Painful realities in rural poor congress

BAGUIO CITY — Luzon rural poor gathered here in a three-day congress and unfolded “heart-breaking situations,” as they called on the Church that has professed to love and uphold the dignity of the rural poor to respond to their plight

In congress since June 3, among the issues pointed out in the declaration of commitment to unity and action forged Friday is the inclusion of the situation and issues of state harassment, human rights violations and development aggression, which according to the participants are salient features of the present period.

The declaration also identified neglect of the total well-being of people; poverty; landlessness; discrimination; irresponsible management of God’s creation; biased implementation of the laws that results in graft and corruption, politicking; the lack of harmony; and unequal opportunity as the culprits plaguing the rural populations.

Mostly farmers and fisher-folk in Luzon’s marginalized areas, the delegates pointed out land tenure, poor government support in irrigation, marketing and other post-harvest facilities; high cost of pesticides, fertilizers and seeds; inadequate government program for farmers; no livelihood opportunities and poverty.

Discussions among the participating indigenous peoples zeroed-in on ancestral lands and indigenous people’s rights.

Issues on the phenomenon of rural traders, immorality, and little opportunity for education are among the concerns raised by women and children.

Development aggression and human rights violations such as harassment and political killings were common concerns of all the sectors represented.

The declaration responded to the homily of the Most Reverend Edward James Adams, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines who was the main celebrant in the Eucharistic Celebration at the Cathedral of the Holy Atonement Wednesday.

He said, “We should not close our eyes to the anguish around us… we should be ready to run wherever there is a brother in need.”

Tabuk Apostolic Vicar Prudencio Andaya Jr’s presentation about the Catholic Social Teachings Friday morning iterated the importance of dignity of human beings; common good and communion; preferential option for the poor; global solidarity; peace and disarmament; stewardship of God’s creation; economic justice; spirit of mission in governance; the right of people to participate; and the protection of people’s rights and responsibility.

“Packaged as the church’s response to the plight of rural poor, the ten social teachings of the Catholic Church were coined from write-ups of the Holy Fathers,” according to Rev. Nestor Romano, of the Diocese of San Jose in Nueva Ecija.

The gathering of some 200 representatives of 21 dioceses from Tuguegarao in the northernmost tip of Luzon to Antipolo, a little south of Metro-Manila, is one of 14 regional consultations with rural poor in preparation for the Second National Rural Congress being called by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in July.

The first rural congress some 41 years ago called on the church to go to the barrios Romano said. “This is the chance of the clergy and the bishops to listen to the voice of the people who are generous in articulating their plight,” he said in an Nordis interview.

The Luzon North Rural Congress also gathered 18 bishops from archdioceses, dioceses and apostolic vicariates from the the Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan and Central Luzon regions, including Antipolo, a diocese in Metro Manila,.

The congress focused on validating results of earlier consultations from the different archdioceses, dioceses and apostolic vicariates; for the church’s response the Declaration of Commitment to Unity and Action.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who addressed the opening mass said the church is the ultimate hope for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized as she acknowledged the parishes who helped distribute government-subsidized rice. # Lyn V. Ramo

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