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We rise in common pursuit of justice

/ 12:02 AM November 20, 2014

In Filipino culture, we usually mark “babang luksa” exactly a year after a loved one had passed away. We put aside our deep-hued and black clothes of mourning for brighter ones, as if to step beyond our grieving and pain. It is supposed to be a public act by which we “let go of mourning” and declare that it is time to move on and start a new life.

A deep sense of mourning washed over us collectively as a nation after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” swept across our country and left in its wake a wide swath of death and destruction. We wept for the thousands who perished, and for the loved ones they left behind; and our hearts broke for those orphaned by their passing.

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But a year after Yolanda, we feel we are not ready yet for babang luksa. Grief still fills our hearts because the poor among the survivors, the poorest most of all, have been victimized twice instead of being freed from their misery: yes, victimized—first by the Yolanda tragedy, second by government inefficiency—if not neglect or lack of interest—in shielding them from their vulnerability to disasters.

Only in the last days of October 2014 did President Aquino approve the $3.7-billion (P167.9-billion) master plan for the rehabilitation of Yolanda-ravaged areas. Why only a year after the disaster? This is a clear indicator that government response has been too slow.

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As of September 2013, the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery admitted, government rehab efforts have so far repaired only 213 out of the 19,648 classrooms destroyed; 64 kilometers out of the 431-km farm-to-market and national roads damaged; three out of the 34 bridges rendered impassable; and 27 out of the 132 public markets ruined.

Government inadequacy in administering with compassion relief and rehab programs due the survivors has been lamentably glaring through the year. Even hurtful and callous.

Take the 250 families living in bunkhouses who Palo Mayor Remedios Petilla wanted to relocate because she did not want Pope Francis to see their plight when he visits the town come January. We mourn such hypocrisy and inhumanity. And that is why we refuse to let go of the mourning because it would be immoral to turn our backs on those still deep in grief and facing the pain of abandonment.

But we would not allow this painful episode to immobilize us. We thus have challenged ourselves to rise from the rubble and debris of this tragic calamity. We rise with the poor as they assert their rights and rebuild their lives. We join them as they demand bread and dignity. We share their hopes and dreams for a better and abundant life.

Together with the Yolanda survivors, the bereaved and those who long for their missing loved ones, we rise in the common pursuit of justice, we join them in crying for JUSTICE!

—DEACONESS NORMA P. DOLLAGA

and FR. TONY ABUAN, MS,

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Dambana (Damayang Simbahan sa

Panahon ng Disaster-An Ecumenical Disaster Response), Dambana.church@gmail.com

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TAGS: Babang Luksa, Filipino culture, Grieving, justice, Pain, Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, supertyphoon ‘yolanda’
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