Hunger (A Reaction on the P-Noy's Reaction to the Increase in Hunger in the Recent Survey in the Philippines)

Many Filipino Catholics associate the Lenten Season with days of fasting, specifically Fridays of fasting. It is on this day of the week when Roman Catholics are obliged to take only one full meal a day as a sacrifice in reparation of one's sins, and in unity with the passion and the cross of Christ.

Our Muslim brothers also have fasting in their traditions. They have, in fact, a whole month of fasting in the form of the Islamic month of Ramadan, during which they refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dawn until sunset.

Both of these religious traditions are voluntary, and are often accompanied by prayer and alms giving or charity.

In the Philippines, there is also hunger that is off season. There is hunger that is associated with neither prayer nor charity. This hunger was observed months after the Islamic month of Ramadan, and shortly before the Lenten Season for the Catholics began. Clearly, this is a different kind of hunger.

This is hunger associated with poverty. The Social Weather Station (SWS) recently released the results of a survey conducted from March 4 to 7, 2011, to evaluate the social situation of the country for the First Quarter of the year. The results showed that more people had reported feeling hungry for the last quarter than the previous one, and more people considered themselves poor than in the previous quarter.

In response to the results of the SWS Survey, the Philippine President expressed doubts on the conduct of the survey. He identified the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the rising employment report of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the hiring of more people of the business community as a reason for doubting the survey.

President Aquino is right in saying that he cannot reconcile the survey results with the DSWD and DOLE reports. I myself cannot reconcile these either. But he is wrong to cast doubt on the survey results.

True, chance could have played a dirty trick on the random survey causing the results to be skewed. It is also probable (and I think he is more inclined to say) that someone is trying to manipulate the results of the survey to put his administration in a bad light. It could even be possible that the method employed by SWS had been erroneous even if it had been done in good faith.

Still, I believe that there is a need to investigate.  There is a need to investigate not the survey results for it is pointless to have a consistent sample or a different sample with perfectly the same result.  Instead, there is a need to investigate the reports submitted by DSWD and by DOLE.

The DOLE report on employment and hiring of personnel by the business community should be verified.  He should let go of his bias favoring this report and assuming that it is true only because this is something that gives his administration a plus factor.  Instead, he should check whether the employment opportunities reported are for newly created jobs and positions or these are available because a number of personnel need to be replaced.  If it is the former, all is well.  If it is the latter, then the DOLE did not really create jobs.  Furthermore, he should be alarmed.  There could have been a different motive in doing so that involves the employee's tenure with the employers, and this could lead to a vicious cycle.

A more important item that needs to be investigated is the Conditional Cash Transfer, given the outright release of cash without the necessary control measures in place.  If there has been reported release of cash by the government, then it should have gone to the beneficiary families.  This should have somehow improved the results of the hunger and self-rated poverty surveys of the Social Weather Station.  But the contrary is true; therefore, it is likely that the money that has gone out of the coffers of the government has not reached its final destination.  It could have been somewhere else, and that is what he needs to find out.

If after a thorough investigation of these two things, he finds out that everything reported to him is right, and that there is no irregularity or abnormality in the release of cash, he has, by all means, the right to say and claim that somehow chance played a dirty trick on the random sampling of SWS.  At least, we are certain that the hunger others experienced is not because someone is so full that he has to tickle his tongue and vomit his food in order to eat again.

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