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Volunteerism and the Volunteer Act of 2007

Do we need a law to promote volunteerism in the country? The Philippine government in 2007 did just that.

But many among us, including myself, believe that volunteerism or helping others without expecting any material reward is an innate value common to most people, especially among generous and loving Filipinos. We do not need a law to mandate us to help. Since time immemorial, we have always been a generous people.

On the other hand, we witness how many volunteers have put their lives at risk and without protection. We know volunteers are motivated by justice, equality, and freedom. Many of them work in high-risk areas and under conditions that put them in danger, physically and emotionally. There are volunteers killed, maimed, falsely accused, or imprisoned for ill-advised public offenses. The law should protect them and everyone who seeks to serve and offer their time and resources for development and noble causes. In this context, I value the Volunteer Act of 2007 in the present realm of social, economic, and political events.

In one of its provisions, RA 9418 or Volunteer Act of 2007 aims to provide a conducive and enabling environment for the mobilization and nurturance of volunteers and volunteer organizations. Some legislators reiterated the need for the law to ensure protection mechanisms for volunteers and mandate specific responsibilities and commitments by agencies and organizations implementing volunteer programs to fulfill that goal. The Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency is required to coordinate and ensure these mechanisms. Making the law more relevant and inclusive is now the more significant challenge.

Volunteerism in the Bayanihan spirit is one of communal unity, helping others without expecting rewards to achieve a unity of purpose. It is an indigenous Filipino trait, long embedded before the colonials came to impose a new culture of individualism and patronage. If ever, the law should cultivate this kind of communal spirit. In 1998, the government declared December National Volunteer Month (NVM).

Volunteerism as a way of life

I grew up in a family of volunteers and studied in schools where community service was integral to Christian confraternity work. In the 70s, “Serve the People” was a famous mantra and slogan among activists. Community immersion was a living part of liberation theology among the Catholic clergy and a life of ecumenism and brotherhood. Periods of disaster bring Filipinos together and engage them in collective relief work from Central Luzon to Bicol. The civil war in Mindanao was an occasion for group prayers and organizing group missions to extend help and support to the afflicted communities on that war-torn island.

Political uprisings like the EDSA People Power revolution gave rise to memorable volunteer gatherings and fundraisings. I met my first Muslim friends through solidarity gatherings for peace and activists of all shapes and colors - the NatDems, SocDems, LibDems, and PopDems. During martial law, I came to know and lost friends who took to the hills, joined the armed struggle, and died. They are among the most forgotten volunteers whose many names now belong to oblivion but who left an indelible legacy to humankind. They volunteered their time and offered their lives for noble causes such as freedom, social justice, and democracy.

This law has become more relevant and faces new challenges as the country pivots toward much-needed development and change. People’s participation must enlist everyone’s inclusion. Volunteer work is an open window with and for those who volunteer to help the poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged sectors and communities.

Last December 1 in Legazpi City, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Region V with the PNVSCA awarded plaques of recognition to the men, women, and organizations that made it to the top in its Search for Outstanding Volunteers in Bicol. For 2023, the yearly regional SOV went to Santiago K. Cervantes as Outstanding Volunteer for the Individual-Adult Category; Joshua Carl B. Barcelona as Outstanding Volunteer for the Individual-Youth Category; Tabang Bikol Movement, Inc. as Outstanding Volunteer for the Non-Profit Organization Category and Ma. April Mier-Manjares was the National Awardee for the Bayanihan Media Awards for Individual-Print Category. There are stories of brave acts of volunteerism.

Past awardees who came and shared inspiring stories were Artermio S. Andaya, Jr (National Outstanding Volunteer in 2022) and Charles V. Bolival, representing the Camarines Sur Polytechnic College Extension Services (National Outstanding COVID-19 Volunteer for Organization category). Evita Jimenez-Tuazon, representing TBM, was the National Outstanding COVID-19 Volunteer in 2020, the first year of the Pandemic. I feel humbled. I went up with the president of the People’s Organization of Disaster Survivors (PODiS), Nay Virgie Blasa, whom I proudly introduced as one of TBM pillars who stood up against the test of difficult times and disasters, including the Pandemic.

NEDA Regional Director Luis G. Banua lauded and congratulated the top-ranked volunteers and the others who exerted an effort to make a difference in the lives of others. As the secretariat for the Regional Development Council, the NEDA has initiated the adoption of a Memorandum Circular “adopting volunteerism as a development strategy in Bicol.” Next year, hopefully, there will be more to heed the call to participate in the yearly SOV.


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