Protect Civil Society Space

| Written by CSWCD

The Department of Social Work (DSW) of the University of the Philippines, College of Social Work and Community Development, joins our partner civil society organizations (CSOs), in strongly condemning the issuance of Memorandum Circular (MC) 2021-012 released by the Department of Interior and Local Government on January 28, 2021. The memorandum circular requires CSOs to acquire clearance from both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, to participate in the governance of their local government units (Section 4.1).

The MC 2021-012 is a direct affront to the 1987 Philippine Constitution which clearly recognizes civil society participation and empowerment, and the importance of protecting civic space. In particular, Article XIII, Section 15 declares that the State should “respect the role of independent people’s organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means”.

The memorandum is yet another deliberate move to restrict civic space and curtail participatory processes in local governance. As an academic unit, the DSW promotes a “development praxis anchored on people’s participation and empowerment”. For many years, CSOs, including social service agencies and development NGOs, have been our active partners in our field instruction programs by providing a learning environment for our student-interns.

The process for CSO accreditation has long been established through local as well as national government agencies. In addition, the Philippine Council for NGO Certification functions to certify CSOs that meet established minimum criteria for financial management and accountability.

For the past decades, CSOs have been at the forefront in responding to the needs of the poor and marginalized. The role of CSOs is even more crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, where they have demonstrated resilience, creativity and adaptability in providing needed assistance. Now more than ever, the country needs a healthy and functioning civil society if we are to rise against the challenges brought about by COVID-19.

We call upon the government to repeal the MC 2021-012, and stop any form of intimidation and harassment against CSOs, including NGOs, trade unions, and social movements.

We express our solidarity with CSOs all over the country in raising our voices against unjust policies that threaten our right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

We appeal to the government to protect civic space and provide an enabling environment for CSOs to operate, as true partners in development.


Associate Professor Justin Nicolas, PhD

Assistant Professor Suzanne Magalona-Nazal