CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNMENT POVERTY by cuiliqing

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									Anti-Poverty Programs
Pia C. Bennagen




Introduction


Poverty is one of the perennial problems that all administrations in the Philippines had to
deal with. Many a president has attempted to lower the poverty incidence and lessen the
gap between rich and poor. While there have been gains along the way, these have been
few and far between. In the 1990s, poverty alleviation became one of the buzzwords of
the Ramos and Estrada administrations. The key anti-poverty program was articulated
through the Social Reform Agenda (SRA), which brought about the creation of the Social
Reform Council (SRC). In 1998, the SRA was institutionalized through the signing into
law of Republic Act 8425 or the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act. Among
other things, this law abolished the SRC and created in its stead the National Anti-
Poverty Commission (NAPC).


The basic concern of this case study is to examine the nature, extent, and impact of civil
society participation in both the SRC and NAPC. The end in view is to generate lessons
from experiences of various basic sector groups which may be useful to both government
and non-government entities. It is hoped that by looking into the government-basic
sector engagement within the context of these two poverty alleviation bodies, a better
understanding of the dynamics between government on the one hand and civil society on
the other hand can be gained. While this case study focuses on the SRC and NAPC, its
basic unit of analysis is civil society or, more specifically, the basic sectors.1 Therefore,
this is not an attempt to evaluate the performance of the SRC and NAPC. Also, while


1
 The term “basic sectors” is used in R.A. 8425 to refer to the disadvantaged sectors of Philippine society
and these are the farmers-peasants, artisanal fisherfolks, workers in the formal sector and migrant workers,
workers in the informal sector, indigenous peoples and cultural communities, women, differently-abled
persons, senior citizens, victims of calamities and disasters, youth and students, children, and urban poor.
Republic of the Philippines, “Republic Act 8425: An Act Institutionalizing the Social Reform and Poverty
Alleviation program, Creating for the Purpose the National Anti-Poverty Commission, Defining Its Powers
and Functions, and For Other Purposes,” 11 December 1997, Section 3(a).
                                                                                            2


mention will be made of the various programs undertaken by these two bodies, it is not
the concern of this paper to assess the effectiveness and viability of these programs.
More particularly, this study seeks to address the following questions:
       (1)     What are the Social Reform Agenda, Social Reform Council, R.A. 8425,
               and National Anti-Poverty Commission, and where does civil society
               figure in all these?
       (2)     What is the nature and extent of civil society participation in the SRC and
               NAPC?
       (3)     What is the impact of civil society participation in the SRC and NAPC?
       (4)     What is the nature of government-basic sector relations within the SRC
               and NAPC?
       (5)     What lessons about civil society and government-civil society relations
               can be drawn from the experiences of the SRC and NAPC?


Data for this case study were obtained from various sources. A survey of related
literature was done. Official and non-governmental sources were examined. Key sources
of information were interviews with government officials and civil society individuals
who were involved in the SRC and are involved in the NAPC. Data was also obtained
from three roundtable discussions organized in part by the author for the Social
Development (SDA) Program of the Center for Integrative and Development Studies
(CIDS) of the University of the Philippines.


This case study argues that while the SRC and NAPC provided opportunities for basic
sector participation in the governance of poverty at the national and local levels, the
impact of such participation has been quite limited. Due to some constraints and
challenges arising from the inclusion of civil society actors in the process of governance,
the impact of civil society participation in the SRC and NAPC has not been maximized.
Nevertheless, in the case of the NAPC, despite the frustrations expressed by basic sector
representatives, they do recognize that the NAPC is one of the mechanisms by which the
basic sectors can significantly contribute to poverty alleviation in the Philippines. And
because the NAPC was an institution that the basic sectors struggled for, they have
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indicated their willingness to continue this struggle to realize their goal of alleviating the
plight of the marginalized sectors of society.


The Social Reform Agenda (SRA) and the Social Reform Council (SRC)


During the Ramos administration, several consultations were conducted, primarily by the
National Unification Commission (NUC), at the provincial, regional, and national levels
as part of the peace process. One of the recurring themes in these consultations was the
direct link between the high incidence of poverty and the presence of conflict. As such,
real peace was viewed as not merely the absence of war. In the Philippine context, peace
cannot be achieved without dealing with the problem of poverty.


The SRA, adopted on 17 June 1994, was one of the products of these consultations.
Access to quality services, asset reform, and institution-building and participation in
governance were the three pillars of the SRA.      With this three-point agenda, the SRA
was to serve as the Ramos administration’s platform policy towards the goal of
alleviating the plight of the country’s poor and marginalized sectors. More particularly,
the SRA identified nine flagship programs geared towards meeting the needs of the basic
sectors. The flagship programs were: (1) agricultural development: (2) fisheries and
aquatic resources conservation, management, and development; (3) protection of
ancestral domains; (4) workers’ welfare and protection; (5) socialized housing; (6)
comprehensive integrated delivery of social services; (7) institution-building and
effective participation in governance; (8) credit; and (9) livelihood programs. In turn,
these programs were to be implemented using several key strategies that include the
following: (1) energizing and reorienting the bureaucracy to effectively address the
social reform concerns of the basic sectors; (2) encouraging, developing, and
institutionalizing concrete mechanisms for basic sector, non-government and peoples’
organization (NGO-PO), church, and business sector participation, on both local and
national levels, in the whole process of governance; (3) synchronizing, systematizing,
and integrating all social reform policy and program initiatives of government to optimize
the use of limited resources and benefits; (4) mobilizing all possible internal and external
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resources to sustain the gains derived from these reforms; and (5) assistance by local
governments in the implementation, institutionalization, and localization of the SRA.2


To ensure the proper implementation of the various SRA commitments, the SRC was
established through Executive Order 203, issued by former President Ramos in
September 1994.3 Aside from this key responsibility, the SRA was also tasked to
approve a master plan to operationalize the SRA framework, ensure compliance and
consistency by all government entities in the operationalization of the SRA, review and
resolve issues and concerns related to the SRA, and determine all necessary interventions
to ensure the successful implementation of the SRA. A secretariat was also created to
provide administrative and staff support needed for the effective implementation of the
SRA.4


Aside from involving the whole gamut of government departments and agencies, the
SRA and SRC also saw the active participation of the basic sectors. In the context of the
SRA, the basic sectors referred to are the farmers and landless rural workers, fisherfolks,
urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, workers in the formal labor sectors,
women, children, persons with disabilities, and youth. One of the implementing
guidelines of the SRA mandated the participation and representation of these sectors in
the SRC.


R.A. 8425 and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)


R.A. 8425 was one of the flagship bills under the SRA. Although it was signed into law
by former President Ramos on 11 December 1997, it took effect only during the first
month of President Estrada’s term. Otherwise known as the Social Reform and Poverty

2
   “Document Section: The Social Reform Agenda,” Philippine Journal for Public Administration
XXXIX(2)(April 1995):221-229.
3
  Almost three months after the issuance of E.O. 203, former President Ramos signed E.O. 217 in order to
strength basic sector representation in the SRC. The new E.O. provided for the nominations and selection
of additional non-government sectoral representatives to the SRC. Republic of the Philippines, The Social
Reform Agenda: Winning the Future (Quezon City: Social Reform Council Secretariat, n.d.), pp. 3-4.
4
  “Document Section: Social Reform Agenda Implementing Mechanism,” Philippine Journal for public
Administration XXXIX(20(April 1995):235-236.
                                                                                               5


Alleviation Act, R.A. 8425 provided for the adoption and integration of the SRA in the
NAPC action agenda. Thus, the NAPC also uses the multi-dimensional approach to
poverty by recognizing the social economic, ecological, and governance aspects of the
problem. The law also identified the basic sectors that are the targets of the government’s
poverty alleviation drive and these are the farmers-peasants, artisanal fisherfolks, workers
in the formal sector and migrant workers, workers in the informal sector, indigenous
peoples and cultural communities, women, the differently-abled, senior citizens, victims
of calamities and disasters, youth and students, children, and urban poor.5’


In creating the NAPC, R.A. 8425 abolished the SRC, the Presidential Commission to
Fight Poverty (PCFP) and the Presidential Council for Countryside Development
(PCCD). This is to streamline the government’s poverty alleviation processes and
mechanisms and to avoid redundancy among agencies and instrumentalities. The NAPC
is tasked by law to:
           (1)      Coordinate with different national and local government agencies and the
                    private sector to assure full implementation of all social reform and
                    poverty alleviation programs;
           (2)      Coordinate with local government units (LGUs) in the formulation of
                    social reform and poverty alleviation programs for their respective areas in
                    conformity with the National Anti-Poverty Action Agenda;
           (3)      Recommend policy and other measures to ensure the responsive
                    implementation of the commitments under the SRA;
           (4)      Ensure meaningful representation and active participation of the basic
                    sectors;
           (5)      Oversee, monitor, and recommend measures to ensure the effective
                    formulation, implementation, and evaluation of policies, programs, and
                    resource allocation and management of social reform and poverty
                    alleviation programs;




5
    Republic of the Philippines, “Republic Act 8425 ...,” Section 3(b).
                                                                                                           6


         (6)      Advocate for the mobilization of funds by the national and local
                  governments for financial social reform and poverty alleviation programs
                  and capability-building activities of POs; and
         (7)      Provide financial and non-financial incentives to LGUs with counterpart
                  resources for the implementation of social reform and poverty alleviation
                  programs.6


The main program that the NAPC is pursuing is the Erap Para sa Mahihirap Program
(EPMP) or the Poverty Eradication Program (PEP).7 The key objective of this program is
to eradicate absolute and relative poverty in the Philippines. In his second State of the
Nation Address, President Estrada declared that:
         My vision is not just the alleviation of poverty but its ultimate eradication. Alleviation is
         temporary. Eradication is permanent. Alleviation is limited. Eradication is total. The
         proper response to the problem of poverty is not superficial treatment but total structural
         change ... My vision is to drive poverty away from the center and into the periphery of
         our concerns, to make it a marginal rather than a mainstream problem. 8


The President’s vision is to be realized through the EPMP which consists of five major
components: (1) food security; (2) modernization of agriculture and fisheries within the
context of sustainable development; (3) low-cost mass housing; (4) protection for the
poor against crime and violence; and (5) active participation of the LGUs in the
implementation of the program. The main unit with which the NAPC is concerned is the


6
  Republic of the Philippines, “Republic Act 8425 ...,” Section 7.
7
  The jury is still out on whether the EPMP is a continuation of the Ramos administration’s SRA.
According to NAPC National Coordinator for Basic Concerns Engr. Alain Bustamante, the NAPC has
incorporated into its plans the basic premises and concerns of the SRA. There are, however, those who
argue that the EPMP has only a few similarities with the SRA. According to an economist: “Even a
cursory comparison of [the EPMP] with the SRA ... would suggest ... that the level of discourse is different.
The SRA talks about generic reforms: social, economic, environmental, and governance-related, and
therefore gives free rein as it were for society to continually renew itself. It therefore signals a basic
openness to the idea that the basic sectors can and ought to push for social changes, even those not
specifically mentioned in the law. By contrast, the EPMP is confused in placing on the same level what are
presumably end-states (food security) as well as actions to achieve these (agriculture modernization) ... The
contention that the EPMP is equivalent to the SRA and that therefore the legal mandate for the latter is
transferred to the former is therefore certainly a logical and legal novelty.” Emmanuel S. de Dios, “Can He
Do It?: Assessing the Estrada Administration’s Anti-Poverty Program,” paper presented at the Philippine
Political Science Association Annual Conference on the “Politics of Poverty and Poverty of Politics, Balay
Kalinaw, University of the Philippines, Quezon City, 23-24 July 1999.
8
  President Joseph E. Estrada, “State of the Nation Address: A Poverty-Free Philippines,” speech delivered
during the second session of the 11th Congress of the Phlippines, Quezon City, 26 July 1999, p. 6.
                                                                                                 7


Filipino Family, which is considered as the basic indicator unit under the PEP. For
instance, under the Lingap Para sa Mahihirap Program, the 100 poorest families in the
country’s 78 provinces and 83 cities will be identified and used as indicators to determine
whether the program is effective.9 The success of the program is dependent on its ability
to produce a multiplier effect, whereby the identification of the 100 poorest families will
result not only in the upliftment of the welfare of these identified families but also in the
betterment of the conditions of an estimated 10 million Filipinos.10 As part of the PEP,
the NAPC also handles the disposition of the Lingap Para sa Mahihirap Program Fund,
worth 2.5 billion pesos, for 1999. This amount is broken down as follows: (1) 500
million pesos for Food, Nutrition, and Medical Assistance under the Department of
Health; (2) 500 million pesos for Livelihood Development under the Cooperative
Development Agency; (3) 500 million pesos for Socialized Housing under the National
Housing Authority; (4) 300 million pesos for Rural Waterworks System under the Local
Water Utilities Administration; (5) 300 million pesos for Protective Services for Children
and Youth under the Department of Social Welfare and Development; and (6) 400
million pesos for Price Support for Rice and Corn under the National Food Authority.11


On Basic Sector Participation and Government-Basic Sector Relations in the SRC
and the NAPC


A.      The SRC Experience of the Basic Sectors


The SRA recognized the important contribution that the basic sectors have to make
towards winning the fight against poverty. As such, it sought to institutionalize basic
sector participation in the various SRA commitments and in the SRC. However, the
participation of the basic sectors in the SRA was already evident even before the adoption
of the SRA and creation of the SRC. It has been observed that the basic sectors played a


9
   National Anti-Poverty Commission, “NAPC: Organizing the Anti-Poverty Movement,” The Philippine
Star Supplement, 25 September 1999, p. 16.
10
    Remarks by Commissioner Ana Maria Nemenzo during a roundtable discussion on “Women,
Bureaucracy, and the Governance of Poverty”, Bahay ng Alumni, University of the Philippines, Quezon
City, 9 August 1999.
                                                                                                  8


pivotal role in pushing the government to pursue a social reform policy and were actively
involved in the consultations that led to the creation of the SRA. To a certain extent, it
can even be said that the SRA was government’s response to the demands of the basic
sectors.12 For its part, government also acknowledged the contributions of the basic
sectors as it identified the Basic Sectors’ Agenda — a consolidation of the outcomes of
several consultations organized by the non-government sector — as one of the bases of
the SRA. Moreover, non-government and peoples’ organizations (NGOs and POs), along
with professional groups, business, executive departments, congress, and local
governments, also participated in the People’s Economic Summit of 8 September 1993
which resulted in the adoption of the Social pact for Empowered Economic Development
(SPEED), one of the precursors of the SRA.13 Hence, from the very beginning, civil
society individuals and organizations participated in the processes that led to the
formulation of the SRA and the creation of the SRC.


Within the SRC, basic sector representatives were appointed to sit as council members
alongside executive department secretaries, presidents of leagues of local government,
and other government officials. The basic sector representatives were chosen by the
basic sectors themselves and were appointed by the President. (Please refer to Appendix
A for a complete list of the members of the SRC.) The basic sectors established a Basic
Sector Counterpart Council (BSCC) which served as the national coordinating
mechanism for all the NGOs and POs involved in the SRC. The BSCC served as the
arena for consolidating sectoral positions, especially in preparation with meetings with
government agencies. In addition, a National Sectoral Caucus was formed as a venue for
consolidating the positions of the different sectors in order to complement the efforts of
the BSCC. A PO-NGO Counterpart Secretariat was also created, based at the National
Peace Conference (NPC), to provide technical and administrative support for the basic
sector representatives and the BSCC. Likewise, the Counterpart Secretariat was

11
   National Anti-Poverty Commission, “Media Release: Poor Rallies Behind Erap in Advancing the
Poverty Eradication Program,” 6 July 1999, p. 2.
12
   Remarks by Ms. Teresita Quintos-Deles during a roundtable discussion on “Reflections of the Ramos
Administration’s Social Reform Agenda: The NGO-PO Experience,” Center for Integrative and
Development Studies, University of the Philippines, Diliman, 15 September 1999.
13
   Republic of the Philippines, The Social Reform Agenda ..., pp. 1-2.
                                                                                                  9


responsible for coordinating and communicating with the sectors, technical persons, and
regional and provincial focal persons.14


The importance of civil society participation in the implementation of the SRA
Convergence Policy was also recognized. According to the implementing guidelines,
civil society organizations are the partners of government and are valuable because of
their track record in community work, especially in working with the poor. As such, “it
shall be the fundamental principles of the SRA Convergence Policy to encourage the
meaningful participation of organizations in achieving the goals of this policy, in the
areas of both decision-making and implementation, while respecting their autonomy as
private organizations (underscoring supplied)”.15 But beyond the Convergence Policy,
the SRA, in general, is based on the recognition that the government and the basic sectors
can, and must, interface at all levels. This interfacing occurred through mechanisms such
as sectoral representation in various government bodies and processes at all levels,
genuine consultation and coordination processes, and interfacing with the SRA PO-NGO
Counterpart Council.16 The SRA is, therefore, anchored on the active involvement of
civil society and on the partnership between civil society and government.


A concrete example of civil society’s impact on the SRC and SRA was the fact that the
most important of the basic sectors’ agenda — asset reform — founds its way into the
final document that came out of the People Empowerment Caucus of June 1994 and
which eventually led to the creation of the SRA. Asset reform has to do with the
distribution of resources in an equitable manner with the aim of providing the sustainable
foundation for the upliftment of the lives of the marginalized sectors of society. The
importance of asset reform lies in the premise that only through the wide-ranging
redistribution of assets can the poor have access to secure livelihoods and to their rightful




14
   Social Reform Council, “Basic Sector Counterpart Council: Organization Mechanism and Guidelines,”
1996, pp. 23-31.
15
    National Anti-Poverty Commission, Sourcebook on the Social Reform Agenda (Volume 1): Major
Presidential Directives, 1992-1998 (Manila: NAPC, 1998), p. 92.
16
   Ibid., pp. 71-72.
                                                                                                     10


share to the benefits of economic growth and development.17 Asset reform was at the
heart of the basic sectors’ agenda, and to see it articulated in the SRA was a victory of
some sorts for the basic sectors.18 During the 1996 National Anti-Poverty Summit
(NAPS), referred to as the “mother of all summits”, there was another opportunity for
government and civil society to work on a common anti-poverty agenda. NGOs and POs
engaged the government both on the floor and outside the caucus halls. At the end of the
summit, it was estimated that about 80% of the basic sectors’ agenda was accepted by
government. In 1997, things took a turn for the worse when political, ideological, and
personal differences entered the picture and resulted in strained government-civil society
relations.


At this point, the NPC, a multisectoral citizens’ assembly composed of more than 500
POs, national sectoral federations, cause-oriented groups, cooperatives, church-based
organizations, peace formations, peace zones, and peace advocates,19 came up with a very
critical assessment of the SRA. Entitled “Social Reform or Social Aggression”, the
assessment was an articulation of the NPC’s threat to disengage from government. Due
to their frustration with the way things were going within the SRC, the NPC was already
thinking of withdrawing from the process. However, there was no consensus among all
civil society actors on whether to continue engaging government. Before things got out
of hand, election fever set in and the SRC had to take a back seat.20




17
   National Peace Conference Technical Working Group, Social Reform Should Form the Core of
Governance: The Basic Sectors’ Agenda for the Post-Ramos Administration (Quezon City: National
Peace Conference, 1998), pp.10-11.
18
   However, according to Ms. Quintos-Deles, while asset reform was included in the SRA, the focus of
government efforts was on the delivery of basic social services and the implementation of the Minimum
Basic Needs (MBN) approach. One reason why this shift from asset reform to social services took place
was the realization that the government was not yet prepared for asset reform. Remarks by Ms. Quintos-
Deles, 15 September 1999.
19
   The NPC, based at the Social Development Complex at the Ateneo de Manila University, is an
organization committed to creating peaceful paths to peace. Its mission is to fulfill the basic sectors’
agenda through direct engagement and advocacy of the basic peace agenda with the government and other
concerned parties. Among the NPC’s programs are advocacy of the basic sectors’ political and economic
issues, support for direct and genuine sectoral representation in governance, and cooperation and joint
action among civil society networks.
20
   Remarks by Ms. Quintos-Deles, 15 September 1999.
                                                                                            11


As regards problems, there were some initial difficulties regarding the definition and
identification of the basic sectors and the process by which these representatives were to
be selected. When these problems were overcome, the next hurdle was the uneven
quality of participation among the basic sector representatives. While some basic sector
representatives took their responsibilities seriously, others were very lax in the
performance of their duties. Some representatives conducted meetings with their
respective constituencies in order to work out their sectoral agenda while the others failed
to consistently touch base with the organizations in their sectors. Consequently, the
interests of some sectors were better represented in the SRC as compared to others. In
addition, there were some sectors which were represented but which did not have any
flagship programs initially (e.g., senior citizens). On the whole, these problems reflected
the poor state and lack of organization of the basic sectors at the time that the SRC was
established.21


Along with the weak state of some basic sectors, there was also the reluctance or inability
n the part of some government officials to engage civil society. One observer noted that
there was poor information dissemination on the SRA within the government itself,
particularly during the early years of the SRA and SRC. What aggravated the situation
was the lack of coordination among the different government agencies that were to serve
as flagship champions. With respect to the partnership between government and the
basic sectors, some flagship champions did not hold regular meetings with their basic
sector counterparts (e.g., DA for the farmers and the fisherfolks and the HUDCC for the
urban poor). The frustration on the part of the basic sectors was reinforced by the
departure of some government officials whom they perceived to be their allies (e.g.,
Director Guillermo Morales of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and
General Manager Roberto Balao of the National Housing Authority) in their advocacy
work for their sectoral agendas. Thus, the resistance on the part of some government
officials and the exit of certain officials who were sympathetic to the basic sectors’ cause
led to the view that the “grand narrative that is the Social Reform Agenda appears to
remain an empty promise and plain rhetoric of the Ramos government unless otherwise

21
     Ibid.
                                                                                                     12


resolutely acted upon by government’s key players”.22 Based on these observations, one
can conclude that the problems that arose during the period 1994-1996 can be attributed
in part to the weaknesses of both government and the basic sectors.


Despite all the birthing pains and difficulties associated with the early years of the SRA
and SRC, the basic sectors did gain from their engagement with the government. While
these gains may be more symbolic than real, they are still considered by the basic sectors
as important. The gains included the following:
        (1)      The SRA was able to articulate the principles of social reform at the
                 highest levels of government. Moreover, the SRA also highlighted the
                 importance of two of the basic sectors’ key concerns — asset reform and
                 popular participation.
        (2)      Basic sector participation in the highest levels of government was
                 recognized. Basic sector representation in government became part of the
                 consultative processes that were very much a part of the Ramos
                 administration. An important aspect of popular participation was the
                 appointment of basic sector representatives to the SRC — representatives
                 who were tasked to articulate the interests and demands of their respective
                 constituencies.
        (3)      The SRA contributed to the strengthening of civil society players and
                 structures as it provided avenues for the coordination of action and public
                 representation on national issues. Furthermore, the SRA served as a
                 mechanism for the coordination of cross-sectoral advocacy on basic sector
                 issues.
        (4)      The localization of social reform action plans became an important aspect
                 of advocacy for civil society. This enabled the basic sectors to strengthen
                 their ties with local governments and form partnership with them in the
                 local implementation of asset reforms for the marginalized sectors.



22
  Memen L. Lauzon, “Assessing Ramos’ Social Reform Agenda,” Intersect 11(1)(January 1996):13. One
should note that this assessment was made in 1996, less than two years after the SRA was adopted and the
SRC established. Therefore, it is understandable why the mechanisms for information dissemination and
                                                                                                        13


        (5)      The various laws23 that were signed by former President Ramos towards
                 the end of his term improved the policy baseline for social reform for the
                 Estrada administration. These laws provide a good starting point for the
                 government in its struggle against poverty and may contribute to the
                 institutionalization of anti-poverty initiatives and social reform in the
                 government. However, good laws do not automatically translate to the
                 attainment of goals. The next step now is to ensure the effective
                 implementation of these laws and improve laws that are already in place.24


Since most of the gains of the SRA were symbolic in nature, the NPC identified several
issues that the Estrada administration must address if it is to prove its seriousness in
pursuing social reform. First, the government must refocus the SRA away from the MBN
approach and towards the goal of asset reform. For the NPC, the lack of emphasis given
to asset reform can be interpreted as “a regression in the government’s understanding of
social reform and a dilution of its commitment to equity reform”.25 Second, there is an
immediate need to strengthen the government’s institutional capacity to address anti-
poverty issues. For instance, before government-basic sector partnerships can be
institutionalized, government agencies tasked with fostering and supporting such
partnerships must first undergo reorientation to sensitize them to the nature and dynamics
of the basic sectors. Third, the government’s initiatives with respect to civil society must
be better integrated and harmonized. The government has to be consistent in its
pronouncements and actions on people’s participation in governance at all levels of the
decision-making process. Fourth, even as civil society participates in the affairs of


coordination were not yet fully institutionalized. These observations are cited in this case study to reveal
the difficulties and challenges that the SRC had to deal with during its initial years of existence.
23
   Ten SRA priority bills were identified by the SRC and both government and the basic sectors lobbied for
the passage of these bills. The priority bills included the following: (1) Social Reform and Poverty
Alleviation; (2) Fisheries Code; (3) Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act; (4) bill to repeal the Anti-Squatting
Law; (5) bill on increasing the Agrarian Reform Fund; (6) Land and Water Use Code; (7) Anti-Rape bill;
(8) Child and Family Courts Act bill; (9) Agricultural Modernization and Irrigation Crisis Act bill; and
(10) bill on the Magna Carta for Students. Out of the ten, only the Land and Water Use Code and the
Magna Carta for Students have not been passed yet. National Anti-Poverty Commission, Sourcebook on
the Social Reform Agenda (Volume 3): Social Legislation Initiatives During the 9 th and 10th Philippine
Congresses (Manila: NAPC, 1998), p. 3.
24
   National Peace Conference Technical Working Group, Social Reform Should Form the Core of
Governance ..., pp. 4-6.
                                                                                                       14


government, the latter must continue to recognize the integrity and respect the autonomy
of the former. Fifth, public resources need to be fully harnessed for social reform
programs. One means by which the government’s commitment to social reform can be
measured is through funding agencies that are willing and able to allocate for poverty
alleviation programs. And sixth, the government must recognize and address the actual
and potential conflicts between its social reform commitments and the economic policies
that it continues to pursue. According to this argument, the conceptual framework of the
SRA is distinct and separate from the Ramos administration’s economic reform agenda
and because of the non-integration of the SRA into the framework for economic
development, there have been incoherence and contradictions in the government’s
development policies.26 It may be that because of its liberalization, deregulation, and
privatization policies, the government is the one which undermines the interests of the
basic sectors.27




B.      The NAPC Experience of the Basic Sectors


The NAPC is a government body anchored on the partnership between government and
civil society. The underlying philosophy of the NAPC is that people’s participation in
governance is a vital element in the pursuit towards change within government. In
particular, as an agent of change, the basic sectors can positively affect the delivery of
services to the poor, not necessarily by delivering the services themselves but more
importantly by awakening the government bureaucracy to the need for more competent



25
   Ibid., p. 6.
26
   Men Sta. Ana, “Coming to Grips with Philippine Poverty,” Farm News and Views IX(1-2)(January-April
1996):8.
27
   Ibid., pp. 6 and 8-9. In another observation along parallel lines, it was noted that there was clearly a
disjunction between the social reform policy of the Ramos administration and its economic reform agenda.
This is because: “The Social Reform Agenda came as an afterthought. Growth first, social reform later.
Social reform is viewed separate from the economic reform agenda. From this perspective, from this non-
integration of the SRA into the administration’s economic strategy, we can discern why the administration
spewed so many incoherent and contradictory policies and programs to this date to the extent of canceling
each other [out].” Emy LaVinia, “Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation of the Ramos Administration,”
speech delivered during the Anti-Poverty Summit Meeting, Cebu City, n.d., downloaded from
http://www.gsilink.net/home/cebungos/poverty.htm on 29 July 1999.
                                                                                           15


and efficient service delivery.28 Within the NAPC, the roles and functions of the basic
sectors are as follows:
        (1)     Serve as the consultative and coordinative body that shall interface and
                interact with government agencies in the implementation of anti-poverty
                policies, programs, and resource commitments;
        (2)     Ensure the broad participation of various basic sectors in various
                mechanisms of the PEP;
        (3)     Flesh out the different anti-poverty program and project components of the
                EPMP for the basic sectors and the geographic areas for implementation,
                together with the concerned government agencies;
        (4)     Recommend to the NAPC necessary policies and other interventions to
                ensure the successful implementation of the EPMP;
        (5)     Develop and formulate with their respective sectors a minimum “do-
                able”29 sectoral agenda;
        (6)     Adopt their respective mechanisms, as well as coordinative and
                consultative structures, consistent with the principles of R.A. 8425 and its
                implementing rules and regulations (IRR);
        (7)     Ensure that their respective operations centers will be responsible,
                efficient, and effective in addressing the concerns of their respective
                sectors;
        (8)     Follow through the commitments of the government to their respective
                sectors; and
        (9)     Identify and implement the sectoral commitments to their respective
                sectors.30


Under R.A. 8425, each basic sector representative has a three-year term of office. A
National Basic Sector Assembly (NBSA), composed of 15 representatives from each of
the 14 basic sectors, is responsible for drawing up the general agenda of the basic sectors.
In addition, there is the National Basic Sector Forum (NBSF), composed of the 14 basic

28
   Interview with Engineer Alain Bustamante, Malacañang, Manila, 3 September 1999.
29
   “Do-able” is a Filipinism that is synonymous with the word “feasible”.
30
   National Anti-Poverty Commission, “NAPC ...,” p. 16.
                                                                                                   16


sector commissioners and two alternates per basic sector. The NBSF serves as a venue
for discussing and consolidating cross-sectoral agenda and concerns. Each basic sector
also has its own sectoral assembly and council. The basic sectors have come up with
principles of engagement that guide their interaction with their lead agencies in particular
and government in general. These principles include the following:
             (1)   The representation and participation of the basic sectors in government
                   shall be a partnership based on equality, autonomy, transparency, and
                   mutual respect. The appointment and inclusion in the government
                   structure of the basic sector representatives shall not diminish their
                   representation as essentially basic sector, private sector, or civil society.
             (2)   The basic sector operates on the principle of maximum participation in all
                   arenas open for engagement in poverty eradication.
             (3)   The basic sector must ensure that equality in rank in relating with
                   government agencies shall be observed within the framework of the
                   NAPC.
             (4)   The basic sector shall exercise critical partnership in policy-making in the
                   determination of priorities and in agenda-setting with the government. It
                   shall be consulted and involved in the formulation and determination of
                   policies and programs that directly affect them and their sectors.
             (5)   Social contracts shall be forged between concerned government agencies
                   and the basic sectors.
             (6)   The basic sector shall observe the principle of maximum participation of
                   civil society based on the principle of inclusivity and not exclusivity. This
                   implies reaching out and broadening participation of all sectoral
                   organizations that are willing to work with the NAPC.31


As was the case with the SRC, the NAPC also consists of two sectors — the government
and the basic sectors. The NAPC government is composed of 11 department secretaries
and heads of government agencies, presidents of the four Leagues of Local Government
Units (LGUs), and the chairs of the Peoples’ Credit and Finance Corporation (PCFC) and

31
     Ibid.
                                                                                         17


the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP). On the other hand, there are 14
basic sector representatives that sit in the NAPC. (Please refer to Appendix B for a
complete list of the members of the NAPC.) Each basic sector is matched with a
government unit as part of the NAPC’s inter-agency networking mechanism. The
following is the initial team-up between the basic sectors and government lead agencies:
          (1)     Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) — Farmers and Landless Rural
                  Workers
          (2)     Department of Agriculture (DA) — Fisherfolks
          (3)     Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) —
                  Indigenous Peoples
          (4)     Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) — Workers in the Formal
                  Labor Sector and Migrant Workers
          (5)     DOLE— Workers in the Informal labor Sector
          (6)     Department of Budget and Management (DBM) — Women
          (7)     Department of Education, Culture, and Sports (DECS) — Youth and
                  Students
          (8)     Department of Health (DOH) — Persons with Disabilities
          (9)     Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) — Victims of
                  Disasters and Calamities
          (10)    Department of Finance (DOF) — Senior Citizens
          (11)    National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) — Non-
                  Government Organizations
          (12)    Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) — Children
          (13)    People’s Credit and Finance Corporation (PCFC) — Cooperatives
          (14)    Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) — Urban Poor


The basic sectors have had some gains such as the finalization of the basic sector
structures and organizational guidelines, the preparation of basic sector work plans, and
the conduct of discussions between lead agencies and the basic sectors.32 However, for
the most part, the basic sectors’ experience in the NAPC has been frustrating. From the

32
     Remarks by Commissioner Nemenzo, 9 August 1999.
                                                                                                      18


very start, the NAPC has been rocked by controversies. A big source of problems was
the selection process by which the sectoral representatives are to be chosen and
appointed. While the law provides that it is the basic sectors which should choose their
representatives from among themselves, President Estrada issued a presidential directive
which allowed the direct nomination of candidates. Hence, not all basic sector
representatives were elected by their respective sectors. The case of the women’s sector
illustrates this problem. The women’s sector general assembly already elected
representatives to their basic sector council.        The three candidates obtaining the most
votes were designated as commissioner and as alternates. However, due to the
intervention of outsiders, the other members of the council were removed and replaced by
non-elected members or members who lost in the earlier elections.33 This incident which
was replicated in other sectors led to the marginalization of some civil society
organizations and resulted in divisiveness within certain sectors. The conflict even led
some marginalized groups to file a case with the Supreme Court requesting that President
Estrada be barred from directly appointing NAPC basic sector representatives.34 Due to
these problems, the degree and quality of basic sector representation in the NAPC has
been questioned. Concerns regarding the legitimacy and accountability of non-elected
council members were also raised. This has led to the perception that the NAPC is a
highly politicized government agency, and this politicization has prevented it from doing
its work efficiently and effectively. Politicking has also diverted the NAPC’s attention
from its fundamental concerns and reasons for being — poverty alleviation and uplifting
the welfare of the basic sectors.


Another problematic area has to do with the basic sectors’ participation, or lack of it, in
the Lingap Para sa Mahihirap Program. This program has been allotted a budget of 2.5
billion pesos for the current year to be used for funding programs geared towards
satisfying the minimum basic needs of poor and disadvantaged Filipinos. The basic


33
   Interview with Ms. Karen Tañada, Women’s Action Network for Development, Quezon City, 21
December 1999.
34
   Ellen tordesillas, “Poor Grade for a Pro-Poor President,” Politik 5(4)(May 1999):34. The case was filed
by such groups as KATINIG. The case was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court for lack of merit.
According to Engineer Alain Bustamante, the fact that the petition was dismissed by the highest court of
                                                                                                        19


sectors have had reservations about the program since its launching. One reason for these
reservations is the fact that the basic sectors were never part of the conceptualization of
the program. By the time the basic sectors had organized themselves and were inside the
NAPC, the program was already in place. Consequently, their participation was limited
to the validation and monitoring processes. Unfortunately, the basic sectors are the first
to admit that they do not have the technical capabilities to perform these tasks. And so,
amid criticisms of the program, the basic sectors are reluctant to defend the program
because they were not part of its formulation.35 But even as the basic sectors continue to
be critical of the program, they also see it as a mechanism by which they can get
budgetary support for their action agenda. Because of this, the Lingap Para sa Mahihirap
Program poses a dilemma for the basic sectors. While reservations about the program
remain, the basic sectors are lobbying for the reinstatement of the program in the Year
2000 budget. One condition that they are insisting on, however, is for the basic sectors to
be given a more extensive role in defining the substance of the program.36


A third area of concern for the basic sectors is the partnership between them and the
government lead agencies. While this system of matching the basic sectors with their
respective government lead agencies facilitates working relations between the two
sectors, the unfortunate thing is that the process has been a tedious one of bargaining
between government and the basic sectors. Agencies and departments such as the DBM,
NEDA, DOF, and PCFC have been reluctant to serve as a lead agency primarily because
they are oversight and coordinative institutions and not implementing agencies.37                    For
instance, the women’s sector, which is matched with the DBM, has had difficulty coming



the land may be interpreted as a validation of the direct nomination process that was done by President
Estrada. Interview with Engineer Bustamante, 3 September 1999.
35
   Remarks by Commissioner Nemenzo during a roundtable discussion on “Reflections on the Estrada
Administration’s Poverty Alleviation Program:            The Experience of the National Anti-Poverty
Commission,” Center for Integrative and Development Studies, University of the Philippines, Quezon city,
19 November 1999.
36
   Remarks by Commissioner Nemenzo, 19 November 1999.
37
   Interview with Engineer Bustamante, 3 September 1999. Despite the initial reluctance, NEDA, for
example, eventually accepted the assignment to serve as lead agency of the NGO sector and even had
negotiations with the DPWH and the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) for the latter to serve
as partner agencies (i.e., government offices that are not NAPC lead agencies but are willing to support the
anti-poverty efforts of the government). In the case of the DECS, the lead agency of the youth and
                                                                                               20


to terms with its lead agency due to reluctance on the part of the latter to serve as a
partner of a basic sector. In addition, each lead agency is tasked to assist its basic sector
partner in setting up an operation base within the premises of the lead agency.38 Due to
these difficulties, questions have arisen regarding government’s sincerity and its
commitment to the poor and marginalized sectors of society. Once again, there have
been setbacks regarding this matter.


On the whole, the basic sectors are cognizant of opportunities that the NAPC presents
them. However, at present, the basic sectors are not clear where the NAPC policies and
directives are coming from. The entire process has been confusing for them because they
have found it difficult to pinpoint accountability and responsibility. In addition, the basic
sectors lament the reality that the NAPC Secretariat has been unable to provide the
necessary technical support for the basic sectors. This is the reason why the basic sectors
are pushing for the strengthening of the Secretariat. The basic sectors have also
expressed frustration with the absence of interactive activities between them and the
government sector. All these problems led Commissioner Nemenzo to comment that the
basic sectors sense that the government is not taking them and the anti-poverty movement
seriously. This main concern now is to ensure that the basic sectors get the attention of
President Estrada.39 For someone who ran and won on the slogan “Erap Para sa
Mahihirap”, the perception of most people is that he is not living up to expectations. The
basic sectors are taking it upon themselves to hold the government accountable for all its
electoral promises.


C.      Government-Basic Sector Relations in the SRC and NAPC


At times, the working relations between the government and basic sectors was smooth
but, as in the case of the SRC, such relations often became strained because of a lack of
consensus and other disagreements between the two parties. In the SRC, one of the


students’ sector, they tapped the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), National Youth Commission
(NYC), and TESDA as partner agencies.
38
   Remarks by Commissioner Nemenzo, 9 August 1999.
39
   Remarks by Commissioner Nemenzo, 9 August and 19 November 1999.
                                                                                              21


sources of tension between the government and basic sectors had to do with the perceived
priority accorded to certain SRA programs. While government pursued the MBN
approach, the basic sectors wanted to redirect the emphasis towards asset reform.
According to Ms. Quintos-Deles, the basic sectors were not against the MBN approach
per se as they also recognized its utility, particularly as an instrument for pushing local
anti-poverty initiatives. What they resisted was the priority accorded to the MBN, as a
result of which it was being treated as if it were the sole commitment under the SRA.
Moreover, the problem with the MBN approach is that it is too welfare-oriented. What
the basic sectors are arguing is that the MBN is not the SRA.40


Another source of tension was the perceived meddling of government in the affairs of the
basic sectors. This was evident in the selection of basic sector representatives to the
NAPC. While the original IRR stipulated that the basic sectors are responsible for
electing their respective representatives to the NAPC, a directive from President Estrada
allowed direct nominations. This meant that someone who does not have the support of
the basic sectors can become a commissioner, and in fact, several did become
commissioners through direct nominations. This led to some to question the
representativeness and legitimacy of the NAPC. Due to this and other problems, there
are reports that some basic sectors no longer have a quorum due to the resignation of
some of their members. This has crippled the work of some basic sectors within the
NAPC.
The transition from the SRC to the NAPC also proved to be tension-filled. From a
rational point of view, the most logical thing to do would have been to build on the
achievements of the SRC and to fill in the gaps resulting from the body’s shortcomings.
However, given the personalistic attitude that Filipinos have towards politics, it was to be
expected that when the new administration assumed office, the programs of the old
administration would face any of the following fate — renaming, overhauling, or
complete abolition. The SRC was not immune to this. Part of the reason why the SRC
was abolished was because R.A. 8425 called for the fusion of the SRC, PCFP, and PCCD
into a new body to be called the NAPC. But beyond the restructuring that was called for

40
     Remarks by Ms. Quintos-Deles, 16 September 1999.
                                                                                                       22


by law, the transition also resulted in what may be called as a “changing of the guards”.
One of the main NGO coalitions that played a major role in the SRA — the NPC — was
“eased out” of the NAPC. While there are still some NPC members who are sitting in the
NAPC basic sector councils, the organization as a whole is no longer involved in the
current administration’s anti-poverty programs. Furthermore, there is a sense within the
NPC that there is no opening available to them in order to influence the Lingap Program
and thus, the NAPC is no longer a meaningful venue for trying to do policy advocacy
work. Be that as it may, they continue to make use of other venues such as Congress, the
local government units (LGUs), the media, and the streets in order to pursue their anti-
poverty agenda. And they are still involved in some interface work with the government
as some members of NPC participated in the making of the Medium-Term Philippine
Development Plan (MTPDP) for 1998-2004. But with respect to the NAPC per se, the
NPC feels that it is a waste of time to try and penetrate the NAPC which is now perceived
as being controlled by groups close to the incumbent.41 In a statement by the NPC, it
criticized the process by which the NAPC was convened under the Estrada
administration:
        ... [T]he formation of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) was long delayed,
        with the process overcome with heavy political maneuverings, as evidenced by three
        versions of its implementing rules and regulations. It was convened as a body only in
        late April, a full ten months into the administration's term. Many of the basic sector

41
   Interview with Ms. Teresita Quintos-Deles, GZO Peace Institute, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon
City, 4 November 1999. In this same interview, Ms. Quintos-Deles pointed out that the clash between the
lead groups in the SRA and those in NAPC was not so much ideological as it was political. It was not even
that there was a new administration in power which was bringing in its own people. There were groups
associated with the Ramos administration which were willing to work with the Estrada administration but
those groups which were seen as too independent for comfort were removed. At present, the NPC’s agenda
is four-fold: (1) poverty program including raising awareness regarding the importance of asset reform
particularly agrarian reform and ancestral domains, housing, and fisheries; (2) charter change which the
NPC opposes; (3) legacies of the Marcos dictatorship like human rights violations and illegal wealth; and
(4) the peace process. Due to the absence of a venue as comprehensive as the SRC, the NPC is now
looking into other arenas where it can articulate its views and continue to do policy advocacy. In another
interview, Ms. Jean Llorin explained that with the exit of the NPC, groups associated with the Philippine
Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) have become more visible in the NAPC. Due to political
bickering caused by changes in personalities, some of those who were actively involved in the SRC
disengaged with government. However, Ms. Llorin, who was part of the SRC and continues to be part of
the NAPC as one of the alternate commissioners for the women’s sector, is of the opinion that
disengagement will also result in defeat by default for the basic sectors. While there have indeed been
problems due to the transition, the basic sectors should continue to make use of the available avenues that
are open to them rather than completely give up access to such opportunities, however small these may be.
Interviews with Ms. Jean Llorin, Bahay ng Alumni, University of the Philippines, Quezon City, 9 August
1999 and Ateneo de Naga, Camarines Sur, 14 August 1999.
                                                                                                             23


         representatives who sit in the NAPC have been hand-picked by the Office of the
         President in violation of the processes upholding the principles of constituency,
         transparency, and principled engagement which legitimate NGOs and POs had sought to
         uphold.42


Differences between the basic sectors and government, which are sometimes viewed as
inherent in the relationship and therefore difficult to ignore and do away with, have led to
various challenges. These include the following:
         (1)      Reluctance on the part of some government officials to treat civil society
                  actors as equals and partners in development as reflected in part in the
                  difficulty of establishing equal partnerships between lead agencies and the
                  basic sectors assigned to them;43
         (2)      The lack of technical capabilities, skills, and resources of the basic sectors
                  (e.g., research skills, comprehension of the more technical aspects of
                  policy-making, familiarity with the workings of government, and human
                  and financial resources);
         (3)      The weak state of networking and constituency-building within some
                  basic sectors and the divisions between organizations within a particular
                  sector, which has further led to the perception that the NAPC is an



42
   “The National Peace Conference and the Estrada Administration: What Happened to Erap’s Anti-
Poverty Program?,” statement read by NPC Secretary-General Emil Yuson during the Philippine Political
Science Association Annual Conference on “Politics of Poverty and Poverty of Politics,” Balay Kalinaw,
University of the Philippines, Quezon City, 23-24 July 1999, p. 2. During the open forum, Mr. Arnold
Obina, NAPC Commissioner for the youth sector, reacted negatively to the statement read by Mr. Yuson
and said that the NPC is being extremely critical of the NAPC simply because they are no longer in the
body. What is important now, according to Mr. Obina, is for all concerned to move beyond all the
bickering and try to work together, whether they are inside or outside of NAPC.
43
   To reiterate, one manifestation of this reluctance is the assertion of certain government officials that their
agencies are not implementing agencies and therefore, should not be made to serve as lead agencies.
According to Engineer Bustamante, this reluctance was more manifest among the upper echelons of
government where the traditional view — governance is the government’s sole business — still
predominates. Due to this perception that the idea of people’s participation in governance has not yet been
mainstreamed, there is the need to reorient government officials and the bureaucracy. On a related matter,
equal partnerships were difficult to establish because on the one hand of the negotiating table sat the
cabinet secretaries and on the other hand, there were the basic sector commissioners who did not have an
equal position. During the latter part of 1999, the DBM allowed only the Vice-Chairperson for the Basic
Sectors (i.e., Commissioner Nemenzo) to hold a cabinet secretary rank. While the NAPC pushed for a
cabinet secretary rank for all the 14 basic sector commissioners, the DBM countered by saying that would
be virtually impossible as this is unprecedented because there is not one government office in the
Philippines where one would find 14 individuals with the rank of cabinet secretary. Interview with
Engineer Bustamante, 3 September 1999.
                                                                                                         24


                  exclusive agency that is open only to the participation of groups that
                  supported the present administration during the 1998 national elections;
         (4)      The perception that the government is not taking the basic sectors
                  seriously;44 and
         (5)      The difficulty faced by the basic sectors in coming up with their own
                  sectoral poverty alleviation agenda and pushing government to incorporate
                  such agenda into national anti-poverty programs and policies.


On a more positive note, when there are no tensions between the government and basic
sectors and the working relations are relatively smooth, they are able to come up with
substantial achievements. For example, the documents that were produced during the
People Empowerment Caucus of 17 June 1994 can, according to Ms. Quintos-Deles, be
said to be co-owned by government and civil society. This implies that both sectors were
able to agree on a common stand on the issue and consolidate their views into a single
document that was acceptable to all stakeholders.45 The SRA itself was the product of a
multisectoral approach and a decision-making process that involved both government and
non-government actors working together. Even the implementation phase of the SRA
saw the collaboration between the basic sectors and their respective flagship champions.46
Other gains of collaborative efforts between government and civil society include the
exchange of information and viewpoints, making each party more familiar with the
workings of the other and thereby allowing them to better adjust to their partners, and
making the policy process more participatory, albeit procedurally and not necessarily



44
   In addition to the reluctance of some departments to partner with the basic sectors, this view can also be
traced to the lack of funds that government extends to the basic sectors to support the latter’s sectoral
consultative activities. For instance, last year, the NAPC’s proposed budget was 100 million pesos but this
was slashed by 50%. Given that each sector had an annual budget of 4 million pesos for sectoral concerns,
the 50 million pesos NAPC budget was not enough sufficient to cover the needs of the basic sectors. This
leaves the cross-sectoral activities without any funding. Thus, the NAPC was hard-pressed to get funding
support from the lead agencies. This was, however, easier said that done because the departments failed to
incorporate the anti-poverty programs into their respective 1999 budgets. What the NAPC did was to take
out 2% from the 2.5 million pesos Lingap Fund to support the basic sectors’ agenda. This lack of financial
support for their activities has led the basic sectors to question the government’s commitment to anti-
poverty programs and to popular participation in governance. Interview with Engineer Bustamante, 3
September 1999.
45
   Remarks by Ms. Quintos-Deles, 16 September 1999.
                                                                                                  25


substantively. As regards the NAPC, it is still too early to tell whether government-basic
sector partnership will result in the reduction of absolute and relative poverty. At this
point, suffice it to say that if the problems that the NAPC are currently facing are not
resolved soon, realizing its objectives by the end of the Estrada administration will be
short of impossible.


As regards assessing the impact of basic sector participation on the reduction of poverty
incidence, this is a methodologically complex undertaking. First, it is difficult to
distinguish between the impact of basic sector activities and that of government. This
arises from the fact that within NAPC, government and the basic sectors are supposed to
be working in tandem and not on their own. Second, even while the basic sectors may
find their agenda reflected in the program agenda implemented by their lead agencies,
one cannot give sole credit to the basic sectors (or to the government as the case may be)
for the benefits resulting from those programs. And third, the lag between the time a
policy is proposed to the time it is actually implemented and until the time that outcomes
become visible and measurable must be considered. The fight against poverty is a long-
term one. Thus, even if there is a reduction in poverty incidence from one year to another
(e.g., between 1998 to 1999), it is difficult to claim that this reduction can be attributed
directly to the efforts of the government during the previous year. It may have been
because of programs that were put in place earlier than that (e.g., programs that were
implemented under a different administration). In the final analysis, should an
administration succeed in achieving its articulated goals, then one should credit this not
so much to the government or the basic sectors per se but to the concerted efforts of
government and civil society in general and also to the policy initiatives that were put in
place by its predecessors.


Lessons From the SRC and NAPC Experiences




46
   Remarks by Mr. Emmanuel Buendia during a roundtable discussion on “Reflections on the Ramos
Adminsitration’s Social Reform Agenda,” Center for Integrative and Development Studies, University of
the Philippines, Quezon City, 28 July 1999.
                                                                                               26


The experiences of the basic sectors in the SRC and NAPC do reveal some lessons that
may be relevant to other attempts at government-basic sector engagement. Both cases
reveal the difficulties that arise and the gains that can be obtained from such
engagements. The basic sectors’ experiences validate the observation that government is
inherently different from civil society and vice-versa. Differences arise due to varying
perspectives on issues, approaches, strategies, and frameworks. It has also been said that
government and civil society possess distinct cultures, and this is one factor that makes it
difficult for each to work with one another. However, the SRA and NAPC experiences
show that while the differences are real, it is possible for government and the basic
sectors to come together and work towards a common goal. According to Ms. Llorin,
while government is different from civil society and civil society is different from
government, these two actors can still interface, and whenever and wherever such as
interface is feasible, the opportunity must be maximized. The experience of Naga City in
Camarines Sur, for instance, illustrates how objectives can be attained when government
and civil society recognize each other as a partners in development, respect each other’s
autonomy and integrity, and work hand-in-hand towards the realization of an agenda that
both set together through a consultative and participatory decision-making process. Naga
City is a pioneer in the area of formulating and implementing an empowerment ordinance
that allowed basic sector representation in its decision-making structures. The success
that Naga City has been able to achieve so far has not been extensively replicated in other
LGUs. Nevertheless, it shows that government-basic sector engagement can be, and is
actually being, done successfully. The Naga City experience can serve as a model for a
government-basic sector interface which other LGUs can adopt.47 Some factors that
allow for productive relations between the government and basic sectors are the openness
of both sectors to work with one another, the willingness and ability to adjust to the
peculiarities of each sector (i.e., flexiblity), respect for each other’s culture and




47
   Remarks by Ms. Jean Llorin during a roundtable discussion on “Reflections on the Estrada
Administration’s Poverty Alleviation Programs:   The Experience of the National Anti-Poverty
Commission,” Center for Integrative and Development Studies, University of the Philippines, Quezon
City, 19 November 1999.
                                                                                                             27


viewpoints, and the ability to forge a consensus on a common framework which will
guide their work.48


Another revelation has to do with the state of the basic sectors. The level of organization
and preparedness to engage government differs among the basic sectors. While it took
some sectors minimal time to organize themselves, elect their council members and
leaders, and set up their agenda, the other sectors found all these a more difficult exercise
to undertake. Those with previous experiences in dealing with government also had an
easier time getting used to engaging their flagship champions or lead agencies. They
were also more familiar with the workings of government and thus, were better able to
make use of their partnership with government departments and agencies. In contrast,
sectors that were less organized had to first deal with organizational and operational
problems before they could even proceed with the more substantive aspects of their
involvement in the SRC and NAPC. The agenda-setting and policy advocacy work
usually had to take a back seat to other concerns such as electing their commissioners and
council members. As such, the pace of the work, and consequently, accomplishments
among the basic sectors varied from one sector to another.49 What this points to is that
for the basic sectors to maximize their participation in multisectoral bodies such as the
SRC and NAPC, they must do their homework and prepare for such an engagement.50


48
   Interviews with Ms. Llorin, 14 August 1999 and Engineer Bustamante, 3 September 1999.
49
   For instance, the NGO and workers’ sectors would be more prepared to engage government having had a
longer history of dealing with the latter as compared to such sectors as victims of calamities and disasters
which is a sector that, according to observers, is a sector that is a difficult to get a handle on. However, this
is not the only factor to consider when assessing the state of preparedness of the sectors. Another factor is
the leadership of the sectors. The commissioner for the NGO sector in the NAPC has, for example, has
been criticized for her lack of track record in advocacy work. Questions regarding the performance record
of a leadership can hamper its ability to consolidate its constituency and lead to further questions regarding
its authority and legitimacy.
50
   Lack of preparedness was evident during the first exposure of the basic sectors to government decision-
making under the NAPC. According to Engineer Bustamante, the first engagement between government
the basic sectors under the NAPC took place with the Lingap Fund programs. Here, there were six
government agencies responsible for the different Lingap Projects. For each project, a Project Advisory
Board was formed consisting of government officials and three representatives (i.e., commissioners only)
from the basic sectors. When the commissioners sat in the meetings, they were not ready for the highly
technical discussions that took place and therefore, they were unable to effect any changes that would be
beneficial to their sectors. Also, while they were able to provide inputs in some cases, there were instances
when their positions across projects were contradictory. This was because at that time of their
involvement, the basic sectors did not have any common framework to work with and were not familiar
with the intricacies of the bureaucracy. Interview with Engineer Bustamante, 3 September 1999.
                                                                                                     28


Moreover, by seriously preparing for engagement, the basic sectors will help convince
the government that they are serious about participating in anti-poverty programs in
particular and in governance in general.


A third consideration has more to do with the NAPC itself that with the basic sectors. In
the government’s policy pronouncement, President Estrada has articulated that the:
        [O]ur war on poverty is not just one program of government. It is the OVERRIDING
        business of the government itself. It is built into and embedded in our total economic and
        social programs. It defines and drives the substance, the content, and the heart and soul
        of our entire strategy of government (underscoring in the original).51


The problem however is that this pronouncement has not been matched by actions. The
NAPC, which is supposed to be the government body that will coordinate all anti-poverty
programs of the government, is organizationally and structurally weak as compared to the
different implementing agencies. If the NAPC is to perform this function at all, then it
has to be given the power to be able to make the different agencies follow its lead. As
things stand now, the NAPC is unable to do this given that it lacks the technical,
financial, and human resources that the departments boast of. Therefore, without
President Estrada’s active intervention, the NAPC will not be able to coordinate the anti-
poverty efforts of the government and each department will go about doing its own thing.
Another contributory factor is that if poverty is indeed the overriding concern of
government, then the underlying philosophy of government agencies must be anti-
poverty. The programs, policies, and decisions of the executive, legislative, and judicial
branches of government must be guided by this anti-poverty philosophy. However,
before this can become reality, a major attempt at social engineering must be undertaken.
This would involve, among other things, a major reorientation of the entire bureaucracy
and leadership in order that positive changes can take place. But how feasible is it to
achieve this goal within a period of six years?52 Hence, a key to the effective and

51
  President Estrada, “State of the Nation Address ...,” p. 6.
52
   Interview with Engineer Bustamante, 3 September 1999. To a certain extent, the NAPC of today has
been emasculated due certain developments early on in its existence. During the initial years under then
NAPC Lead Convenor Orlando Sacay, there were fears that the NAPC was going to become a “superbody”
that will define all anti-poverty programs and policies. In the process, it may undermine the efforts of
government departments and agencies. Mr. Sacay had a short-lived stint as Lead Convenor, having been
replaced by DAR Secretary Morales, and there ended the vision of a powerful NAPC.
                                                                                          29


efficient implementation of anti-poverty programs is the strengthening of the very
institution that is supposed to handle all anti-poverty concerns of government.


The SRC and NAPC are relatively novel experiments in the history of the Philippine
government. They are government bodies, one established through an Executive Order
while the other was created through a Republic Act, with both government and basic
sector representation. The SRC sought to institutionalize basic sector representation and
participation in government decision-making pertaining to anti-poverty programs and
policies while the NAPC is an attempt to sustain this partnership. Given that these are
efforts that are quite different from any ventures undertaken by government and the basic
sectors before, it is but natural to expect that the journey will be anything but smooth and
problem-free. However, while there have been several stumbling blocks along path of
the SRC and NAPC, it is undeniable that several gains — symbolic or otherwise — have
been made along the way. The next steps are to build on these gains and to deal with the
challenges that have arisen and address these immediately so that the government and
basic sectors can now focus their energies on the more important aspect of the work that
lies ahead — implementing the various anti-poverty programs that will uplift the plight of
the marginalized sectors of Philippines society.




References


De Dios, Emmanuel. “Can He Do It? Assessing the Estrada Administration’s Anti-
       Poverty Program.” Paper presented during the Philippine Political Science
       Association Annual Conference on the “Politics of Poverty and Poverty of
                                                                                      30


       Politics,” Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines, Quezon City, 23-24 July
       1999.


“Document Section: The Social Reform Agenda.” Philippine Journal for Public
       Administration XXXIX(2)(April 1995):218-229.


“Document Section: Social Reform Agenda Implementing Mechanism.” Philippine
       Journal for Public Administration XXXIX(2)(April 1995):230-241.


Estrada, President Joseph E. “State of the Nation Address: A Poverty-Free Philippines.”
       Speech delivered during the second session of the 11th Congress of the Republic
       of the Philippines, Quezon City, 26 July 1999.


Lauzon, Memen L. “Assessing Ramos’ Social Reform Agenda.” Intersect 11(1)(January
       1996):10-11 & 13.


LaVinia, Emy. “Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation of the Ramos Administration.”
       Speech delivered during the Anti-Poverty Summit Meeting, Cebu City, 1996.
       Downloaded from http://www.gsilink.net/home/cebungos/poverty.htm on 29 July
       1999.


National Anti-Poverty Commission. “Media Release: Poor Rallies Behind Erap in
       Advancing the Poverty Eradication Program." 6 July 1999.


__________. “NAPC: Organizing the Anti-Poverty Movement.” The Philippine Star
       Supplement, 25 September 1999.


__________. Sourcebook on the Social Reform Agenda (Volume 1): Major Presidential
       Directives, 1992-1998. Manila: NAPC, 1998.
                                                                                         31


__________. Sourcebook on the Social Reform Agenda (Volume 3): Social Legislation
       Initiatives During the 9th and 10th Philippines Congresses. Manila: NAPC, 1998.


“The National Peace Conference and the Estrada Administration: What Happened to
       Erap’s Anti-Poverty Program?” Statement read by NPC Secretary-General Emil
       Yuson during the Philippine Political Science Association Annual Conference on
       “Politics of Poverty and Poverty of Politics,” Balay Kalinaw, University of the
       Philippines, Quezon City, 23-24 July 1999.


National Peace Conference Technical Working Group. Social Reform Should Form the
       Core of Governance: The Basic Sectors’ Agenda for the Post-Ramos
       Administration. Quezon City: NPC, 1998.


Republic of the Philippines. “Republic Act 8425: An Act Institutionalizing the Social
       Reform and Poverty Alleviation Program, Creating for the Purpose the National
       Anti-Poverty Commission, Defining Its Powers and Functions, and For Other
       Purposes.” 11 December 1997.


__________. The Social Reform Agenda: Winning the Future. Quezon City: Social
       Reform Council Secretariat, n.d.


Sta. Ana, Men. “Coming to Grips with Philippine Poverty.” Farm News and Views
       IX(1-2)(January-April 1996):6-11.


Tordesillas, Ellen. “Poor Grade for a Pro-Poor President.” Politik 5(4)(May 1999):33-
       35.




Interviews and Roundtable Discussions
                                                                                        32


Interview with Engineer Alain Bustamante, NAPC, Malacañang, Manila, 3 September
       1999.


Inteviews with Ms. Jean Llorin, Bahay ng Alumni, University of the Philippines, Quezon
       City, 9 August 1999 and Ateneo de Naga, Camarines Sur, 14 August 1999.


Interview with Ms. Teresita Quintos-Deles, GZO Peace Institute, Ateneo de Manila
       University, Quezon City, 4 November 1999.


Interview with Ms. Karen Tañada, Women’s Action Development Network, Quezon
       City, 21 December 1999.


Remarks by Mr. Emmanuel Buendia during a roundtable discussion on “Reflections on
       the Ramos Administration’s Social Reform Agenda,” Bahay ng Alumni,
       University of the Philippines, Quezon City, 28 July 1999.


Remarks by Commissioner Ana Maria Nemenzo during a roundtable discussion on
       “Women, Bureaucracy, and the Governance of Poverty,” Bahay ng Alumni,
       University of the Philippines, Quezon City, 9 August 1999.


Remarks by Ms. Teresita Quintos-Deles during a roundtable discussion on “Reflections
       on the Ramos Administration’s Social Reform Agenda: The NGO-PO
       Experience,” Center for Integrative and Development Studies, University of the
       Philippines, Quezon City, 15 September 1999.
                                                                                     33




                                   APPENDIX A
                             The Social Reform Council

                     President Fidel V. Ramos --- Chairperson
      DAR Secretary Ernesto D. Garilao --- Vice-Chairperson and Lead Convenor
            Undersecretary Emmanuel E. Buendia --- Secretary-General


                                   Flagship Champions

DA Secretary Salvador H. Escudero III --- Agricultural Development and Aquatic
       Resources Conservation, Management, and Development
DENR Secretary Victor O. Ramos --- Protection of Ancestral Domains
DSWD Secretary Lina B. Laigo --- Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social
       Services (CIDSS)
DOH Secretary Carmencita N. Reodica --- CIDSS
DECS Secretary Erlinda D. Pefianco --- CIDSS
HUDCC Chair Dionisio D. de la Serna --- Socialized Housing
DOLE Secretary Cresenciano P. Trajano --- Workers Welfare and Protection and
       Livelihood
DTI Secretary Cesar Bautista --- Livelihood
DOF Secretary Salvador M. Enriquez --- Expansion of Credit
LBP President Jesus Diaz --- Expansion of Credit
DILG Secretary Epimaco A. Velasco --- Institution-Building and Effective Participation
       in Governance
DOE Secretary Francisco L. Viray
DOT Secretary Mina Gabor
DND Secretary Fortunata U. Abat
DAR Secretary Ernesto D. Garilao
DPWH Secretary Gregorio R. Vigilar
DOJ Secretary Silvestre H. Bello
DOST Secretary William G. Padolina
                                                                            34




                    Presidents of Leagues of Local Government Units


Governor Robert O. Pagdanganan --- League of Provinces
Mayor Agnes V. Devanadera --- League of Municipalities of the Philippines
Mayor Jesse M. Robredo --- League of Cities
Mr. James Marty Lim --- Liga ng mga Barangay




                                 Sectoral Representatives


Engineer Benjamin Cruz --- Farmers
Mr. Ronald L. Adamat --- Indigenous Peoples
Mr. Charlie C. Capricho --- Fisherfolks
Mr. Nicanor R. Salameda Jr. --- Urban Poor
Ms. Jurgette M. Honculada --- Women
Mr. Oscar J. Taleon --- Persons with Disabilities
Ms. Armela C. Evardoloza --- Youth and Students
Ms. Saturnina L. Hamili --- Children
Ms. Ma. Mercedes I. Nicolas --- Informal Workers
Mr. Vladimir R. Tupaz --- Organized Labor
Mr. Juan Blenn I. Huelgas --- Disaster Victims
Dr. Felix Gabriel --- Senior Citizens
Ms. Teresita Quintos-Deles --- Non-Government Organizations
Mr. Renato Florencio --- Business Sector
                                                                                  35




                                  APPENDIX B
                       The National Anti-Poverty Commission

                     President Joseph E. Estrada --- Chairperson
              DAR Secretary Horacio R. Morales --- Lead Convenor and
                           Head of the NAPC Secretariat
     Secretary Donna Z. Gasgonia --- Vice-Chairperson for the Government Sector
       Secretary Ana Maria Nemenzo --- Vice-Chairperson for the Basic Sectors


                       Heads of National Government Agencies

DA Secretary Edgardo J. Angara
DBM Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno
DOH Secretary Alberto G. Romualdez
DILG Secretary Alfredo Lim
DOF Secretary Jose Pardo
DAR Secretary Horacio R. Morales
DOLE Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma
DSWD Secretary Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
DECS Secretary Andrew Gonzales
DENR Secretary Antonio H. Cerilles
NEDA Director General Felipe M. Medalla
PCFC Chairperson Orlando J. Sacay
PCUP Chairperson Donna Z. Gasgonia




                   Presidents of Leagues of Local Government Units


Governor Joey D. Lina --- League of Provinces
Mayor Alipio F. Fernandez --- League of Cities
Mayor Jinggoy E. Estrada --- League of Municipalities of the Philippines
Brgy. Captain James Marty L. Lim --- Liga ng mga Barangay
                                                                 36




                              Basic Sector Commissioners


Mr. Romulo Tapayan --- Farmers
Mr. Bonifacio Federizo --- Fisherfolks
Ms. Cynthia Villarin --- Urban Poor
Mr. Mariano Pagang --- Indigenous Peoples
Mr. Arnold de Guzman --- Workers in the Formal Sector
Ms. Julie Diez --- Workers in the Informal Sector
Ms. Ana Maria Nemenzo --- Women
Mr. Arnold Obina --- Youth and Students
Mr. Ricardo Calapatia --- Persons with Disabilities
Mr. Juan Blenn Huelgas --- Victims of Disasters and Calamities
Mr. Pilimpinas Conding --- Senior Citizens
Ms. Ana Marie Balayon --- Non-Government Organizations
Mr. John Paul Claudio --- Children
Mr. Myron Gawigawen --- Cooperatives

								
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