An excerpt from the sharing of former CODE-NGO’s Deputy Executive Director Mhafe Del Mundo-Quitoriano during the OGP Global Summit in December 2021
What is one call to action from the OGP that you're excited to work on, and how can the OGP community help?
The political and social landscape in the Philippines continues to become volatile. Based on the 2020 Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index, a study developed by CODE-NGO, the increasing cases of the state harassment and red-tagging, closure of the independent media, and attack on the journalists, undermining some of the democratic spaces for participation, the passage of Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) poses a legal challenge to all CSOs and disregards on rights guaranteed by the constitution, are clear manifestations of the shrinking civic space in the country. Given these challenges, we continue to work on protecting civic space and promoting public participation by maximizing the space provided by the OGP.
Being part of CODE-NGO and the non-government secretariat of the PH-OGP motivates me to continue advocating for pushing the boundaries of governance and not being content with the status quo. Because I know we can do something - start with your initiatives/advocacy, work (harder) for it, and identify the "means" to influence.
How can this OGP community help?
First, the need to continue to provide that kind of space – a safe and open space for dialogue with various stakeholders is necessary, particularly at this time. Yes, many areas for civic participation are slowly closing in, but we know that space provided by OGP for constructive engagement continues to be accessible. It can bring the right people into a common and safe space to freely discuss public problems and how to work on addressing them together because, in this platform, the government and non-government are seen as equals and consider each other as partners for development.
Second, we believe that OGP is an effective platform for convergence among stakeholders. Let us advocate for/continue to maximize OGP as a medium for government to communicate reforms and closing feedback loops - rather than simply replying "noted and thank you!" but more on saying, "this is what we're doing to address CSOs' concerns." By embracing OGP values and practicing these values, the government can restore people's trust in public institutions and effectively respond to the demands of citizens and non-government sectors to increase transparency, integrity, accountability, and stakeholder participation in the governance processes.
We strongly believe that the government is not monolithic. There are a lot of good government leaders at the national and local levels that uphold and practice open government values.
Things do not always happen the way we would have wanted. What makes our engagement interesting is the challenges we face. But what makes it more interesting is turning those challenges into inspirations for us to move forward and continue our mission. Thus, we challenge our non-government actors to be like a river. If, along the way, our path will be blocked, take the courage to seek alternative paths.
Mhafe Del Mundo-Quitoriano or Mhaf as we fondly call her, is a member of the PH-OGP Secretariat from the Non-Government Sector since June 2017 to June 2022 and a staunch advocate of open, inclusive, and transparent government. She is currently connected with Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) through its One to Tree Program that will expand in Luzon.