By Jose Ma. Montelibano
It was about midnight in New Jersey when I saw the first posting of a historic event on FaceBook. I was so moved by the development that I couldn’t sleep till almost daybreak. It was my moment to savor alone the coming true of a wish, not yet in the fullness of it, but enough to see the light at the end of a tunnel shine brightly through the darkness. In that one moment, it was as though ten years of personal effort became all worth it.
A co-advocate and volunteer in the work known as Gawad Kalinga had sent through FaceBook the news that House Bill 3474 had been filed the day before. House Bill 4374 will not be any less dramatic as the RH Bill, but it definitely will produce a sharp contrast in any drama that ensues. Entitled Volunteerism for Nation Building, or VBN, is as literal as it sounds. The filing of the bill is a virtual recognition and appreciation of the work of Gawad Kalinga. It also is the signal that poverty has found a David to take it down.
Allow me, with much elation and pride, mention excerpts of the Introduction of House Bill 3474, as follows:
“Less for Self, More for Country, Abundance for All”
“This is the motto that every Volunteer for Nation Building strives to live by as he or she works individually and solitarily – hand in hand, with other volunteers across the country and beyond Philippine shores, as they collectively envision our Filipino people living with dignity and in peace, in a slum-free, squatter-free, poverty-free Philippines by the year 2024.”
“Building viable, sustainable and empowered communities in the Philippines embodies the faith that Filipinos will end poverty in the Philippines through (1) public-private partnerships; (2) simultaneous ground-up and top-down initiatives; (3) rich and poor working together, bridging the social gap; (4) the principle of the “best for the least” and preferential option for the least fortunate, giving those at the bottom of the social and economic pyramid upward aspirations to build a broader middle class with enlightened leadership from the Government and the private sector.”
“The goal of this legislation is to encourage the private sector to be a supporter of Government, not just its critic, to restore the faith of our citizens in our Government institutions through collaboration and cooperation, to go beyond partisan politics, religious and ideological differences and business rivalries, and to build a just and prosperous nation – by making every Filipino a nation builder.”
“In the Philippines, Gawad Kalinga or GK, has blazed the socio-economic-political frontiers of society by employing a unique tool for change called Social Engineering which exemplifies the “Bayanihan” spirit of “volunteerism” coupled with “caring” or kalinga. “Bayanihan” and “kalinga” are indigenous Filipino practices/traits that can be traced to our pre-colonial forefathers. The Bayanihan spirit evokes of local heroism and patriotism, in the midst of our people’s struggle to fight poverty and other social inequities. “
“GK’s trademark is its capacity to mobilize multi-sectoral initiatives from the ground, by marshalling its “capital resources” of: TRUST equity, SWEAT equity, plus its sterling record of RESPECT and INTEGRITY with its partners and various stakeholders from the Government, the private sector, international agencies, foreign governments, interfaith groups, the academe and CSOs. The GK approach is hinged on effectively drawing out core Filipino values of faith and patriotism, of generosity and sharing. And its “secret” formula to success is a genuine and sincere stewardship founded on unwavering TRUSTWORTHINESS. “
“GK as an emerging Philippine and Asian “Model of Development” has ben instrumental as a “converging point for multi-sectoral partnerships” and as a template for “Good Governance” engaged in: community building through shelter and other infrastructure programs; community child, youth and maternal health; child and youth education; community entrepreneurship, livelihood and micro-finance, food sufficiency; gender equality and woman empowerment; peace efforts; culture, eco-tourism and environmental preservation and protection.“
“All these socio-economic themed programs are in line with the eight-point Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) which the Philippines, as a signatory to the United Nations Millenium Declaration has committed to achieve by the year 2015. Recently, GK has also fostered “peace builds:” for displaced Muslim Filipinos in Mindanao, in the aftermath of strife and natural calamities.”
The fifteen-year solid track-record of GK in continuously providing a Filipino model for modern day community growth and development, through a “trust-based merging” of multi-sectoral public-private partnership, and the “bridging-molding-shepherding” by GK among the poor informal settlers in the country, of the values of self-help self-empowerment, through the delivery of basic needs: land, shelter, food, healthcare, livelihood, all contributing to the development of 2,000 communities nationwide, to rise out of extreme poverty – IS PROOF and a testament to the effectiveness of the GK framework of grassroots community building, that indeed, in inspiring the poor to help themselves, become self-reliant through “bayanihan” and “kalinga”, we Filipinos can end poverty in the Philippines within our generation.”
“It is about time that the Volunteerism in Nation Building framework be institutionalized as a means to directly link the various sectors of society: the public sector, the private sector and the CSOs, through a Government-initiated national development plan on alternative poverty eradication, patterned after the innovative “Gawad Kalinga Way” of multi-sectoral resources generation and mobilization of sustainable human development.”
“We have seen how GK, which started as a diminutive “outreach group” evolved as a distinctive Filipino model for community development, has made it possible to turn the tide of social transgressions in our country, by addressing poverty, hopelessness and class struggles, while transcending traditional politics, business rivalries and ethnocentric interests. In all these, we find inspiration that we can BUILD a NATION that every PINOY can be proud of.”
House Bill 3474 goes on to how Government can motivate future initiatives following the GK Way, from direct funding initially through the Office of the President and to be sustained through appropriations from the national budget – including allocating a small percentage of real property taxes. It also outlines how the private sector can contribute its share, and points to specific government agencies and departments as strategic partners of the collective effort.
House Bill 3474 is historic, even before its passage. It is forcing us, beginning with Congress, to confront our accumulated shortcomings and pinpointing the poor as the primary victims who must be recompensed by a new and more caring society. How it will eventually look like as a law is an unfolding we will yet have to witness. Yet, a giant step has been made, and there is no turning back.
“In bayanihan, we will be our brother’s keeper and forever shut the door to hunger among ourselves.”