In his address before the World Meeting of Popular Movements this week in Rome, Pope Francis again talked with moral passion and sense of urgency about the global crises of poverty, joblessness, hunger, environmental destruction and homelessness. He then swiftly exhorted the victims of these crises to unite and work together to overcome their problems and hardship.
These crises are very real and serious in the Philippines. Just days ago, Senator Grace Poe decried the fact that 15-million Filipino children are underfed or go hungry, and over 12-million other Filipinos consider themselves as very poor. How, she asked, can this happen in a country that produces enough agricultural products? Or whose economy has been high-performing for the past so many years?
The collective reason is simple: no government administration then and now cares about uplifting the poor and alleviating poverty. Poverty sustains patronage politics and political dynasties. President Aquino’s 4Ps program is but another form of such patronage politics. His administration’s economic achievements have benefitted only his rich friends and cronies, his has been a jobless economic growth. Families can’t afford to buy enough or proper food because food products are unaffordable to them because the agricultural sectors are not adequately supported by government. The list of bad governance and anti-poor policies can go on and on. It is a state of affairs such as this that will keep the war in Mindanao going on and on, too.
People have to help themselves through their solidarity: “Solidarity is a word that is not always welcomed; I would say that sometimes we have transformed it into a bad word, it cannot be said. However, it is a word that means much more than some acts of sporadic generosity. It is to think and to act in terms of community, of the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few. It is also to fight against the structural causes of poverty, inequality, lack of work, land and housing, the denial of social and labor rights. It is to confront the destructive effects of the empire of money: forced displacements, painful emigrations, the traffic of persons, drugs, war, violence and all those realities that many of you suffer and that we are all called to transform. Solidarity, understood in its deepest sense, is a way of making history, and this is what the Popular Movements do”, Pope Francis said.
Many years ago, Peace Advocates Zamboanga initiated the formation of what is now called the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) precisely to address such crises and challenges in the region. In cooperation with the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA) ISP has undertaken or helped or is helping now in programs like low-cost housing, sustainable agriculture, good governance, peace education, out of school youth academic and livelihood trainings, delivery of basic services, humanitarian assistance to internally-displaced people of last year’s MNLF attack, and the like. And so the poor and their sympathizers can have solidarity, but they always forget that the rich (Filipino economic and political elites) are not like them, and never will be. (Peace Advocates Zamboanga)