Pinoy NGO founder Tony Meloto addressed an audience in Sydney last month on engaging corrupt politicians to help solve the Philippines’ poverty situation.
Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga, voiced many opinions on changing perceptions toward their movement that transforms slums into sustainable communities. He said a change in society required a change in the mind. He called on global citizens to show initiative by removing dependence on governments and start taking “affirmative actions” to emerge from poverty.
Meloto said that “the power of the ordinary person” could make positive contributions to society. A citizen doesn’t need to be a president, politician or businessman but they could work with all three powers. “We bridge and we engage,” Meloto said.
To the many corrupt Filipino politicians, Meloto said, “as Christians, we shouldn’t judge, but love and respect them.” He described a mathematical analysis on corrupt mayors: “I don’t think there’s a human being that’s 100 per cent bad. If they are 90 per cent corrupt, then I will engage the ten per cent that’s good.” Engaging the 1500 mayors with ten per cent goodness will collectively “overcome any evil” in the Philippines.
Meloto said the problem of poverty in the Philippines rests on men: “Criminals, rebels, and most corrupt public officials carry out 95 per cent of the crime. If men are the problem, they could also be part of the solution.”
GK provided rehabilitation programs for out-of-school male youths and gang members that converted the most dangerous barangay into the most peaceful community in metro Manila. The organisation also helped build two thousand homes for two hundred thousand families in 1999.
“We rendered human justice. It is, land for the landless, home for the homeless and food for the hungry,” Meloto said. “Our work had impact because it is feasible, transformative and quantifiable and it can be replicated.”
To the Catholic majority in the Philippines, Meloto said that GK’s work transcends religious faith. “Religion divides but faith unites. It goes beyond politics, race and gender. There should be no discrimination in areas of development.”
Meloto finished his speech by calling on people to welcome those disadvantaged and less privileged members of society. “If we embrace them as our children then our descendants will be as numerous as the stars in heaven and it will be a beautiful world. God bless.”
One young listener said, “You can feel Tito Tony’s passion and drive for GK. He is a powerful speaker as he draws you in with his strong and genuine messages.”
Australian GK President Marcy Mission said, “The leadership of Mr Meloto has ushered a new era of awareness in assisting the poor.”
Gawad Kalinga, Tagalog for ‘to give care’, was formed in July 2003 in the Philippines from a faith-based group called ‘Couples for Christ’. It is now a global movement that helps local poor communities build homes. GK has influences in other countries that include Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Africa, East Timor and South America. GK carries out its work through volunteerism, community empowerment and partnership.
Meloto is a recipient of numerous awards in the Philippines, notably People of the Year by Philippine Star and the Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Community Leadership, both in 2006.