Accountability of politicians claiming to serve the hungry
“Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor be taken away.”
In one of his speeches, President Aquino said, “Mula ngayon hindi na ang tao ang mag-aantay ng relief. Ang relief ang mag-aantay sa kanila” (Henceforth, it will not be the people who will wait for the relief goods, it will be the relief goods that will wait for them), or something to that effect. A few days after Typhoon “Pablo” struck, Mindanao was awash with relief goods, not to mention cash donations, from many countries.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is concerned that to this day we continue to receive reports of hungry communities of calamity survivors. Their attempts to bring their plight to the public are acts of desperation, which, to be sure, are a cause for genuine concern. We have received reports of some 6.2 million people who continue to suffer in varying degrees in the aftermath of typhoons. It is understandable that they have taken the initiative in the last several weeks to demand attention. We only need to recall the people’s clamor not so long ago in many parts of Luzon and the Visayas, when we ourselves were the disaster victims, to know that the clamor of the survivors in Mindanao is for real.
Let us not divert from the main issue of hundreds of people going hungry. We urge national government to respond to this clamor with dispatch. People are still waiting for those relief goods.
It does not help at all to wait for some master list at this stage. It does not help at all to subject survivors who led the cry for attention to legal suits. It does not help at all that certain television commentaries suggest that the survivors and/or their leaders are leftists.
We thank God for decent people of faith-based communities who know better than to qualify whom to serve in disaster-stricken communities. We do not ask survivors or hungry people to be accountable. We ask those who claim to be at their service to be accountable.
The NCCP appreciates the relationship between logging and the massive resource extraction (which are opposed by the indigenous peoples and local governments), on the one hand, and the disasters in Mindanao, on the other. The NCCP also sees the relationship of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings, on the one hand, and the never-ending presence of a large contingent of military forces, on the other. What is taking place is not economic development.
What is taking place is plunder, the irreversible loss of our patrimony and the senseless killing of people.
It is our prayer that the survivors of the disasters in Mindanao will not be forgotten. We pray that they will not be seen as statistics to promote political ends. We pray that their needs will be responded to the full extent we are all capable of.
These survivors, too, are the face of Christ.
—REV. REX RB REYES JR., general secretary,
THE MOST REVEREND EPHRAIM S. FAJUTAGANA,
Obispo Maximo XII, Iglesia Filipina Independiente and chair, National Council of Churches in the Philippines
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