In the Miserable Depths of Poverty

Urban militarization

Meanwhile, residents of urban poor communities see urban militarization as a problem rather than a blessing. Elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reportedly have been seen in different areas of Metro Manila such as Baseco and Delpan in Tondo, Manila, Dagat-Dagatan in Caloocan City, and in Old Balara and Pansol in Quezon City.

The AFP reasons out that the military deployment is meant to lessen the crimes and “maintain peace and order” within these areas. Kadamay, however, argues that this move by the AFP may be a ploy to put community-based progressive organizations, which fight for the rights of the urban poor for shelter and livelihood, under surveillance. This, as seen by the group, is an assault on the democratic right of the urban poor to freely organize themselves.

Worse is the case in the provinces, according to Kadamay, where their members have become victims of “brazen political persecution.” The vice-chaiperson of the group’s chapter in Tacloban City, Charlie Solayao, was shot dead by a masked assassin riding a motorcycle in 2007. Meanwhile, another member of the group in Southern Tagalog was included in the list of 72 activists in the region who were slapped with trumped-up multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder cases last October.

Urban poor shanties in Baseco, Tondo, Manila. (Photo by Dabet Castañeda)

“Radical change”

According to Carmen Deunida, former spokesperson of Kadamay, what the country needs now is “radical change in the time of worsening crisis and hunger among the urban poor.” She further stated that “it is not enough to depend on legal processes to acquire social justice and development (for) the urban poor.”

The group, along with other urban poor organizations in different parts of Metro Manila, people’s organization and progressive partylist groups, held the Lakbayan ng Maralita para sa Radikal na Pagbabago (Caravan of the Poor for Radical Change) last Dec. 1 and 2 to collectively defend their rights and call for the ouster of President Arroyo.

The Arroyo administration, while claiming that the country’s economy is progressing under the “strong republic”, has done nothing to resolve the issue of worsening poverty, they said.

“Radical change” of society, to Kadamay, means “replacing the old system with a new one that would implement national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform.”

Kadamay said that the suffering of the urban poor would continue under the system wherein “a few benefit from the people’s labor.”

The lives of the urban poor worsened in 2008. But they still look forward to better years to come when the impoverished people finally free themselves from the miserable depths of poverty.

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