Between food and freedom, jobs and justice – (Ang Kalayaan para kay Atty JBJ)

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Source: DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT By Atty Josephus Jimenez

We are about to celebrate our Independence Day once again. But there are millions of Filipinos who are jobless, homeless and hopeless. Are these poor people really free? What do they care about political issues like the sovereignty of the Republic, if there is no assurance of food for their family today? What matters most to them is to have food and let the elite argue about freedom, to get a job and let the rich talk about justice. The poor are even willing to accept dangerous, difficult, dirty, degrading and deceptive jobs if such would assure them a kilo of rice and a can of sardines.

The poor do not mind at all if the Chinese would take possession of the Scarborough Shoal, for even in uncontested territories, these marginalized people do not even have a few square meters of land where to build their dwelling. The poor do not care about international issues and global concerns. What bothers them are the hunger in their stomach, the diseases that gradually consumes their half-naked bodies, and the storms, floods and typhoons that would expose their loved ones to the mercy of nature and the elements. Half naked children are roaming the streets. Thousands of drug addicts and prostitutes, holduppers and beggars are in every corner of the metropolis. Sisa, Crispin and Basilio are still around. The social cancer continues to beset our nation.

The government is trying to raise wages and appoint more labor inspectors to examine the company payrolls, look at issues in the factories that affect workers’ health, safety and welfare. But if these initiatives would only drive away investors, kill the small scale industries and unduly raise the expectations of the working class, all these shall amount to naught. If higher wages would only raise inflation rates, increase the prices of prime commodities and exacerbate the unemployment problems, then are we really creating solutions or merely complicating the problems? The poor don’t care about Gross National Product or economic growth rate. It matters not to them if the approval rating of politicians rise or go down. All they need is a cup of rice.

To the poor who are not even assured of a decent dinner tonight, much less a breakfast tomorrow, issues about politics, global or national, are immaterial and impertinent. They do not care who shall be appointed Chief Justice. They do not give a damn on whether or not the SALN Law and the Foreign Currency Deposit Law are amended. They have no faith anymore that real, substantial changes would come about. They are sick and tired of government. They have grown suspicious of and even antagonistic to politics and politicians. The hunger and the anger in them are making them less humane and more embittered.

The politicians, who are merely using the people for their own aggrandizement, have started to change political colors, have taken their oath before the next most powerful party, and have prepared their sons, daughters, wives or husbands to take over their claimed political dynasties. They treat the cities, provinces and towns as if these are family corporations where posts and pork barrels are bequeathed by intestate succession. These callous men and women who have not done a little to address the fundamental issues of poverty, have devoted their time and efforts on petty politics attacking other political dynasties over their claimed turfs and domains.

Meanwhile, the poor have no jobs. What do they care about freedom? These social outcasts have no jobs. What do they care about justice? When Independence Day is celebrated, they will remain without homes, without hopes. The national anthem does not inspire them anymore. The flags that are wasted in streets and halls would be better utilized if the money was used to buy rice to feed the hungry, or medicines for the dying, a few pencils for the pupils in the mountain villages. Independence Day has lost its meaning. With hunger in their stomach and anger in their hearts, the Filipinos are not free. What then is there to celebrate for?

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