The history of engagement of people’s organizations in non-traditional program and projects spells the difference of what constitutes civil society in the Philippines. These organizations belong to a type that defines clearly what development non-government organizations are doing consciously imploring human rights, social justice and democratic principles. This type does what the state does not. It presents their viewpoint of development and peace.
Furthermore, when one looks into the kind of program and services this circle of community-based organizations explores one sees a community-managed constructive development programming being undertaken. However, taking a comprehensive lens at these projects is crucial to appreciate such a difference.
It would be good to review the definition of government at this juncture. Governments are public instruments created by, for and with the people of a nation to protect and enhance the well-being of each individual and communities as articulated in the Training for Transformation Book IV (Hope and Timmel, 1999). With this, it is expected to receive mixed if not all negative responses from people of marginalized, oppressed and exploited communities when ask what their feelings are about government.
But who owns the Philippine government?
Hope and Timmel add in their handbook that governance involves the exercise of power to manage the affairs of a nation, organization or group. And who holds the power in our system?
Certainly, current data reveal that the one percent elite still dominate the leadership and control the 99% of the country’s resources. Modernization inspired by neo-liberalism espoused by the elite brings complexity that governing bodies become further and further removed from the everyday lives of the poor, the majority. We are witnesses also to how government agencies block rather than serve the interests of the people-even those with the best intentions.
Those with best intentions draw with them some organizations that complete what civil society is – non-government organizations (NGOs), community–based organizations (CBOs), trade unions, religious organizations and popular movements.
There are options for the poor to take to improve their lives. These options are only carried out with clear vision – standpoint which is one’s viewpoint clarifies this in the process. These are reflections of who they are. They are the people who embrace their class origin–peasants, workers and others who do the dirty work to produce for their existence.
With poverty, we usually say, there is no better option except to struggle for personal improvement because the people is tired and hope is glued to mean, kanya-kanya (individual), where the struggle to survive becomes personal.
But that is not for the organized masses. Those who have reached a point in their lives to be awakened by their realities- they maintain social knowledge. They express emotions on their realities and motivated to move and become part of the larger community. Perceptions about their realities and changing their realities as product of their assessments result to a strong identification with the problem situation. This process is true to how the indigenous and peasant communities go through when they themselves defended their community education services through the early and late childhood education program as their alternatives, their initiatives after decades of state neglect, after all, they make the government.
With their strong community alliance, these community-managed alternatives become glaring models of change in upland communities which hurt the state forces and so they attack the schools. They have resulted to these attacks simply because they are facing another set of organized forces from among the lumads who are armed with their analytical tools to move mountains in their favor- to protect the ancestral lands and the remaining forest and mineral resources. This bunch of new leaders are the genuine defenders of the national patrimony and so the state forces dare to crush their elders (deaths of school head and the lumad leaders, and a score of many facing harassments) who sustain the efforts at being stewards of the earth’s resources against the foreign monopoly capitalists and their local allies’ environmental plunder.