32.2 C
Manila
Monday, May 27, 2024

The Dangers of Development Work

This was presented last October 19, 2019 at the forum “UNJUST: Second Year of Detention of Development Workers Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinosa for Siding with the Poor”

Mayaman ang Pilipinas pero naghihirap ang mamamayan.

The
Philippines is a rich country but the people are poor.

Given
this, many good people wanting to change this ironic situation become
activists and/or development workers. You ask, is there a difference?
No and yes. There is no difference because both act to change
situations of injustice and inequality at the macro, meso and micro
level. Both activists and development workers address poverty: at the
immediate level, to provide relief to people and communities such as
assistance during disasters; and at the strategic level, addressing
the roots of poverty in the Philippines by presenting the historical
and systemic causes of poverty as well as alternatives to bring about
genuine and sustainable development.

But yes, there is a difference as activists are usually involved in consciousness raising, mobilization and organizing while development workers are usually involved in building and supporting development projects at the grassroots level.

Who
are the development workers?

The
literature on development describes the various roles of development
workers. Some are technical experts with high-level expertise in a
particular field such as infrastructure, irrigation, water and
sanitation, public health, food distribution and assessment, judicial
reform. Others perform administrative functions such as preparing
expense reports, invoicing and paperwork of all kinds, as well as
coordinating and preparing activities such as field visits and
workshops.

As development workers, their work includes:

  • Working
    with community groups providing a range of activities
  • Identifying
    assets and capacities that are latent within communities
  • Building
    capacity that allows the community to share knowledge and resources
    effectively
  • Setting
    up new services by liaison with interested groups
  • Recruiting
    and training paid and voluntary staff
  • Attending
    meetings and presenting verbal and written reports
  • Managing
    finance, payroll
  • Making
    funding applications for relevant organisations
  • Acting
    as a facilitator to promote self-help in the community.

Whether
as technical experts or as administrative personnel, development
workers especially in the Philippines working with grassroots
organizations need to have a deep sense of solidarity with the poor
and a strong commitment to supporting the efforts of grassroots
communities and organizations to change their situation. The emphasis
on solidarity and commitment highlights the truth that unlike
international development workers or even those in the Philippines
working with international development agencies, grassroots
development workers receive salaries that are not high. This is to
ensure that the bulk of development project funds go to the
communities rather than to pay for overhead and personnel costs.

Benito
Quilloy and Rita Espinosa are two of these committed development
workers and their office, Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network
(ASCENT), is such a development organization in the service of
grassroots communities. Ben, a Sugar Technology major from UP Los
Banos, has provided agricultural technical support to farmer’s
organizations to ensure higher productivity and environmental
protection. Rita has worked with progressive development
organizations for decades ensuring efficient and people-responsive
administrative support for development projects.

In
a society which puts a premium on volunteerism, commitment and
solidarity with the poor, Ben and Rita would have been recognized for
their service and sacrifices. But the Philippines is not such society
and we have seen how good people, such as Ben and Rita and hundreds
of other political prisoners, are unjustly incarcerated under the
guise of war against insurgency – a war which has targeted unarmed
activists and development workers who are mostly poor.

There
has always been danger in being a development worker espousing a
progressive stand on the roots of underdevelopment and criticizing
the development aggression perpetuated by multilateral agencies,
mining and other corporations, and government agencies. But the
danger has intensified since Rodrigo Duterte came into office. From
his so-called war against drugs – which has turned out to be a war
against the poor and a war exploited by military and police
personnel, including Albayalde’s ninjas, to enrich themselves –the
war has expanded to include activists, development workers,
professionals such as lawyers and medical doctors and teachers, and
even government officials such as Bernardo “Toto” Patigas a
sitting city councilor of Escalante.

The
latest news is that the Philippines is now the most dangerous country
for environmentalists. The
Guardian
reported:

“The Philippines has replaced Brazil as the most murderous country in the world for people defending their land and environment, according to research that puts a spotlight on the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

For the first time since the annual toll began in 2012, Brazil did not top the list. The number of defenders murdered in South America’s biggest nation fell in 2018 by almost two-thirds, from 57 to 20. This was partly due to an overall decline in homicide rates across the country, but also came ahead of a transition of power and rising international attention.

In the Philippines, 30 defenders were killed last year, following 48 in 2017, which was the highest ever recorded in an Asian country. A third of the deaths were on the island of Mindanao, which is at the centre of the Duterte administration’s plans to allocate 1.6 million hectares of land to industrial plantations. Half of the deaths in the Philippines were related to agribusiness.”

The imprisonment of Duterte’s critics and the killings of environmentalists are part of the overall intensified human rights violation in the country.

The Guardian:Philippines is deadliest country for defenders of environment

Ben
and Rita have been in prison for two years today. Their imprisonment
on trumped-up charges, as is the case of the over 500 political
prisoners in the country, is obviously unjust. Ben and Rita have
spent practically their whole life serving the rural poor and
pursuing a development vision that addresses the root cause of
poverty.

Our
gathering this afternoon is to reiterate the injustice being
perpetrated on them. This gathering is also a salute to their
dedication, empathy and solidarity with our people. We demand Ben and
Rita’s freedom as soon as possible through the dropping of charges
which are patently false.

Palayain
si Ben at Rita! Palayain ang lahat ng bilanggong pulitikal!

Latest news

- Advertisement -spot_img

Related news

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.