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‘Lecturing victims does not make a better donor’

08:56 PM December 12, 2013

“Before they can rebuild their lives, they have to reconstruct their hearts” (“To rebuild, Pinoys must ‘reconstruct their hearts,’” Front Page, 12/1/13). With due respect to Yoshinobu Fukasawa of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme-UN Habitat, these words of his left me with a very heavy heart. On the first Sunday of Advent, in traditional anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, I was hoping to hear instead the good news of salvation—justice, redemption and peace.

Fukasawa’s words provided neither consolation nor comfort for the survivors of recent disasters. By blaming those already suffering for their predicament, he added insult to injury.

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Development and aid agencies are not “messiahs.” Lecturing relief aid beneficiaries does not make one a better donor. Telling those who are grieving their loss or still looking for their missing loved ones to reconstruct their hearts before they can rebuild their lives is being insensitive, if not cruel. Many of them still have to heal from the trauma of helplessly watching their loved ones being swept away by angry waters, unable to lift a hand to save them. I cannot understand how one can speak such words to widows and orphans, to those who are hungry and thirsty, to those who have to bear living in evacuation centers, and to those who have had to leave their beloved birthplaces to seek refuge with their relatives in Metro Manila or elsewhere, many of them economically hard up, struggling to survive from day to day.

Fukasawa admonished Filipinos to stop blaming the government for its slow response to the disaster, in order to fast-track the rebuilding of the devastated areas. “It’s not the government, but the people themselves, who need the reconstruction.” How could Fukasawa give Filipinos such a “sermon”? Does Fukasawa have to be told that Filipinos, long before the series of disasters that hit them this year, have been robbed of millions and billions of pesos for decades, by their very own so-called leaders, through the pork barrel?

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Those who are struggling to put up a shanty back to provide a roof over their children’s heads, are not the ones involved in corruption. Long in misery, their hearts have been filled with lamentation, but they are hopeful and determined to rise from the devastation of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

The Philippine government has failed to provide quick relief for the typhoon’s survivors, even as it had recklessly lost billions of pesos to thieves in suits. When people demand accountability from government, they are not blaming anybody, they are asserting a democratic right.

The way to reconstructing the hearts of disaster victims, to making them whole again, is not to blame the survivors or stop them from expressing their discontent with government’s inefficiency. And if there is any heart to be reconstructed, it should be the government’s, so that the national budget could be used for the benefit of the Filipino people, especially the poorest among the survivors.

—NORMA P. DOLLAGA,

Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan

(Kasimbayan), [email protected]

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TAGS: donors, letters, typhoon `Yolanda, victims, yoshinobu fukasawa
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