the Filipino people for their own personal benefits and interests.

Hence, we call and demand for transparency and accountability from the government and also civil society groups. Particularly, we call for the following:

1. Full and public investigation of the ‘pork barrel scam’ and the immediate abolition of the pork barrel system.
2. Revisit, review and streamline BIR, SEC, and DSWD regulating mechanisms and policies and ensure full implementation and enhanced monitoring.
3. Although there are existing mechanisms in regulating NGOs, and while NGOs have their own mandates for transparency and accountability, there is a need to strengthen self-regulation within the NGO community, such as revisiting scope and effectiveness of existing independent inter-NGO peer evaluation or regulation.
4. Passage of a Whistleblower Law.

Concerned NGO workers:

Amihan Abueva
Atty. Cristina Sevilla
Dolores SD. Alforte
Ana Dionela
Jean Enriquez
Zenaida Rosales
Elizabeth de Castro, PhD.
Aida F. Santos

Other Signatories:
1. Abad-Sarmiento, La Rainne
2. Calma Santoalla, Annie
3. Manansala, Carlos
4. Manansala, Ma. Louella
5. Sarmiento, Fe
6. Obach, Anna Mary Ellen I.
7. Obach, Olivia, I.
8. Obach, Raphael Angelino I.
9. Obach, Riza Dominique I.