Defend! Civic Space and People’s Right to Development

| Written by CSWCD

A REDO Public Forum and DZUP Sikhay Kilos Radio Show on the Occasion of the 71st Year of International Human Rights Day 

The Research and Extension for Development Office (REDO) and the DZUP Sikhay Kilos of the UP College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) held a Public Forum and Radio Show on the occasion of the 71st year of International Human Rights Day last December 6, 2019 at the CSWCD Walkway. The forum entitled “Defend! Civic Space and People’s Right to Development” was co-organized by the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG), Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT), Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS).

WeGovern President and CPDG Spokesperon, also former Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representative and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary, Ms. Liza Maza delivered the keynote address on the right to development as an inalienable, indivisible human right. She discussed the principle behind the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Right to Development that was adopted by the UN in December 4, 1986. She shared the history and continuing struggle of national liberation movements, people’s movements, and Southern Countries/Less Developed Countries (LDCs) for the right to development. Maza defined the principle of the right to development as the expansion of the concept of human, individual rights to collective, people’s rights. The UN Declaration on the Right to Development can be used as a tool to assert an enabling environment to attain the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of peoples and nations. She also emphasized on the importance of people’s participation, as an integral part of the attainment of the right to development. Maza reiterated that “the state is the primary duty bearer to promote, protect, and defend the right to development, as in all rights and fundamental freedoms.” And in the current global trends where there is intensified attacks and shrinking civil society space to participate in decision-making and to assert their rights, the keynote speaker encouraged and challenged the people and development workers to promote, protect and defend the right to development, self-determination and sovereignty over our resources. “We have the right to fight if this right to development is violated,” Maza said.

Ms. Liza Maza, WeGovern President, CPDG Spokesperon, former Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representative and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary

Mr. Jose Enrique A. Africa, IBON Executive Director and CPDG Board of Trustee, discussed Executive Order 70 (EO 70) and hijacking of development. Mr. Africa provided the national economic and political context on why there is systemic hijacking of development and continuing constriction of civic space. Mr. Africa briefly discussed the four official government policies, including the E0 70, which laid the foundation for Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s authoritarianism: National Security Policy (NSP) 2017-2022, April 2017, Executive Order (EO) No. 16, 2017, National Security Strategy (NSS), 2018. The EO No. 70 of December 2018 institutionalizes the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, creating a national task force (NTF) to end local communist armed conflict, and directing the adoption a national peace framework. Africa states that the “whole of nation approach, using a highly militarized bureaucracy, means that the whole of government moves, using all laws and policies, against civil society organizations (CSOs), people’s organizations, and development non-government organizations (NGOs). The government’s deceptive socio-civic programs are mobilized according to the will of the NTF. This violates the right to development, because the resources, which should be for the poor and marginalized, is being used for counterinsurgency and against development NGOs.” He ended that “the struggle for the right to development includes an active citizenship pushing for democracy, human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and political freedoms.”   

Mr. Jose Enrique A. Africa, IBON Executive Director and CPDG Board of Trustee

Testifying on the current situation of and struggle for the right to development, various institutions and people’s organizations shared their experiences of attacks, harassment, vilification, and red tagging and how their fighting to take back their social, economic, political rights. Representatives from different organizations who were tagged as communist terrorist groups gave testimonies on how they are addressing this concern. Among those groups who came were from Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI), Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC), National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Anakbayan National, and Climate Change Network of Community-based Initiatives. All said that despite the attacks on their organization they are determined to continue serving their communities.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago on her solidarity message thanked all the groups and organizations who are continuing to fight and defend the right to development. She also mentioned that they filed several house resolutions regarding this issue.

Hon. Sarah Elago, Kabataan Partylist Representative

Ms. Cham Perez of Center for Women’s Resources discussed the Belgrade Call to Action – A Civil  Society Call to Stand Together to Defend Peoples’ Voices for a Just and Sustainable. “Civil society organization (CSO) representatives, development workers, activists, and campaigners from all over the world demand action for a robust civic space for democratic participation, ending the persecution of human rights defenders, promotion of access to governance and opportunities for development, and delivery on the commitment to inclusive participation in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” She encouraged everyone to support the online sign-on statement: Defend and Protect Civic Space, Empower the Marginalized.

The second part of the program was CSWCD’s DZUP Sikhay Kilos radio show, with the same topic. The radio show is anchored by Assoc. Prof. Roselle Leah K. Rivera (DWDS), Asst. Prof. Hazel C. Lambera (DSW), Asst. Prof. Devralin T. Lagos (DCD), and Mr. Edgie Francis B. Uyanguren (REDO). The CSWCD Sikhay Kilos radio program airs at DZUP 1602 every Friday from 12 noon to 1:00 in the afternoon. ###