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What We Do

JJCICSI’s work is strategically focused on empowering local actors as a core component of its research and advocacy involvement. The Institute has also ventured into developing projects that benefit the urban and rural poor, women, and children. At the same time, the Institute is engaged in mentoring, training, and providing consulting services, as well as the production of manuals, templates, and other tools to attain its goals of poverty alleviation and integral human development. Unifying and animating all these are the Institute’s initiatives in disseminating Catholic Social Teaching and collaborating with the local church in its mission of promoting “the faith that does justice.”

Our Vision

A Filipino society that upholds the dignity and nature of the human person with a special concern for improving the quality of life of the poor

Our Mission

Guided by Catholic Social Teaching, we catalyze critical thinking, discussion and action principally through advocacy-oriented research and capacity building to bring about ethically informed choices and effective solutions to poverty

History of JJCICSI


By Emmanuel L. Alfonso, SJ

In 1983, Senator Benigno Aquino was assassinated. This single event threatened to tear the nation apart. Observers noted that the country was then ripe for civil war. Indeed, there seemed to be no option available especially to the so-called middle forces, which included the Church. Rather, there were the discredited militarist government, on the one hand, and the resurgent Left, on the other, whose designs for a revolution appeared more and more attractive at that time. An alternative to both extremes could not obtain simply because the press and the academe had long been suppressed by the Marcos regime. There was clearly then a need for people and even institutions which would think through the already desperate situation and offer options – options that would take the country away from the brink of a violent collapse.

It was in response to this critical need that in 1984, the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus established the Institute on Church and Social Issues (ICSI). Its mandate was clear – to be a think-tank, a center for deep reflection and analysis. Its main instruments were twofold – the discipline of the social sciences and the rich tradition of Catholic Social Thought. It was also to be led by no less than Father John J. Carroll, S.J., who was returning then from his post as Dean of Sociology at the Gregorian University in Rome. He would be assisted by Bishop Francisco Claver, S.J., champion of the basic ecclesial communities (BEC) in Mindanao, and a few other talented Jesuits and lay collaborators. The team buckled down to work right away, organizing discussions or fora and publishing materials on the controversial topics of the day. And thus, above the din of empty government rhetoric, on the one hand, and revolutionary propaganda, on the other, a new voice emerged especially for the middle forces. It was a voice of reason coming from deep reflection and analysis; a voice of hope originating from the rich resources of the Christian faith. ICSI was an instant hit among the Jesuit and Ateneo circles, the social development organizations which would later be known as NGOs or non-government organizations, as well as, Church organizations, including the leadership of the Church. Through its research and analysis, ICSI would like to believe that it contributed, in a small way or big time, to the eventual triumph of the peaceful alternative that was the people’s EDSA revolution on the fateful days of February 1986.

The Transition to Democracy

Although the whole country was in a great celebratory mood over the success of the People Power Revolution and the peaceful installation of a new government, many sectors, including ICSI, felt that the harder and more challenging work was only beginning — the building up of democratic institutions. The tasks involved ranged from the framing of a Constitution, to the establishment of governmental structures truly representative of the interests of the people, particularly the marginalized. It was in the concerns of these sectors, in fact, that ICSI would specialize. For instance, its scholarship was fully employed in the campaign for agrarian reform that farmers groups and their support NGOs initiated. An agrarian reform law, albeit weaker than what the farmers wanted, would be passed under the Aquino government and ICSI’s part in the passage of the said law had been significant.

Soon after its involvement in the agrarian reform issue, ICSI took up the cudgels for the urban poor. Again, its scholarship was put to good use in the drafting of proposals on urban land reform, which would culminate in the passage of the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA). Indeed, more than its participation in the agrarian reform issue, ICSI would be known for the passage of this social legislation. Certainly, it played a major role in consolidating the urban poor communities in Metro Manila into an alliance, the Urban Land Reform Task Force, drawing up the policy agenda with and for them, drafting the law, and then lobbying for its passage. With the successful passage of the law, ICSI realized its strength not only in research and writing, but in advocacy work as well. Significantly, at this time, the reach of the research work of ICSI went beyond the academe, government, and its partner NGOs or POs. Aside from the usual research monographs entitled PULSO and its monthly newsletter INTERSECT, ICSI started writing for the dailies, making its cause and work available or accessible to the wider public.

From Politics to Economics, From Global to National

From politics and ideology, national concern shifted to economics during the Ramos administration (1992-1998). The President’s personal ambition was to make the Philippines a tiger economy like its neighbor countries in Asia. One would think that because of this priority, socio-economic measures would have no place in the Ramos administration. But in many areas or issues, the President proved to be a worthy ally of the social development sector. Together with other NGOs and POs, for example, ICSI was able to further the gains achieved in the issue of urban poverty. Through more rounds of lobbying and advocacy work, PD772, which during Marcos’s time criminalized squatting, was finally abrogated. Nonetheless, the economic agenda became part of or influenced ICSI’s work as well. Its work with the urban poor also included, for instance, the promotion of the Community Mortgage Program as a viable financial scheme for land and housing ownership and lobbying for the Comprehensive and Integrated Shelter Finance Act which became law in 1995. ICSI also delved into the vast fields of labor economics and found itself leading the research and advocacy on the informal sector, more commonly known as the “underground economy.” As regards the hotly contested agrarian reform issue, ICSI did not only champion land distribution, but also the necessity of agrarian support programs.

On the global scene around this time, democracy’s reach was expanding on the heels of the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialists’ Republic. As a result of this democratic impulse, new advocacies would open up for the social development field which necessarily impacted on the work of ICSI. Advocacies such as women, children, and the environment became global concerns. World summits were staged and world declarations and agreements forged. Finding itself in the midst of these new exciting advocacies, ICSI set up research desks for these sectors and issues.

Organizationally, ICSI, like many other NGOs today, became more professionalized. The staff grew in number and expertise, attracting graduates from the Ateneo de Manila University. Certainly, for ICSI, organizationally and apostolically, this was a period of growth.


The succeeding years from the time of the Ramos administration were challenging not only for the country but for ICSI as well. Another EDSA revolt ousted the short-lived Estrada administration and its successor government, the GMA administration, was mired in and rendered inutile by controversy after controversy. Civil society’s gains from previous years were slowly eroded. So ICSI continued pressing on the same advocacies especially the urban poverty agenda. But three factors at this time would impact on the work of ICSI, compelling it to prioritize its work and consolidate her internal resources. First, all around the globe, financing for social development work was waning. ICSI had to choose sustainable projects – those with funding or those that could fund themselves. Second, the times called for specialization and expertise. ICSI therefore had to stick to issues which were obviously its specialties by virtue of its long experience on the said issues and the staff’s academic backgrounds. Finally, impact—real and concrete—became the byword at this time; thus, ICSI had to go down to the local government units where it could create more measurable impact of its work and could monitor the impact of its work, e.g., in the area of urban poverty.

More than 25 years have gone by since ICSI’s founding, 25 years of truly fruitful work for the Church and the Filipino nation. And yet the future continues to beckon ahead for the newly named John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues.

Who is John J. Carroll, S.J.
John J Carroll

By Eleanor R. Dionisio

In 1943, a slightly built nineteen-year-old from Orange, New Jersey named Jack Carroll entered the New York Province of the Society of Jesus.

In 1946, that choice took Jack Carroll to the other side of the world, where he and several other young Jesuits made their home in an unfamiliar country.  After his ordination in 1955, he would leave that country several times to serve where the Society of Jesus thought he was needed more.  But the Philippines—and his conviction in God’s compassionate grace for Filipinos, especially for the poor—formed the smoldering core of his concern as a social scientist, a political activist, and a Jesuit.

In the 1950s, Fr. Jack went back to the United States for a masters in sociology at Fordham University and a doctorate in sociology at Cornell University.  After his return to the Philippines in the 1960s, Fr. Jack joined the Institute of Social Order (ISO), a Jesuit apostolate dedicated to the application of Catholic social teaching to the persistent problems of poverty, inequity, and injustice in Philippine society.

The search for solutions to those problems fuelled his career as a social scientist.  In the 1960s he was among the earliest faculty members of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the Ateneo de Manila University.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s he served as a member of the board of that university and of the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC).

But he continued to work directly with and for the poor into the 1970s in the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), the fledgling executive arm of the Episcopal Commission on Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

After President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law in 1972, Fr. Jack went full-time into an academic career.  In 1973 he left the Philippines to teach at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, serving as dean of its Faculty of Social Sciences from 1975 to 1981.  In 1981 and 1982 he was a Visiting Professor at Cornell University.

All those years he was also monitoring events under the Marcos dictatorship.  In the mid-1970s he started writing articles against the dictatorship under a pseudonym, Benjamin A. McCloskey. The articles were published in a Catholic publication in the Philippines, The Communicator, soon closed by the military, and in the Jesuit publications Études in France and America in the United States.

In 1984, Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, then superior of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, asked Fr. Jack to establish a think tank that would articulate an analysis and vision of Philippine society founded on Catholic social teaching.  It was hoped that this analysis and vision could become a foundation upon which the nonviolent forces of the opposition could build a democratic program of government as an alternative to the Extreme Left and the Marcos dictatorship.

With Fr. Nebres and Bishop Francisco F. Claver, SJ, Fr. Jack founded the Institute on Church and Social Issues (ICSI), of which he became the first Executive Director in 1984.  ICSI’s early activities included writing papers that formulated strategies and scenarios for the anti-dictatorship opposition.  One such paper is said to have been found in the bedroom of the First Lady, Imelda R. Marcos, after the Marcoses fled the presidential palace in February 1986, although this rumor has never been confirmed.

In the post-authoritarian era, Fr. Jack wrote and published—this time under his own name—numerous articles and books on Philippine issues.  He was a consultant for the Commission on Social Concerns of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II), the 1991 gathering of bishops, clergy, religious, and laity which determined the directions of the Catholic Church in the Philippines for the third millennium.  He also helped to craft a number of pastoral documents of the CBCP.

Fr. Jack was himself a pastor to the poor. His close engagement with the people of Payatas caused him to reflect that while long-term structural change is the answer to poverty and injustice, the poor cannot wait for long-term change.  This moved him to establish a college scholarship program for the youth, a feeding program for children, and Natural Family Planning (NFP) training for couples in Payatas.

Even at 90, Fr. Jack continued to be a keen and often witty observer of Philippine society and the Catholic Church, a trusted mentor and adviser for the staff members of ICSI—now renamed the John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues (JJCICSI)—and its most prolific and published research associate.  On 14 July 2014, JJCICSI launched his last book, Engaging Society II: Musings of an Oxymoron.  That same day he was brought home from the hospital to Loyola House of Studies, following his wish to spend his last days in community with his brother Jesuits.

On 17 July 2014, God embraced him into the community of saints.


Plotter and schemer
by Fr. Roberto Yap, SJ

Courage, courage
by Fr. Nono Alfonso, SJ

Light, friend, father
by Fr. Roberto E. N. Rivera, S.J.

A voice of hope
Fr. Antonio F. Moreno SJ

A father who personally cared
by Anna Marie A. Karaos