Carmelite priest decries gov’t failure to address hunger


MANILA, August 4, 2008─The many proofs of good governance and good economy that peppered President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation address last July 28 are far from the truth according to the story of a Carmelite priest.

Fr. Jerry Sabado, O. Carm said the government is responsible in taking care of lives, nourishment and other basic needs of the Filipino children and the Filipino people as a whole.

“But penury, hunger and inhuman living conditions—that’s all that this government can give to the Filipino people,” lamented the priest.

Sabado said that days before Arroyo’s SONA, children in Payatas went hungry. And it was the same, days after the “historical” speech of the chief executive inside the Batasang Pambansa.

“In our church in Payatas, a child lined for the Holy Communion. But the problem is, he [was] not older than seven years old. The child cried when I told him, he [was] not allowed to take the Holy Host because he [has not taken yet] his First Communion. He cried and cried, begging me, saying ‘Father, sige na po! Gutum na gutom na po ako. Gusto ko po ng tinapay’,” narrated Sabado, a priest of the Order of Carmelite and a member of Kasimbayan (Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan) and Promotion of Church Peoples Response (PCPR) in statement sent to CBCP News a day after the 8th SONA last July 28.

The priest said he was moved by the scene. Then he continued his story:

“Last Monday, July 21, there was a huge fire in Pandacan. Some of the victims were Aglipayans. Two children died, unable to escape the fiery blaze, while the mother [was] in [a] long line, waiting for her turn to buy some kilos of NFA (National Food Authority) rice. Not so long ago, there [were] siblings that have died also in the fire, here in Payatas, while their parents [were] working—scavenging in the huge piles of garbage.”

“A small bread can bring a lot of joy to that small boy. How many breads, bags of rice and other food items can be bought and distributed to millions of our poor kababayans, by billions of pesos that were stolen and planned to be stolen by this government?,” asked Sabado.

“There is no moral basis for anyone to remain in power, especially those in the highest position, if their positions are being used to make themselves rich, while the people are impoverishing and dying because of hunger,” added Sabado.

“As a church that promotes life, it is righteous for the Church to join the people in condemning, in the strongest terms, the plundering of people’s money and the abuse of power of those who is in authority,” said Sabado.

He declared it is an un-Christian to remain silent in the face of ongoing corruption, and it is not right for Church leaders to explicitly support Arroyo.

“Gloria is riding over the pro-Life position of the Church, it is rightful that the Church be in front, in condemning the policies and programs of a corrupt president, who’s number one in destroying and in depriving life and dignity to the millions of Filipinos,” said the priest.

He added that as ordinary church people, like any ordinary Filipino, they can feel the impoverished state of the country.

“We will not close our eyes on the immorality of this government. We are with you in fighting and in making the Arroyo government accountable, who untiringly looting the country’s chest and economy and continuously suppressing and massacring the people. On that note, hand in hand, let’s call for her resignation,” Sabado said.

High percentage living in poverty

According to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS), 59 percent of the Filipino families, or 10.9 million people, say they are poor. This was nine (9) points higher than of last year, where the self-rated poverty had only recorded 50 percent.

Meanwhile, Pulse Asia, Inc., said that 66 percent of the Filipino population—or two out of three Filipinos—said that the Philippine economy have worsened, much worse than of 2005.

Still, the International Labor Organization (ILO) says that majority of the Filipinos still live for less than US$2 a day.

What is more saddening, before the SONA, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said more than 11 million children are malnourished.

Poverty due to corruption

In the 2007 Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International, the Philippines ranked 131, meaning that people perceive there is rampant corruption happening inside the government.

Earlier, in the height of investigation of the controversial national broadband network (NBN) deal with the Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited or ZTE, a Chinese company, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a strong Pastoral Statement—Seeking Truth, Restoring Integrity—condemning “the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder” and urging the “President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found.” (Noel Sales Barcelona)(CBCPNews)

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