Security sector reform (SSR) is, in the Philippines, a relatively new framework in the security discourse. It has developed as different countries now recognize the linkage between security and development, thus broadening the definition of security to include the well-being of the population and respect for human rights. SSR has become an established though still contentious concept that is being mainstreamed in the operations of the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Security Sector Reform is, however, also a vibrant and emerging arena for discourse and development of policies and practices responsive to the needs of a Philippine nation. Multistakeholder institutions ranging from government, civil society organizations, peace and human rights advocates, academe, media and business have taken serious interest in contributing to a renewed and reinvigorated security sector.
The almost year-old administration of President Benigno Aquino III has made clear pronouncements on SSR being one of the pillars of its national security policy. As early as his campaign, he made the distinction of his security platform that “National Security is not just the welfare of the state or of the country, but the welfare of its people.” This was carried into his administration’s four-pronged National Security Policy of governance; delivery of basic services; economic reconstruction and sustainable development; and security sector reform. The fourth pillar, security sector reform emphasizes strong civilian democratic control.
Civil Society and SSR
In this strategic space and dynamic arena of security sector governance, there is urgent need for civil society organizations to accompany the re-building of security sector institutions, lead the discourse and set the societal goals for SSR.
Parallel to these openings in governance and policy directions, the emerging roles of CSOs as constructive engagement partners with government are further opening venues and processes to broader citizen participation and oversight. Agencies like the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) have institutionalized participation mechanisms for, and entered into agreements with CSOs in the national budget process and in local government procurement processes respectively. There is a huge potential for these precedents to likewise be defined and set-up with security sector institutions.
In 2007, INCITEGov initiated a study group to orient and develop the competence and capacity of civil society and related sectors to engage in public discourse on a broad SSR framework. A rigorous program of study sessions were conducted with resource persons from the NICA, NSC, AFP, international SSR-focused groups like DCAF and FES. A special SSR study group was also convened in Mindanao. Members of these study groups included members of media, staff of senators and congressmen, civil society leaders and academe.
In December 2010, INCITEGov again convened the study group members plus key peace and human rights groups to sit in dialogue with the NSC on the National Security Policy and the crafting of the National Security Plan and National Security Strategy. The emergent direction from that dialogue was to evolve the study group into a more engaged body to accompany the policy and development of the SSR framework in governance.
Complementary efforts from various academe, peace and human rights groups have addressed one or another aspect of security sector reform from community dialogues, policy advocacy and contributory agendas to a broad security sector reform effort. These have largely been independent of each other and not carried out in a concerted effort and engagement with security sector institutions. The strategic opportunity of having government as an open and willing partner has to be taken by civil society but can only be truly maximized if CSOs are capacitated to do so.