Editorial: Suffering in plain sight

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

WHILE Holy Week has come to be associated with vacations and family trips, it remains a time of reflection for most Christians. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ dominate processions and homilies, from the Stations of the Cross to the Siete Palabras.

Yet even for the less religious, the reality of suffering has become inescapable in these recent months after the earthquake last October and the ruinous onslaught of Yolanda.

These calamities are expected to drive more families below the poverty threshold, a recent report quoting Regional Development Council officials showed. Viewed one way, the news seems good: the percentage of poor families in Region 7 dropped from 30.7 percent in 2006 to 25.7 percent in 2012. The target under the Millennium Development Goals is to bring poverty incidence in the region down to 18.5 percent in 2015.


But the actual numbers tell a different story.

Given the increase in population, the number of poor families in Central Visayas actually increased during those years, from 345,870 in 2006 to 405,694 in 2012.

In both Bohol and Cebu, the number of families below the poverty threshold dropped from 2006 to 2012. Not so in Negros Oriental and Siquijor.

In Negros Oriental, government records show, there were 31,583 more poor families in 2012, compared to 2006. This echoes the trend nationwide. Despite stellar economic growth in recent years, the ranks of the poor went up from 3,809,283 families in 2006, to 4,214,921 families nearly two years ago.

Yolanda and the other natural calamities’ toll on poor families could be more apparent when the next round of surveys proceeds in 2015.

We need not wait, however, to see how widespread poverty remains. In 2012, the poverty threshold was set at P18,855 per year, or roughly P52 to meet one person’s daily food and other basic needs. That seems an unrealistically low threshold. Untold numbers could be subsisting on a little more than P52 a day, yet they would not fall below the poverty threshold.

The Gospel of Matthew speaks of how Christ “saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them.” Beyond Holy Week, do we continue to be oblivious to the suffering around us?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 16, 2014.


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