People telling the truth are not cowed
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There is no doubt that the present dispensation is in a dishonourable position as it allows filing of a legal complaint against the leaders of Typhoon Pablo victim-survivors’ alliance, Barog Katawhan (People Stand Up), and their supporters, myself included.
It can be recalled that over 5,000 Typhoon Pablo survivors decided to occupy the national highway in Montevista-Monkayo in Compostela Valley province last January 15 to air out grievances on the inefficient and inhumane relief service delivery and most significantly demand cancellation of commercial logging and extractive large scale mining permits as they believe these are the culprits of the devastation when Pablo struck.
The filing of charges dated 24 January 2013 is an act that utilizes a legal provision on public disorder and related stuff without a context. It is devoid of the circumstances of the social action initiated and organized by the affected communities from about 10 combined municipalities of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces. Albeit, it could be a procedural action by the local unit of the Philippine National Police but nudged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to strengthen its Oplan Bayanihan, the counter insurgency program of the Aquino government, it is a desperate stride to assert its authority and control over the hungry citizens.
Let it be known that I received an invitation on the 40th day commemoration of Pablo victims (1,020 deaths and more than 800 missing) two working days before the January 15 mass mobilization of the Pablo survivors.
As an activist social work academic, I did not hesitate to become witness to a march-rally as earlier told and be one with the people in raising the issues relevant to the survivors and ecology.
I together with the leaders of various people’s organizations reached Montevista at around 10:30 in the morning of January 15. In sight were more than 2,000 Pablo survivors along the Montevista-Monkayo intersection installing sound system and paraphernalia for the rally. But the mammoth crowd swelled to more than 5,000 by past 1:00 in the afternoon who occupied practically the national highway going to Agusan province. There were three sets of crowd that had their own simultaneous program with battery of speakers from indigenous peoples, banana and coconut plantation workers and the peasants — all Pablo survivors.
It was a rare opportunity for me to hear their stories and to do small talks with the women and girl children who were all set to complete the day’s affairs. The realities of the survivors kept echoed by the eloquent speakers from the organic intellectuals among the grassroots. Standing beside them, and in between exchanges, I could only admire their courage and determination. In fact I shed tears as they narrated how they made it to the highway. Most of them walked for three to five hours to the town proper of Montevista.
Hence, when DSWD’s Secretary Dinky Soliman approached the first set of crowd scolding, lambasting and disregarding the main issues presented to her formally (a petition paper was read before her) and expressing more concern to the stranded motorists, the people alternately echoed what was read earlier, became more dynamic and firm in their responses to Ms. Soliman’s unbecoming a national leader of a social welfare arm of the government.
Yes, they swarmed the national highway where motorists and passengers were stranded for nine hours. It was a political action that demonstrated the level of social coping the people have mustered if only to regain confidence in their own selves, to carry forward the spirit of unity.
A collective identity of the Filipino people strongly gestured in such a manner is, for the state agents, a public disorder. But there is no way for the poor and hungry communities to ventilate their legitimate demands in a fashion that stirred the entire society and the state but to such a peaceful means.
And how many remembered Edsa 1 and Edsa 2? How did the Filipino people overthrow a dictator and a plunderer? Were the grassroots rural folks absent in the struggle against the dictator or plunderer? Were not they the more consistent at chanting, yelling and barricading the roads and highways to end a dictatorial regime or the term of a plunderer? These sectors are again in the same scenario.
The state’s action is indeed absurd, as colleagues in a local university reacted. And my colleagues at the Alliance of Concerned Teachers through the national leadership have this to say against the filing of the case and to quote:
“The filing of Public Disorder charges against Typhoon Pablo’s’ victims and their supporters which includes ACT Teachers’ Partylist third nominee Prof. Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa is simply insane,” Mr.Benjie Valbuena, President of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said.
To demand action from your government who cannot provide the necessities for in times of crisis is not a crime. In the first place, the devastating effects of flooding in Compostela Valley was due to the government’s remiss in curbing exploitation of our natural resources in connivance with big business and their imperialist masters.
PNoy should remember that in times of disasters, teachers are in the frontlines so to speak as part of the basic machinery in responding to crises. He must instead rebuild communities to include our schools and provide material and financial support to victims of calamities.
“This is a clear act of desperation of PNoy and his cohorts to cover-up their inability to respond to disaster situations like Pablo and Habagat in recent times. However, what we cannot fathom is why they should criminalize the acts of people who showed compassion by collecting support and providing moral support to the victims of Typhoon Pablo,” Mr.Benjie Valbuena added.
This government is berserk. It is confronted with many irregularities in the relief service delivery. As the people’s lamentation continues, the stories are getting bolder. The “barricaders” are just one of those who dared to expose themselves only to tell the truth and now to face the court without any arms but the truth.
Prof. Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa is a women and children rights activist, social worker, peace advocate and chair of the Social Work Program of the Assumption College of Davao, Southern Philippines. Her fields of interest in research include gender, women, children, Moro and indigenous peoples, psychosocial help, community organization, indigenous social work and social administration. She was a research fellow at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. This article was originally published in Davao Today and is re-posted here with permision from the author.