THE faces of hunger and poverty, especially on innocent children, demand urgent attention and action. The tragic deaths of our little ones from extreme hunger and poverty can happen again and again as long as the government is engaged in brazen corruption.
Rosalie Ebrada, a 7-year-old Grade 1 pupil, died on Nov. 21, 2007. She was among those who suffered extreme hunger in Rapu-rapu, a fishing community in Albay, Bicol whose environment has been devastated and where livelihood has been disrupted since the Lafayette Mining Corp. started to operate. On that day, Rosalie was looking forward to benefit from a feeding program in her school. The teacher told her to get a cup for the soup. But on her way home to get a cup, she fell to the ground and died. Maybe she was too weak and hungry, that is why she died, her grandmother said.
On Nov. 2, All Souls’ Day, Mariannet Amper, a 12-year-old girl in Mindanao, became despondent over her family’s poverty. She hanged herself to death a day after her father told her he could not give her the P100 she needed for a school project.
In the face of relentless protests against grinding poverty and corruption scandals, Malacañang wants to revive the anti-subversion law. According to army chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the Philippines needs a law to defeat insurgency.
The two young girls did not wish for an extravagant life. They didn’t need the anti-subversion law or the anti-terrorism law to survive and live a life of dignity. What they needed were the essentials: food, decent work for their parents, education, health services, clean and healthy environment. Rosalie and Mariannet represented not only the children of their age, but the millions of Filipinos who remain economically deprived and powerless. They tragically died just as the majority of Filipinos are getting more impoverished than ever. Taxes and prices of commodities are increasing but the poor families’ incomes are decreasing.
The problem with Ms Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, General Esperon and scores of militarists in the government is that instead of addressing the roots of poverty, they attack “insurgency” as the main problem of the country. Instead of solving the roots of decades-long armed conflicts, they repeatedly declare their intent to crush the so-called insurgents. In its glaring assault against the people, the government chains the people in economic misery while intensifying its attack on civil and political rights through repressive laws such as the anti-terror law and the antiquated anti-subversion law that are aimed against administration critics with legitimate issues, who are clamoring for change.