Cause for worry and grief
From a recent survey findings released by Social Weather Stations (SWS) in the last quarter of 2016: 11.2 million adult Filipinos jobless; 3.1 million families experienced hunger; 673,000 experienced severe hunger (families who experience hunger often or always). If we multiply the “hunger” numbers by five (the average size of a Filipino family), they would translate into 15.5 million and 3.365 million people, respectively.
From the Philippine Statistics Authority: 26 million Filipinos are poor, among them 12 million living on less than P200 per day.
These numbers should give us pause. They are not mere statistics. They speak volumes about the lives of millions of Filipinos who work day in, day out to make ends meet. The numbers should guide us in making policy decisions to ensure the full realization of each and every Filipino’s right to development.
Yet it seems that the government is keen on keeping policies that have proved detrimental to the interests of millions of Filipinos. Instead of setting up industries that would benefit the nation, add to the public coffers, and ensure the creation of jobs for millions of Filipino workers, President Duterte would rather continue implementing neoliberal economic policies that fatten only the purses of large foreign companies. Contractualization, which tramples on the rights to jobs, to form trade unions and to social security, remains rampant despite his campaign promise to end the practice.
Genuine agrarian reform, which will ensure that farmers have land to till as their own, has yet to be realized. Landed families and plantation-owning companies still dominate the agriculture sector, violating existing agrarian reform laws (e.g., by holding on to land meant for redistribution to farmer-tillers) with impunity. And the indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination remains a dream as big mining and energy firms continue to destroy ancestral lands, and pollute the environment.
Instead of focusing on how to reduce poverty, hunger and joblessness and ensure that Filipinos enjoy their rights as a people, the Duterte administration is more interested in pursuing an all-out, anti-insurgency war—never mind that this war, which has been going on for nearly five decades, has already cost the country tens of thousands of lives and affected millions of others.
Meanwhile, under President Duterte’s eight-month-old watch, another 39 development workers and activists have been killed; 8,000 more lives have been lost as a result of his so-called war on drugs, which is fast turning out to be a war against the poor; 43 development workers and activists have been illegally arrested and detained; 114 cases of demolitions without permits have been recorded, leaving the lives of those affected in shambles and their right to housing violated; and over 10,000 have been forcibly displaced.
The government, instead of forging on with its anti-insurgency and anti-drug war, should focus on reducing poverty, hunger and joblessness, and on securing peace for the Filipino people. Unless President Duterte heeds this call, we are certain that the next SWS and PSA survey findings—and the lives they will bare—will give us more cause for worry and grief.
RENMIN CRISANTA ABRAHAM VIZCONDE, spokesperson, Ascent Philippines, email@example.com
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