Even in the face of growing condemnation from both local human rights groups and international institutions, including the European Union, the Arroyo administration kept turning an unseeing eye to the spate of extra-judicial killings and the growing desperation of the masses that confronted the specter of hunger. In Metro Manila, more urban poor families were forcibly evicted, as the government blindly pushed on with a mega-billion peso railway rehabilitation project.
It is this heedlessness that has increasingly characterized President Arroyo’s leadership, a heedlessness that is primarily marked by arrogance. This heedlessness has been repeatedly demonstrated: by its refusal to do something concrete to end the culture of violence and impunity; by its refusal to provide meaningful changes in the education situation; by its inability to stem the alarming exodus of health professionals; by its continued callousness towards the plight of Filipino laborers, whether locally employed or working overseas; by its forcible eviction of an unprecedented number of families living along the railroad tracks.
In “Murder, She Wrought”, the Arroyo administration’s grisly record of politically-motivated killings is examined within the context of the government’s anti-insurgency strategy. No matter how loud or constant the official denial, the certainty remains: the victims of extra-judicial killings are those who are identified with sectors that are critical of the government.
A life of dignity seems to be unattainable to the majority of the Filipino people. The right to food, a crucial component of the right to life, has been largely denied to the people. Why hunger stalks the poor when the country is supposedly experiencing an economic growth (as is shrilly boasted up and down the archipelago) is discussed in “Hunger in the Midst of Economic Growth”.
If hunger afflicts the nation, then it is hardly surprising if the people’s right to health is also compromised, as detailed in “Health(s)care Philippines”. After listing down the plagues of the country’s health sector, the author caps the article on a positive note: it may not be as scary as that, after all, if only the government seriously gets down to the business of providing adequate and affordable healthcare to its populace.
Another basic right that has been denied the poor majority is education. No one will dispute the fact that obtaining basic education in the Philippines is becoming more expensive. Those who cannot afford the expenses have to make do with education that is way below standards, or drop out of schooling altogether. “Stating the Obvious: The State of the Philippine Education Sector” describes the woes of learning and teaching in the country.
“Without a Roof Over their Heads” looks back at the housing problem in the second semester of 2006. The years 2005 and 2006 have been very harsh to the tens of thousands of urban poor communities in and around Metro Manila, especially those who have made their homes along the railway tracks (riles). These families, already in the extreme peripheries of the country’s economic, social and political life, have made huge sacrifices in the name of development. This time, their sacrifice was made to pave the way for the completion of the Northrail-Southrail Linkage Project, a multi-billion peso priority project of the Arroyo administration.
Development should always benefit the majority of the population. More specifically, development should be designed to benefit those who have less in life. Development should not come at the expense of painful sacrifices, especially by the marginalized sectors. If socalled development projects further derogate the rights of the people and further strip them of their dignity, then no amount of rationalization can make it morally justifiable.
Download the In Focus Issue No. 4.
WE THOUGHT that the Marcos reign of terror and plunder is well behind us. And that we had safely moved past the gluttonous excesses of the Erap presidency. After two socalled “peaceful revolutions”, numerous putsches that went pfft, several economic “take-offs” and more economic crashes, where exactly are we?
We are still in the heydays of summary killings (or extrajudicial executions, popularly referred to as “salvagings”) and involuntary disappearances.
Almost everyday, the news reports another case of murder or the disappearance of a farmer, a labor organizer, a leader of a progressive party-list group, a church worker, a lawyer or a journalist. In previous decades, vigilante and paramilitary groups were notably notorious for sowing terror; this time, the perpetrators are almost always motorcycleriding men wearing helmets or bonnets. If no particular killer can be pinpointed and brought to justice (perhaps because no witnesses are willing to come forward, or because the perpetrators could not be identified beneath their masks), the pattern of execution is too similar to be considered coincidental.
Also not-too-coincidental is the recorded upsurge of human rights violations in areas where