Editorial: It’s not about who’s lying, it’s about poverty

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Friday, April 25, 2014

IT’S been almost a month now since Ata-Manobo natives from Talaingod in Davao del Norte have sought temporary shelter at the Haran House of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines here. Their accommodations are not the best, but they are surviving.

Their presence here is being chided by the military as a propaganda tool of the communists. The lumads who have experienced being harassed and hurt are saying they are really afraid to go home for as long as the military are there. The clueless who come over and listen say, they are hearing the same stories, maybe they have been trained what to say.

Who’s telling the truth?


We will never know.

One thing is sure. One look at those people and you will see poverty. Poverty is undeniable in their clothes, in their bodies, in their character, in their children. As Filipinos we should not be enraged at them being used for propaganda purposes or being abused by the military without first being enraged by the poverty they are obviously suffering.

One fact is very clear, these are very poor people who have been denied a lot of basic services. That by itself is a concern worthy of a major program for assistance and livelihood development. That by itself is a testimony to what kind of local governance there is out there that they have fled from.

Everyone who has lived out there know the hazards of living in places where the rebels and the military are constantly firing at each other – you can never side with just one. The military by this time, after the almost half a century of rebellion, should know that upland residents cannot stop rebels from entering their communities, nor can they have enough courage to deny rebels some help. First, chances are, some of those rebels are kin or friends. Second, rebels are armed and can creep into their homes anytime. The same with the military. The military are armed, thus, these same residents can never put up a fight against them, even amid the abuses they are getting. And no, we were not born yesterday to believe that those soldiers never abused anyone. We only have to see how a man can be transformed by the power of the gun to get an idea of what abuse can be done.

The action required, however, is not in disproving what are the lies and what are not, but in acting on the poverty that is there for all to see. The local government unit of Talaingod should likewise be held accountable for that. By the way, they do not need relief assistance as the LGU there seem to think, they need livelihood programs and development projects and education and health services. Don’t give them noodles and sardines, give them agriculture technology and seeds and farm equipment and celebrate their achievements with them.

A community who is able to provide the basics for its people will never be a breeding ground of unrest. They are right, get the military out and bring the services in because they know how to make a living, and they can learn how to make a better living just get them away from the barrels of guns.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 26, 2014.


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