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Philippine humanitarian organisations leery of new social welfare head

HONG KONG (SE): “Bautista has no proven track record and experience on social protection programmes, social development work, and poverty reduction,” said the Philippine Faith-Based Organisations Forum in response to the looming appointment of retired lieutenant general, Rolando Bautista, as the country’s next social welfare secretary.
The forum comprises Caritas Philippines and the humanitarian arms of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
According to an October 15 CBCPNews report, the group said in a statement that the background of Bautista, the former Philippine Army chief, is contrary to the mandate of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Moreover, his military principles may possibly compromise the independence of social services and humanitarian action in poor communities and environment in conflict,” the statement said.
The forum said that as faith-based organisations deliver services to vulnerable communities, the running of the country’s social welfare agency is not something to entrust to a military person whose background in counter-terrorism.
The organisations, which are accredited by the DSWD as humanitarian agencies, asked the Commission on Appointments to ensure that the agency’s humanitarian principles are upheld and will not be tainted by any military or political objective.
“We constantly pray that the government will do its responsibility to respect, promote, protect and uphold human rights, especially in the midst of conflict and disasters,” the statement added.
The forum also urged the humanitarian community and other faith-based groups to speak up and assert the universally accepted principles of humanitarian action in the discourse.
“We call on our Churches, social action centres and ministries, congregations, and partners to stay vigilant in these critical times, when our mission to serve the least of our sisters and brothers is being threatened and undermined,” it said.

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