The provincial task force on anti-insurgency wants non government organizations in Palawan to be formally accredited, to ensure they are not being used as fronts for recruitment of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta, legal officer of the province and representative of the legal cooperation cluster of the Provincial Task Force-Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC), said Friday in a press conference that they are going to recommend basic rules for the conduct of business for certain organizations in the province.

“The basic framework here is that if you are a non-government organization (NGO) or you are an organization that is well-meaning, then you should coordinate with the authorities before you operate within a certain jurisdiction,” Matta said.

“The current paradigm natin ngayon is kapag NGO ako, I will go wherever I please and I will do whatever I want or need without any coordination. Ganyan ang nangyayari because certain NGOs, they are actually very enthusiastic doon sa kakulangan ng gobyerno. And that’s what they are trying to complement,” he added.

Matta said it is “commendable”, but their efforts should be aligned with the government and its projects and programs.

He said the accreditation regulatory measure is necessary “to police erring organizations, for their own safety, and for their own integrity”.

“We may require them to accredit themselves or to be accredited with certain authorities. For example, agricultural organization or you are oriented with the agricultural sector or the human rights sector, ano ba naman na magpa-accredit ka sa Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) or kung human rights ka, magpa-accredit ka sa Department of Justice (DOJ),” Matta said.

He said part of the accreditation is a set of guides on how NGOs and civil society organizations could conduct business within a local government unit (LGU).

Matta said it is important that they “synergize” their businesses with the activities of the LGUs to ensure they are not going to be “infiltrated” by the insurgent group and be used as recruitment fronts.

Matta said the accreditation will undergo a legislative process because it cannot be implemented without the mandate of the Palaweños.

“We believe it should be through an ordinance. We’re not violating their right to associate, we’re not violating their right in any way to do what they want, but, of course, all rights end where public safety and public interest begins. Everything, every human endeavor has to be done according to public policy, public safety, and general welfare. Hindi natin i-vio-violate ang kanilang rights as human beings or as organizations,” Matta said.

He said accreditation will be recommended as a “reasonable local requirement”.

Matta said if NGOs and civil society groups want to engage their target communities, the PTF-ELCAC will not stop them. However, they have to be known to the LGUs.

“You don’t need accreditation every time you conduct an activity. But before you even operate in an LGU, you have to, No. 1, be known to the LGU. Your officers and employees should be registered so that if there is any wrongdoing in that area, you can be held accountable and your officers are easily identified,” he said.

Matta said they are free to do whatever they want, there will be no restrictions, as long as what is being done is legal.

He added they are not going to monitor the NGOs each and every step, but they need to know what their projects and programs are, how they will be conducted, and where.

City councilor Jimmy Carbonell also said they have a committee that accredits people’s organizations (POs) to ensure they are legitimate entities conducting activities within Puerto Princesa.

“Dapat ay mag-secure muna sila ng national and local clearances, maaring sa Philippine National Police, maaaring sa Western Command (WESCOM) or in the barangay para at least makita natin ‘yong background nitong mga organizatiosn na ito. ‘Yon siguro, on my part as a member of the City Council, ay puwede kung i-request ‘yong committee na it will be one of the requirements before they could be recommended,” Carbonell said.

In reaction, civil society umbrella organization Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI) executive director Atty. Robert Chan said accreditation of groups or associations is acceptable and within the power of the LGU to legislate, but it does not mean that they cannot function.

“That is a requirement for provincial matters, but it does not mean that we are prohibited from operating in communities because we are under the national law of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They can require that and we respect their right to do that, but for them to say that we cannot operate, that’s something else,” Chan said.

Chan said anything within the Local Government Code (LGC) that the province wants to require is okay as long as civil society groups are not prohibited from functioning under the SEC law and the constitution.

“Kami ang important with us is not relating to the province but relating with the communities that we serve. They cannot prevent us from doing so. They can only try to make us accredited so that we can relate with them, but it does not mean to say we cannot relate with our communities,” he said.