People Surge’s white banners were joined by the green and red banners of members of Balsa and Barug Katawhan from Mindanao.
By MARYA SALAMAT
TACLOBAN CITY – “The various groups of disaster survivors are united by the negligence of the Aquino government,” Dr. Elfleda Bautista, chairwoman of People Surge, said as she personally welcomed, late afternoon of Nov. 5, the arrival in the city of disaster survivors from Mindanao.
People Surge’s white banners were joined by the green and red banners of members of Balsa and Barug Katawhan from Mindanao. The latter are survivors of Typhoons Pablo and Sendong who have experienced, earlier in Mindanao, what the Yolanda survivors are saying now.
Marching with their groups’ banners, they converged as one and proceeded along Marasbaras and the inner streets of this city. They later went to a retreat center to hold a national conference of disaster survivors.
Dr. Elfleda Bautista told reporters of the similarity of their plight having been victimized by both natural and “man-made calamities”, which include killings and repression of people opposed to destructive mining operations. She and youth members of People Surge welcomed the disaster survivors of Mindanao right after concluding a day’s conference of human rights victims in Eastern Visayas.
In the group’s week-long activities leading to the first year anniversary of Yolanda, they expect to be joined by survivors of the “man-made calamity” called the Zamboanga siege. Survivors of the Bohol earthquake are also expected to join the gathering of disaster survivors in Tacloban for a conference on surviving disasters.
By November 7 and 8, they are set to hold bigger protest actions of disaster survivors in Tacloban City.
Dr. Bautista told reporters about the importance of the gathering and the would-be result of the survivors’ conference. Whether they were victims of natural or man-made calamities, the plight of all these survivors has not yet been really attended to by the government until now, she said.
Worse, the government has resorted to killing disaster survivors who its soldiers accused of being supportive to revolutionaries.
According to Gabriela Women Rep. Emmi de Jesus, who is now in Tacloban City, there remains the “need to find out what should be done for real rehabilitation.”
What the Aquino government calls as “rehabilitation” is actually a perpetuation of the survivors’ age-old problem of landlessness and poverty, for profit by a few, according to the statements of various groups of survivors. The problem is, if these groups criticized or stood against the what they call as Aquino government’s anti-people “rehabilitation” policies, they are being branded as reds, communists, or supporters if not members of the revolutionary movement.
Bautista said they would be sharing their experiences at surviving despite the government’s continuing negligence and attacks on them. They also look forward to coming up with more creative solutions to their problems, including disaster preparation.
On Nov. 8, the first anniversary of Yolanda, the survivors of disasters and disastrous government policies would march and make the government account for its criminal negligence.
Carlos Trangiya, leader of Barug Katawhan (literally Stand Up People), the delegation of disaster survivors from Mindanao, told reporters that they are joining their Eastern Visayan fellow survivors both in sympathy with what they are going through and also because they have endured similar government negligence and repression.
Instead of receiving aid, Trangiya said, they are getting intensive military deployment in their communities. Some leaders of Barug Katawhan are being murdered, illegally arrested and jailed, and slapped with trumped up charges.
“What kind of government is this? Instead of leading in the implementation of a total rehabilitation program, it has been militarizing communities,” Trangiya said.
At the same time, Trangiya said, they will call on the government to hold peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. “There is a need to get to the roots of armed conflict in this country. We are not enemies of the state, yet, when we ask help from the government, we get militarization instead.”