Bill Hybl with IFES team, current and former Citizens CARE Chairpersons Salic Ibrahim and Jumda Saba-ani, former COMELEC Commissioner Flores, current COMELEC Commissioner Padaca and former COMELEC Chairman and Joe Baxter award winner Chris Monsod, at the IFES 25th Anniversary Dinner in Manila, Philippines.
During his three-day visit to Manila, IFES Board of Trustees Vice Chairman William J. Hybl led IFES’ local partners, key election officials and donor agencies in promoting democracy and civic engagement during IFES’ 25th anniversary celebration on October 9.
Ideas on Democracy
During the October 9 anniversary dinner, IFES gathered a host of different people involved in election reform: present and former members of the country’s poll body, donors, representatives of international organizations, heads of election monitoring organizations, media and other individuals IFES has worked with over the past seven years in the Philippines. The attendees shared insights and opinions on how to make democracy work and, as one partner said, “keep the votes honest” in the Philippines.
The gathering provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase IFES’ work over the past 25 years, and in particular, IFES initiatives in the Philippines, while honoring local partners. In his remarks, Hybl commended the strides the IFES program in the Philippines has made in reaching out to the community. He noted the global focus IFES will give to enabling women, indigenous persons and people with disabilities to participate more fully in democratic processes, a trail IFES has already paved in the Philippines through the Vulnerable Sector Population (VSP) program. He congratulated the IFES office in the Philippines and its partners, urging them to continue their work with the same “good humor, good effort and good results.”
IFES as a Catalyst
Partner agencies were able to give testimonials to the work they have undertaken over the years with IFES’ support.
The Association of Schools of Public Administration in the Philippines (ASPAP), IFES’ partner in increasing public awareness on political finance, described IFES as a catalyst that brings different groups together to ensure elections are well-run. ASPAP adviser Segundo Romero stated that elections are the biggest project in Philippine history, as 50 million people move in one day to choose their leaders. “We are happy that IFES is helping us be good citizens and contribute our own share,” he said.
Members from another IFES partner, Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), shared that IFES enabled them and other stakeholders to adopt a more global perspective in reforming the country’s election system. LENTE acting director Luie Tito Guia said IFES has pushed international standards, highlighted best practices and bridged global conversations on elections.
The Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms (Citizens CARE) has been IFES’ partner in promoting peaceful and credible elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) through community-based voter education and monitoring engagement. Salic Ibrahim, chairperson of Citizens CARE, expressed that their coalition has done so much with the support of IFES in getting people in the region to go out and cast their votes.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) pronounced that IFES has been a valued partner in the journey to reform the way elections are conducted in the Philippines. PCIJ media expert Howie Severino discussed the work IFES and PCIJ have undertaken in engaging media to help monitor campaign spending – a previously uncharted election issue. He declared that IFES “has gotten together the good guys, whose interest is to keep the votes honest. [This gathering] reminds me that, while the journey is far from over, the good guys are not alone.”
COMELEC Chairperson Sixto Brillantes Jr. spoke about IFES’ support. He disclosed that the COMELEC looks to IFES for standards and templates for many of their programs, mentioning in particular the commission’s five-year strategic plan to enhance the institutional capacity and the policy framework of the COMELEC to run elections.
IFES Chief of Party in the Philippines Beverly Hagerdon Thakur recounted that IFES’ foray in the country has not been always easy, but has gained ground with stakeholders, who finally opened their hearts and shared the mission of strengthening Filipinos’ cherished democracy.
She expressed gratitude to partners and stakeholders for “allowing IFES to support you in your passion to make the Philippines a stronger democracy. The region – and the world – is indeed better because of your inspirational example, your achievements and your hard-won successes.”