Category Archives: Poverty

An aid that never existed

A photo taken in Pigcawayan before the flood -ed

In this report by Mindanews on May 1, it reported that the North Cotabato provincial government, a province in Central Mindanao, have declared the affected municipalities in their province devastated by flood in a state of calamity; and started distributing food aid and relief.

At least 8,500 hectares of farm crops–rice, corn and vegetables–had been destroyed and wasted. Some of them are even ripe for harvest or just been planted by farmers. The affected municipalities were Pigcawayan, Libungan, Midsayap, Aleosan, and Pikit, all in the first district.

Declaring an area under a State of Calamity, as what the provincial government already did to these towns, would enable them allocate funds and needed assistance for the villagers. A certain amount of money would have to be drawn town’s coffer for this.

As what the local officials and social welfare personnel had been claiming they already did distribute food aid, allocate fund and other assistance.

…the provincial social welfare and development office have been distributing rice to about 900 families affected by the disaster; the local government has allotted some funds for additional assistance.

However, in a check with my parents-in-law living in Pigcawayan, we were told though this never existed. No food aid, relief goods, or any sort of assistance had reach them. We learned of it on May 11, ten days after this report from the government had come out.

So, where have these food aid and assistance gone?


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Filed under Calamity, Hunger, Poverty, Public opinion

Are some Filipinos subhuman?

Stories of people being beaten up by policemen, of individuals committing suicide due to abject poverty and of deaths due to hunger are common in the Philippines. Although the media often report these cases, the victims never have their cases documented for the purpose of remedial action. After the media exposure and short-lived condemnation, this violence and these tragedies are forgotten.

There has not been a concerted effort to help the needy even though their problems are widespread and systematic. A hit-and-run approach to human tragedies leads to moral decay and is an abrogation of the obligations of the state. It also infers prejudice and discrimination based on who the victims are and who deserves assistance.

On several occasions, suspects, or even non-suspects of a crime, have been brutally beaten by security forces, not for their involvement in a rebel group, but as de facto punishment for supposedly committing an offense. Though these cases are often reported, human rights groups and people advocating the protection of human rights have paid little attention to this scenario.

What the victims need is to have their cases documented and help offered in obtaining remedies. This could mean judicial remedies and/or rehabilitation, in the same manner that torture victims whose cases are political in nature have been served.

In the Philippines, assistance for torture victims outside the context of the country’s insurgency, or cases that are not political in nature, is rare. The understanding that the victims of non-political human rights violations deserve protection too has apparently not developed thus far. While most organizations are aware of this oversight, no actions have presently been taken to correct this deficiency.

While human rights protection is for everyone, in reality the psyche and social structure does not support this view. Instead, there is an indirect and subconscious understanding that effectively labels some Filipinos as subhuman. The suffering of victims of police torture is not understood as an assault on their fundamental rights. Such torture is not seen as a serious human rights violation. The perception is that the protection of human rights is only for certain sectors of Philippine society — political activists and dissenters, for example.

This perhaps explains why any attempt or proposal to lobby for the enactment of a law against torture has so far failed to gain strong public support or generate clear public opinion. The discussion and lobbying thus far have been so dogmatic that it appears that the enactment of a law against torture is primarily for the protection of political activists and dissenters. It is not understood that, apart from this set of victims, a vast number of others are ordinary citizens who have long suffered because of a lack of redress.

The same conclusion applies to people committing suicide or dying of hunger and starvation. As noted previously, media reports of these cases fail to adequately document or bring aid to these victims and their families. Tabloid newspapers and radio news bulletins often report on individuals, and even couples, who take their lives to escape abject poverty, but their stories rarely occupy even half a page of a newspaper, giving the impression that their tragedies are unimportant or have little news value. Their deaths are not portrayed as an assault on their right to life. Rather, they are usually seen as the result of misfortune.

When my cousin died last October due to a hunger-related disease, not a single news organization took an interest in her story. Not even journalists who are known to me or human rights activists took an interest in her story. This confirmed my belief that no institutions actually exist to help people and their families suffering from hunger or those facing the threat of death due to starvation. The deaths of my cousin and her son have not been understood as a failure of the state’s obligation to uphold their right to life.

My cousin died two years after her son died from severe malnutrition. Her story was among the many untold or undocumented tragedies in the Philippines. For example, last November, just days after she died, a schoolgirl in the neighboring city of Davao committed suicide. A couple had committed suicide in Sangay, Camarines Sur, five months earlier. These stories were reported, but very few people took any interest in them.

A lack of resources to help victims is one explanation often offered in these situations, but people’s lack of understanding of what constitutes torture and the right to life is also a factor. It could be a failure to deeply understand human rights or fear or frustration at trying to uphold them. Many people think their actions would make no difference anyway, because of the country’s poor legal and political systems.

Philippine society does not have a caste system, like South Asia. However, the social psyche and manner effectively discriminate against a certain sector of society and unconsciously render them subhuman. The mentality and social understanding that has developed over time implies that the suffering of these victims is less important than that of a more politically active group. This psyche, prejudice and twisted understanding of human rights, and of human beings, creates discrimination and completely subverts the notion of people’s equality.

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Poverty: a reality can’t be denied


After getting much attention, the local authorities in Davao City now downplays the death of a 12-year-old girl, Mariannet Amper, as not aggravated by her family’s poverty(photo above). Instead, they insisted the girl could have been raped prompting her to hung herself.

City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said in this report. He was quoted is similar report as saying;

“It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to the girl who died, it’s not fair to the Filipino people because you are covering the truth,” Duterte said. “If there’s poverty in our midst, it’s not the fault of the city government of Davao, we are not the captain of the ship, it’s Manila”

His reaction is typical to that of local politicians in defensive position. Of course, refusing to take responsibility to their failures, much more of a death aggravated by poverty, is expected rather than unexpected ones. No politicians and leaders admit mistakes damaging to their own selves.

What has become for local officials is that they rather defends and justifies themselves instead of acting on the problem, and to acknowledge it. My cousin, Maricel and her son, died aggravated by lack of food and abject poverty, but the local government in General Santos City too, where they resides, have also refused to take responsibility. They put the blame on her relatives.

Whether or not Mariannet commits suicide aggravated by her family’s poverty; still her family’s condition is undeniably in abject poverty. The motivation of her death cannot correct or denies anything about the abject poverty they are into.

As mentioned in her school diary before she died, she and her brother hardly had allowance for their transportation going to school, buy food to eat, and sometimes forced to absent from going to school.

Mayor Duterte yet again, like other local officials who have failed their constituents, put blame on other government agencies for the continuing poverty by some residents in his city, if not for the girl’s death.

It’s a fact of life in the Philippines. Nobody takes responsibility to anybody, even government officials and the concerned agencies who are supposed to ensure the welfare of its citizens.

The message there was clear: clean up your own mess.

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Filed under Human Rights, Hunger, Poverty, Public opinion

Living in coastal dumpsites

When me and my colleague went to a coastal dumpsite early today, the desperate experience i have had of how difficult life was when I was younger flashes back.

Although makeshift tents and houses made of garbage recycables, like sacks and used tires, is perhaps commonly seen in dumpsites communities, but the feeling of integrating in a place is different.

There in Rosario, Cavite–and any other dumpsite communities, you feel and see first hand how wide the gap of inequality between the rich and poor is.

You see them getting immuned to a stingy smell of garbage, harvesting leafy vegetables (kang kong) from a dumpsite’s swamps, children walking along a pile of garbage barefooted, amongst others. Not only the life in the dumpsite community is backward but desperate for survival.

The people’s livelihood, mainly garbage collecting and fishing, is threatened not only by health concerns of the dumpsite due to poor environmental conditions but of the bloating population of people whose resorting to garbage collecting as their only and last option to survive.

No proper toilet were built for shanties, villagers took water for drinking and cooking from deepwell close to dumpsite, fishermen fish few meters from the dumpsite’s coastal waters and villagers often rebuilt their shanties once they’re hit with huge waves due to tropical storms.

I was told Payatas situation is worst than what’s in there. For me, whether it is in Payatas dumpsite (Quezon City) or somewhere, it reflects how Filipinos are being denied of their constitutional rights to food, housing and livelihood. In particular of what is spelled out in the Social Reform Agenda and Poverty Alleviation Program (RA 8425).

Stories of hunger-related deaths of children, villagers getting sick due to poor environmental condition and hunger, absence of opportunities to uplift their lives other than scavenging–is far worst than we could imagine.

What is worst to having no options at all to survive but to scavenge?

Not only these people are deprive of their social and economic rights, obviously of the non-functioning social reform law or the non-implementation of it, these villagers are also threatened of their only means of survival. An influential person who is also an ally of a local politician is claiming the land they are occupying and where the dumpsite is located as his. The land is actually formerly part of the seawaters in the coast.

These people have no satisfaction of what they have. Their vicious greed threatens the scavenger people’s only means of survival. It’s unthikable but is happening in a democratic country like the Philippines. All these things are happening yet the government is turning a blind eye.

As i was extremely shock to what i have witnessed, I was more extremely shock of the people’s silence to fight back.

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What do they say?

Below is the excerpts of comments from some people in Davao to the opinion and previous post i wrote entitled: “Humiliating the vagrants, street children”, and was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

Last January 19, 2006, a letter entitled “Promoting tourism – Davao’s wayâ€� was published in the Opinion Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The letter was written by Danilo A. Reyes of the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Reyes opened his letter with the following quote: “Round them up and put them elsewhere, away from public sight.� According to Reyes, this was the solution of Davao City officials to get rid of vagrants and street children in time for the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) that is being held in Davao City. According to Reyes the vagrants and street children were also humiliated because he quotes that they were seen as “possible accessories to the criminals and terrorists.�

I was outraged by Reyes’ allegations. First because he did not even bother to mention the name of the official(s) that he was quoting. Second because I know for a fact that his allegations are false.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly reiterated that the city, in no way, will try to mask the poverty of its residents, not even during the ATF. Sunstar Davao quoted Duterte as saying, “Tourists should be allowed to view Davao as a poor community that is struggling to be rich someday, because that’s what we are.� He has turned down suggestions that squatters be demolished or be blocked from the view of the ATF delegates.

Moreover, vagrants and street children were merely to seek the aid of the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) in order to find shelter. Shelter and assistance are being given to vagrants and street children in the city even before preparations for ATF began. The drive to provide shelter and assistance to vagrants and street children have just been intensified.

Contrary to what Reyes believes, Davao City has promoted tourism, not by masking its ills and poverty. Rather, we promote it by showing the beauty and riches that abound our city.

To view our exchanges on this subject, you can view the author’s web:

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Filed under Poverty, Public opinion

Rhetoric of poverty alleviation program

Basic to addressing poverty is for our public officials to have deep understanding of the plight of people suffering from it. The allocation of huge budget for social services will have little meaning unless the program and the people in it effectively implement it.
When the death of my cousin’s 11-month-old son who died of severe malnutrition in General Santos City was reported late last year, my cousin and her family was ridiculed and quizzed by some local health workers as to who reported the hunger-related death. It seems to me that these local health and social welfare workers are more concerned of being exposed of their ineptness and inefficiency instead of helping my cousin’s family under the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act (RA 8425).
Despite the death of her younger son, her elder child was still denied of milk rations and food stuffs saying his old enough at that time. The health cards they provided to her after her son’s death to me is useless if they couldn’t even help nourish her other child.
Had the death of my cousin’s son not come out, these local officials would have not take action at all.
While I appreciate the health cards and coffin for the burial they gave to my cousin’s family, I am extremely disappointed of how they are handling the plight of cousin’s family who at the time suffering of hunger and starvation. The distribution of health card and coffin to my cousin’s family after her son died has little meaning to her.
My cousin’s plight is being experienced by ordinary Filipinos in their daily lives. Any one could just get outside their doorsteps and look around. They could see for themselves the reality in the Filipino society that is seldom talked about.
Perhaps fueled by deep frustration and lost of hopes, the silence of this very people suffering from extreme poverty, hunger and starvation is shocking for me. It’s because once victims complain of his/her sufferings being ridiculed and reprimanded is inevitable.
There’s a lot to be done of how to implement the program. Mere assurances to address poverty is not enough. To hold these public officials and agencies accountable of their failures may make changes.

Links to this case:
Infant dies of severe malnutrition and a hunger related disease in General Santos City

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Humiliating the vagrants, street children

Note: this letter to the editor was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) on 19 January 2006

“Round them up and put them elsewhere away from public sight”, thus, the swift solution found by the authorities in Davao City to get rid of vagrants and street children – the disadvantage.
The reason was, not only that they’re unpleasant to the visitors sight for the Asean Tourism Forum (ATF), they are also seen as potential use for “criminalsâ€� or even “terroristsâ€�.
Not only that these poor people are disregarded, they were also being publicly humiliated as “possible accessories to the criminals and terrorist”, by public officials who are supposed to ensure that their constituents’ Constitutional “right to adequate housing, food and security” are fully enjoyed.
Is this how Republic Act 8425 or the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act should be implemented? It is a complete disregard, undermines and mockery of the Act written by the blood and suffering of the poor Filipino people.
The local government poured in a budget of p20 million to host the activity, well, maybe this include expenses to haul roaming vagrants and street children to “appropriate” places though. While the city may gain for hosting the ATF, the strong message it sends to the vagrants, street children and the general public would deeply penetrate the fabric of our generally disadvantage populace society.
The message is clear: “they are unpleasant to see”, thus, to isolate and to restrict them of their Constitutional freedom of movement for security reasons is a justifiable act. It is a cause for a public concern – being a poor and the consequences of your desperate condition is used against you to deprived and restrict your of your rights.
This is how tourism is promoted.

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