Posted on May 08, 2021
We are a community of reform advocates who firmly believe in democracy and the rule of law as the bedrock of our society.
We are alarmed by the Memorandum Circular 2021-012 which the Department of Interior and Local Government issued on January 28 this year- which requires the CSOs intending to join Local People's Council to secure clearance from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) that they are "cleared from any subversive and illegal activities."
While we agree that the AFP and the PNP play a crucial role in maintaining peace and order in the country under the rule of law, we question the legality of giving them a role in regulating the activities of civil society groups and sectors. It has no basis in the Philippine Constitution, the Local Government Code of 1991, and in any other legislation.
It will constrict the civic space where civil societies can operate to keep the government accountable for its actions. It will instill fear and discourage freedom of speech and assembly which the state is mandated to uphold and protect.
It goes against the concept and practice of the People's Council as originated in Naga City in 1996. The Naga People's Council has become an effective model and mechanism for people's participation in local governance because it has remained independent and free from fear of retaliation from local authorities.
The memo circular cannot but be seen as an attempt to silence dissent in the country, amidst the increasing incidents of red tagging, harassment and warrantless searches of CSO offices, and extra-judicial killings committed against human rights defenders, journalists and civil society representatives.
It is unnecessary in view of the increasing regulatory requirements imposed on CSOs, the most recent of which is the 2019 guideline issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the regulation of non-profit corporations against money laundering and terrorist financing. The DSWD and the LGUs also have accreditation processes for CSO organizations that can sufficiently vouch for their identities.
We demand the Honorable Secretary Eduardo Ano to revoke the memorandum as soon as possible.
We urge the Philippine Senate, the Philippine Congress, and the Commission on Human Rights to look into the matter and immediately subject the memo under their close scrutiny.
We say no to increasing militaristic approaches and solutions to development issues.
We uphold the power vested on our people under a democratic government.
We assert the right of the people to freely participate in governance under a rule of law.
Mardi Mapa-Suplido, Chair