Enslaving bonds of injustice on Filipinos
STREET SWEEPERS, janitors, domestics, security guards, utility vehicle drivers, salesladies, construction workers—they are among those who make up the urban poor majority population of Metro Manila. If ever they stopped working, the whole metropolis would stand still.
Their pay is peanuts compared to what Metro Manila really earns. And the fact is only a few of them are paid above the legally mandated minimum daily wage of P486; even so, the amount is not enough to feed a family of six.
Should the contractualization bill be enacted into law, they would be stripped of their sense of security in work; after five consecutive months of work, they may legally be laid off. Such a situation puts the determination of wage at the mercy of the contractor. With depressed wages the poor have no other choice but to endure living in squatter colonies simply because they wouldn’t be able to pay for a house decent enough for human beings to live in.
Their suffering is only being made worse by the demolition of squatter houses as government fast-tracks public private partnership projects, to serve the interest of the powerful and the rich. And this is being done in violation of the rights of the urban poor as guaranteed by the Urban Development and Housing Act or the Lina Law, like the rights to basic services and to earn a living in their relocation areas; which is why hungry, urban poor relocatees return to the cities. They would rather sleep on the streets rather than die of hunger in relocation areas.
We call on everyone to visit and live with them to experience their life. As brothers and sisters, show them mercy and compassion instead of condemning them as lazy “parasites” and criminals. The root of their poverty is the unjust distribution of our country’s resources as well as the laws and policies that have been adopted to protect the interest of the few.
To those in government: Use your power for them and not against them. Do not be afraid to resist pressure; God is on your side. And the number of people working for genuine change is growing.
To our Catholic bishops: Thank you for “The Year of the Poor.” Please create the Commission on the Urban Poor, now, to give relief to those who have nowhere to run to. Such a commission will encourage dioceses and parishes to become “a poor Church for the poor.”
The 10 percent of Catholic Filipinos who regularly go to Mass are a great resource for the Church to reach out to the 90-percent Filipino majority in order to break “the bonds of injustice and oppression,” which the Pope asked us to do in his speech in Malacañang last January.
Finally, to the urban poor: Jesus Nazareno is in our midst, calling us to carry the cross that will liberate us from poverty. Purify your motives, reject bribes and defend your human dignity. You are the majority, organize; you can attain true liberation by defying corruption and political dynasties.
Buhay si Jesus Nazareno!
—FR. ANTON PASCUAL, Radio Veritas; FR. PETE MONTALLANA, Sikap Laya (A dialogue between the urban poor and church people was held last Aug. 31 at Stella Maris, Cubao, Quezon City.)
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