THROUGH PINOYME'S COMMITMENT TO MICROFINANCE DEVELOPMENT, YET ANOTHER PEOPLE POWER REVOLUTION IS UNDER WAY, A REVOLUTION THAT SEEKS TO ARM NOT JUST A FEW BUT MANY FILIPINOS WITH POWER TOOLS IN THEIR PURSUIT OF ECONOMIC FREEDOM.
Men and women constantly dream of power, a position of great influence, for reasons often selfish in nature. Most people use their position of power for self-promotion and personal gain. But for NGO champion and Filipino Micro Ventures (PinoyME) Foundation's president and CEO Danilo Songco, it's all about empowering others.
Danilo Songco: "It is a rare opportunity to be able to work with greatness! I am humbled in that sense." Inspired and made more socially awakened by the first People Power revolt, referred to as the Yellow Revolution in 1986, Danilo Songco has always dreamed of a society where the poor have a chance to rise above poverty. It's a dream shared and talked about by many, but only a few dare to actually make a reality. A multi-awardee in the field of public service and non-governmental works both here and abroad, this former Eisenhower Exchange Fellow also received the Ninoy Aquino Fellowship for Public Service in 2002. He used the grant to attend the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Boston, where he wrote a term paper that became the main framework of a grand vision of reducing poverty in the Philippines through microenterprise development. Former President Corazon Aquino shared this vision, which she personally championed.
As soon as Songco presented her his term paper from Harvard, this woman in yellow saw how the proposed model could be a more definitive and evolved form or People Power, leading her to create the People Power versus Poverty through Microenterprise (PPP-ME) under the umbrella of the Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation. Later, she gathered a number of distinguished men and women, all captains of industries, to form a private, multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder social consortium composed of microfinance institutions, commercial banks, and private companies. She called the group Filipino Micro Enterprise Ventures, Inc. of PinoyMe. Songco takes a lead role in this project. "It is a rare opportunity to be able to work with greatness!" he says. "I am humbled in that sense."
PinoyME of Filipino Micro-Enterprise aims to contribute to reducing poverty in the Philippines by providing five million people with financial and non-financial services and mobilizing PhP5billion in a new capital to be distributed among partner micro finance institutions, all in years. This lofty goal is to be achieved through capacity-building, resource mobilization, business development services, and knowledge management. Obviously, this is a Herculean task that cannot be done by one man alone. It requires the combined talents, resources, and commitment of many.
Cory Aquino: 'Ordinary Filipinos recovering dignity in the midst of poverty by dint and decent work is manifestation of yet another dimension of People Power.' PinoyME's steering committee is a powerhouse, with among the members no less than former President Corazon Aquino, Manuel Pangilinan, Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip, Fr.Anton Pascual, Washington Sycip, Prof. Ronald Chua, Ruth Callanta, Ambassador Howard Dee, Ret. Gen. William Hotchkiss III, Ramon del Rosario, Senen Bacani,Edward Go, Ambassador Alberto del Rosario, former Governor Daniel Lacson,Vicky Garchitorena, Dr. Cayetano Paderanga, Ramon Garcia, Veronica Villavicencio, Chito Sobrepeña, Rafael Lopa, Ambassador Jesus Tambunting, and Rosalinda Hortaleza. The lineup alone can make any faint-hearted corporate manager cower with fear of failure. But developmental finance is in the heart and every fiber of PinoyMe's president and CEO. In fact, when President Aquino enjoined the former president of the Bankers Association of the Philippines Sonny Vistan to be chairman of the foundation, he only had two conditions in accepting the job: for him not to get paid for it and for Songco to be the foundation's president. The latter was unanimously accepted and approved by the foundation's board of trustees.
This vote of confidence, for Songco, only means he needs to prove himself worthy of the post. Nevertheless, the essence and principles of PinoyMe and microfinance are pretty much in the core of Dan Songco's beliefs and practically what he lives for at this point in his life. "When you're working with the big boys, you cannot perform poorly!" he says. "Having been chosen to take on the lead role for something like PinoyME is both inspiring and challenging. It just means that if i have to work twenty-six hours a day to make it happen, I will!"
"Give a man fish and you feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." This is exactly what PinoyME is committed to doing. The men and women behind the movement are teaching our poor and marginalized countrymen to learn to fish by providing them with the financial support and necessary tools they need to rise above their current state of poverty through microfinance. So far, according to Songco, the repayment rate in the Philippines is ninety-eight percent. It is indeed, quite encouraging for those who wish to help but do not wish to engage in the traditional model of charity or doleouts. This man who claims to have found his new self by committing to the success of developmental finance in the Philippines says that poverty is a shared responsibility. He stresses that "the problem of poverty is a problem of inequitable allocation... sometimes by choice or circumstances...there is a responsibility for those who have more to give to those who have less."
According to Songco, microfinance or developmental finance is about giving and investing. "We invest in eliminating the problem of poverty, but it is also a social investment that can provide profits and financial rewards," he explains. "More important, getting involved and contributing to a social investment such as microfinance through institutions like PinoyME have a social return - and that is improving the lives of the poor. It is a phenomenal model that has evolved in our lifetime...and I hope more can start believing that they can be part of this."
The happy thought is we are all in a position of power to empower! It takes as little as PhP5,000 (or even less) to be part of yet another people power revolution, one that seeks to liberate not just a few but many disenfranchised Filipinos from the clutches of hopeless, helpless poverty.