They wanted food, not fame

Letter to the Editor
January 17, 2013

The more than 5,000 protesters in a previous 12-hour barricade in Montevista, Compostela Valley last January 15 were not there for fame. They wanted to live.

The Philippine Army’s spokesperson Major Jake Obligado easily discredited the people’s action saying it was just mere propaganda; that it was led by progressive groups; and that it was only 1,500 protesters and not 5,000.

Here’s our two-cents for Mr. Obligado: First, the issue at hand is the legitimacy of the demand of the more than 5,000 survivors of typhoon Pablo. The people in the barricade were protesting the government’s ineptitude in providing services to thousands of survivors. They wanted food to live, they wanted the cancellation of mining and logging operations in their areas, and they do not want the military to use relief operations and militarize the communities.

Do they not have a right to unite and seek the government’s redress on their situation?

Department of Social Welfare and Development-Davao City Director Priscilla N. Razon sounds very proud that they “have covered practically all the barangays (affected)”. In a recently published news article, Director Razon’s computation was this, “there are 130,000 families affected by Pablo in Compostela Valley alone and that they already distributed close to 200,000 food packs”. Was she expecting then, that a family affected by Pablo can already survive with two or three food packs since December 5? More than 40 days have passed since typhoon Pablo. According to a Matigsalog, a food pack can last for only 3 days for a family. An estimate of 10 food packs per family is needed to assist their sustenance for almost a month. 200,000 food packs is not worth boasting, more so, it’s the government’s responsibility and not something that the people should beg for.

Second, progressive groups were there during the barricade. Despite distance, the youth and students from Davao City joined. We directly witnessed and heard the outrage of the people against the Aquino government’s inutility to provide them with relief and services. It was them who articulated their experiences of hunger in the communities. They singled out the government’s Mining Act of 1995 and Executive Orders 79 and 23 – government policies that allowed the easy entry of large-scale and foreign mining and logging – as culprits of the devastating effects of Pablo. We learned that a united people is strong and effective.

Despite the high-priced propaganda of the Aquino administration and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it is undeniable that they are accountable for the huge devastation of the typhoon.

It would be futile for Mr. Obligado to claim that they were the heroes. They projected themselves everywhere they could; facilitating relief operations, giving free medical missions, among others. But despite these pronouncements, the people abhorred them. They feel wrath against the AFP who harassed them and killed their leaders who are opposed to large-scale and foreign mining and logging. The AFP is the army of the big multinational companies of logging and mining. The entire country and even the international community will never forget what the AFP did to Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, PIME and the Capeon Family of Tampakan, Davao del Sur.

The typhoon survivors endured rain and the scorching heat of the sun for their legitimate demands. It serves as a reminder that under the rule of a government that is biased towards its foreign masters, united action and militancy of the people is required.

Mr. Obligado and the Aquino government may talk nonsense as long as they want, but who cares? There will be more protests, tens of thousands of victims of this anti-people government will march and demand the accountability of the US imperialist, the puppet government and the AFP.

Cherry Orendain
Regional Spokesperson

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