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Newly-formed NGO network challenges Duterte as soon-to-be president to protect, support development

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Seventeen development and humanitarian NGOs gathered in a national consultation to form ASCENT (Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network). These NGOs have been implementing community-based health programs, disaster risk reduction programs, managing social enterprises, alternative schools, and other socioeconomic initiatives benefiting the poorest of the poor. However, instead of getting the recognition and support of the government, their programs and workers are being attacked by state security forces and paramilitary groups.

These organizations have been subjected to intense surveillance, harassment, threats, and trumped-up charges. With the recent conclusion of the national elections, these humanitarian and development workers want to know what is in store for them under the Duterte administration.

In the past, under the guise of ‘daang matuwid,’ humanitarian and development projects and workers --the very same forces that bring much needed socio-economic services and projects to far-flung communities long neglected by this government -- are being attacked, if not killed.

Soldiers and members of paramilitary groups also sowed intrigues in the communities we have been working with. They also red-tagged these much-needed humanitarian and development projects, which included programs on food security, livelihood development, and in building shelter for disaster-stricken communities.

Even worse is the fact that humanitarian and development workers are being killed.

Photo: PNFSP Micro Irrigation Project in Isabela

Among the cases that were highlighted is the brutal killing of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), last September 1, 2015. He was killed along with two tribal leaders. Other cases are that of Willem Geertman, Executive Director of Alay Bayan-Luzon., who was shot on July 4, 2012 and development workers Engineer Fidela Salvador and William Bugatti who were killed in 2014.

To this day, no one has been held accountable for these killings.

With these continued attacks to date, the Network dares ask the soon-to-be Duterte administration: Are you going to continue the bloody ‘daang matuwid’ that has put our lives and limbs on the line? Are you going to continue paying lip service to our role and grudgingly accommodate us on a token basis? Or will you finally engage us in a meaningful consultative, productive, and participative dialogue and cooperation as part of the democratic process?

Reference: Estrella Catarata, Spokesperson, ASCENT (Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network)

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