Meet up

Lakbayan ng Visayas
via Gabriela Women’s partylist

What’s wrong and disturbing about this lakbayan is that the organizer lumped survivors of natural disasters with Martial Law victims. The former’s needs are separate and distinct from those of the latter. Interventions to the former are different from those of the latter. One is apple, the other, orange. We who are working in their service cannot, must not, treat or sell them wholesale. Otherwise, we do them great disservice and injustice.

Survivors of natural disasters. Who are they- women, men, youth, children? What are their unfulfilled needs post-disaster? Livelihood? Shelter? Protection? Right now, post-disaster implementation in Yolanda/Haiyan affected areas is that of reconstruction, and UN agencies, I/NGOs, and Volunteer Organizations are still in the areas. Are these survivors not enlisted in any of the agencies’ programs? What about the government’s- shelter (DSWD-DPWH), 4Ps (DSWD)? If they’re not, why? These are the things we would want to know further in order to provide appropriate assistance. But, then, why travel all the way to Metro Manila to talk? Where are the survivors from? which barangay? Did they not speak with their barangay kocal government units? The LGUs are awashed in DRR funds now. Besides, LGUs could, should, refer residents to their I/NGO or VO partners if there is a need. Such things should’ve been solved at this level already. Going to Metro Manila, bypassing tiers of local government, from the barangay to the province, merely sends out these messages: (a) neither LGU or the CSOs are doing their job, (b) they’re not enlisted in any post-disaster program for one reason or the other and have not told their local authorities this, (c) they don’t know who to approach in their area about this, and (d) their agency-supporter who is the organizer of this lakbayan have not done anything to introduce or refer them to appropriate local agencies or offices.

Victims of Martial Law. What exactly were done to them? their claims? are these filed in court already? One can’t just yell in the streets thaf you’re a victim. One has to go through the justice process. What are their specific needs- legal counsel and representation, financial aid, psychotherapy in the interim? If they haven’t received appropriate assistance, it only means that the local offices of the CHR, Ombudsman or whoever tasked to assist Martial Law victims have not lifted a finger since EDSA I. Bypassing these local offices sends out the same messages provided above.

The shout-out of both groups is, rehabilitasyon ang hingi namin militarisasyon ang binigay (we asked for rehabilitation but were give militarization). Huh? Are these survivors of Haiyan and victims of Martial Law, or what? Because their words don’t jive with who they say they are.

Such glaring disconnect has made the public who are otherwise compassionate and desirous to help wary and suspicious of these campaigns. They are seen as like the “beggars” of today who are actually syndicate groups. They dress up to look like the most pitiable of creatures. Or, use children, women, and disabled persons. After you give them an amount, the singular beggar has suddenly multiplied, they gang up on you, divest you of all your valuables if not your body as well, and then, if you’re so unlucky, kill you. In Baguio City, the foreigners (who have the softest of hearts at the sight of abject poverty) have already learned the lesson. They don’t give anymore to outstretched palms.

But it’s the real poor though, who’d rather stay home and tend to their gardens and farms and look for work than go rah-rah-ing on the streets, who are given a bad name. For all what’s said about them and done in their name, many of them are folks with dignity.

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