It was interesting, to say the least, to hear about the Office of the Vice President (OVP) holding what they were calling The Partnerships Against Poverty Summit today, October 10. I wondered why it was that after 100 days, Vice President Leni Robredo has gotten away with pretty much doing nothing as Housing Chief — promising only that the roadmap would be complete by the first quarter of 2017 — complete with the assertion that “100 days is too short to hit targets,” yet here she was doing something else.
This summit is part of what they are calling the OVP’s Anti-Poverty and Advocacy Program, the goals of which are yet unclear, but which, if today’s poverty summit is any indication, is not only highly problematic, it is also absolutely redundant with the existing government Departments of Health and Social Welfare and Development, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC). Most disturbing of all: it goes against and is not at all a complementary project to existing government projects — which is what the VP herself said about it in a press con on October 5.
What is today’s poverty summit for? According to the VP:
<…> yung inaasahan natin, parang ito ay marketplace, na nandon yung mga bebenta, at nandon yung mga bibili. Yung mga bebenta, yung mga LGUs na napili natin, ito yung mga LGUs na hirap, ito yung mga LGUs na may pangangailangan, ang bibili do’n sa marketplace na ‘yon, yung mga private organizations na naki-partner na tayo. So ito naghahanap lang tayo ng platform para maikabit yung mga private organizations na naghahanap ng matutulungan. Ang pinaka-use sa kanila ng resources ng OVP, kami ang naghahanap, nagsi-screen, nagre-research on those areas, binibigyan natin sila ng information. At do’n naman sa demand side, ito yung mga LGUs na nangangailangan, kailangan natin silang ikabit sa private organizations.
Ah, so the OVP is going to function like an office that will facilitate for the private sector their fulfilment of their corporate social responsibility projects? Because this is the way to poverty alleviation: make it easier for corporate guilt from excessive profits and abusive practices to “give back.”
Here’s a better explanation though from a staff member who was at the same press con with the VP:
Ang mangyayari po do’n ay yung LGUs po doon ipapakita nga nila ang kanilang market list, and then yung ating mga NGOs, private organizations, international organizations, mamimili ngayon, o sige dito kami pupunta, ganito ang ibibigay namin. and the OVP will serve as a secretariat to see this through, na ‘pag nag-commit, titingnan natin, dapat ibigay talaga.
Ah now that sounds better: it includes international organizations and NGOs that are wanting to assist in alleviating nation from poverty.
No wait, only those impoverished from 60 LGUs, which were purportedly chosen by the OVP based on those who are at the bottom rung of the ladder, the poorest of the poor. It is unclear which LGUs these are, and how these were chosen. The fact that this overlaps with the work of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will be stuff for another blog entry.
Right now though here is a critical point to be made: VP Leni’s assertion that her office’s anti-poverty project in no way contradicts what government is doing, saying that “Ito, hindi siya competition sa programs ng gobyerno, siya ay complementation,” needs to be assessed relative to the government offices that she is in effect standing against: first up, NAPC under Liza Maza.
The premise of the OVP’s poverty program is our need for aid and assistance, and VP Leni herself has invoked her fears about losing out on foreign aid. In the Oct 5 press con, the VP also had no qualms about saying this: “Pero ito<ng project> yung recognition na hindi kaya ng gobyerno lamang na siya yung magso-solve ng project / problema” <– muffled audio>.
On the other hand, the NAPC Chief has explicitly stated that it is time for nation to take care of its own people.
Sa totoo lang, lagi tayong nakadepende sa aid, foreign investments at alam nating hindi naman ito talagang nakasugpo o nakatugon sa kahirapan ng ating kababayan. Siguro sa panahon namang ito na tayo ay tumindig sa ating sarili. Hanapin natin ang paraan, yung kinakailangan at atin mismong i-maximize yung sariling lakas at talino ng mga Pilipino para tayo ay makahanap ng solusyon sa kahirapan.
We can survive. Maraming programa na makakakuha din tayo ng pondo. Sinasabing bilyon-bilyon ang nawawala dahil sa kurapsyon. Ngayon, kung magiging thorough yung laban natin sa kurapsyon, makakadagdag pondo yan.
In this sense alone, it is clear that VP Leni is on shaky ground: she is launching a project that fundamentally goes against the NAPC, which is in charge of poverty alleviation. She is also doing a project that is not in her mandate as Vice President, nor as HUDDC chairperson. She is also spending public funds on something that we already have a budget allocation for — and that budget is NOT with the OVP, but with NAPC (and DSWD).
It is meanwhile telling that on October 7 and 8, the NAPC convened the National Anti-Poverty Sectoral Summit with “600 participants comprising basic sector leaders, anti-poverty advocates from civil society and the private sector, and representatives from the national government agencies,” tasked to “work together to define the government’s National Anti-Poverty Agenda that shall guide NAPC’s work over the next six years.”
At that summit NAPC Chief Liza Maza said:
This Summit reflects what we hold to be the only legitimate means for eliminating poverty – creating a broad unity of the people, especially among the basic sectors, to define the strategies and engaging them to act towards the realization of these strategies. Simply put, we hope to build a mass movement against poverty in order to end it.
NAPC’s vision is to engage the basic sectors in building a mass movement against poverty — that is, empower the people towards getting them out of poverty.
VP Leni’s vision against poverty is one that is premised on a dependence on dole-outs, on passing funds through LGUs, and monitoring these projects by keeping a scorecard — as if the OVP is even the office that is supposed to monitor LGUs.
Of course we all know that for six years this was already the Liberal Party’s strategy for poverty alleviation. We also know that in a set-up where funds pass through LGU officials, it is this dole-out system that is used to win elections, again and again and again.
That does not only hold true for LGU leaders of course.