The faces of poverty

01:21 AM July 02, 2014

Poverty is a state of deprivation, a heightened demand for the satisfaction of basic wants. We see poverty in a malnourished child with a blank stare, in a congested slum bereft of sanitation and order, in a hospital ward crowded with unattended patients of possibly cross-contaminating health issues, in a bunch of street children sniffing rugby.

It has many faces, in many places.


There is deprivation in the unawareness of self that likewise results in the heightened need to satisfy that want. This is another ugly face of poverty, and it is very subtle. It manifests in the unrestrained efforts by poor souls to find identity in power, popularity or pera—a classic “PPP.” This face of poverty is a sustaining impetus to the many other faces of poverty we see around, because it is the other side of the same face; one is there reflecting the other. It is when one side is deprived of the awareness of its real identity that the other side highlights the false identity created by PPP: a state of spiritual bankruptcy.

Spiritual bankruptcy is distinct from spiritual poverty. The latter is a choice, a deliberate decision to be detached from PPP. Whether the “poor in spirit” possesses PPP or not does not matter. The detachment matters. The “poor in spirit” owns God’s Kingdom. Spiritual bankruptcy is the deprived state. It negates the reality that all, without exception, are in the image of the Creator. PPP simply underscores spiritual bankruptcy, leading to the continuing scourge that is material poverty which then feeds on itself, sustaining its many faces.


The “Napolists” and the contents of Benhur Luy’s hard drive have exposed the extent of corruption in Congress. The corruption issues that did in the Erap presidency in 2001—“juetenggate,” tobacco subsidy misappropriations, commissions from the BW Resources stock trade—pale in comparison to the P10-billion pork barrel scandal. Yet no one among those listed have mustered the courage and humility to come forward, if for some reason he/she is guilty of that sin against the Filipino people. Everyone would rather feign innocence. Indeed, there may be those who could have been wrongly named. Their truth will not be changed by a lie. But there must be quite a number who are guilty. Their spiritual bankruptcy will keep them in their untruth.

In other cultures, even “lesser scandals” can lead to resignations, or even suicides. The South Korean prime minister resigned due to the mishandled rescue of the passengers of the sunken ferry, which resulted in the death of over 300 mostly schoolchildren. The principal who survived the disaster killed himself.

Lawmakers are addressed with the salutation “honorable.” What is honorable in being a member of a body tainted with corruption? Ping Lacson earlier hesitated to release his list, on grounds that the Senate might collapse. But if a corrupt president could face impeachment and be removed from office, should not a corrupt Senate, or a corrupt House of Representatives, suffer the same fate? It is true that a collective body should not suffer the consequences of the sins of some by a condemnation of the whole. But the integrity, or wholeness, of the body requires the removal of the corrupted portion; otherwise, the whole body remains corrupt.

How can a corrupt Congress, with a governance oversight function, do its role? There is corruption in government line agencies and in local government units. With corruption in Congress, the watchdog can only wag its tail. Is there anyone in Congress wondering how much poverty would have been eased if all the leakages from the national budget over the years were properly used for the needed schools, healthcare facilities, housing? Perhaps it is time for members of Congress to look deep into their hearts and determine how far they have conspired by omission or commission in the plunder of the people’s resources.

There are many who say that corruption exists worldwide. Yes, it does—but is this the kind of world we care to sustain? And poverty is all over the world, too.

They who can easily justify and rationalize corruption will be unable to view poverty and its eradication from the proper perspective. For them, the poor become mere instruments for further corruption. The poor are themselves corrupted through the sale of their votes. The cycle of corruption will simply continue, and the state of poverty extended.

People in the government conspire to make corruption happen. And in the private sector, too, corrupt practices are going on at the expense of stockholders, the minority in particular, and the investing public in general. It is the culture of corruption that pervades society, making it difficult for the country to banish the scourge of poverty.


At the recent World Economic Forum on East Asia, the President proudly declared that his administration’s anticorruption efforts have allowed more government resources to be made available for the Filipino people. The efforts are but a beginning of a needed long war against this nemesis of the common good. And the beginning can easily get aborted.

More reports on prospective candidates for national office in 2016 are coming out. Look at the names and determine if there is reason for optimism. Or are they a preview of a potential step backward?

Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of the Philippines and the Center for Research and Communication/University of Asia and the Pacific. He is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is now a business consultant.

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TAGS: Benhur Luy, congress, corruption, malnutrition, Ping Lacson, Poverty, spiritual bankruptcy, spiritual poverty
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