Philippines: The Real "Hunger Games"
Philippines: The Hunger for Food and Justice and the Games Politicians Play
By Edwin C. Mercurio
Toronto, November 23 – Movie viewers troop to the nearest theatre today to watch “HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE” the second sequel of the movie now screening in major cities of Canada and the US and showing in movie theatres across North America. But hunger and the games politicians play are real in the Philippines with an estimated five million people affected and 10, 000 people killed by Super Storm Yolanda, also internationally known as typhoon Haiyan.
There are more than 4.4 million people who are sick, injured and hungry in many remote communities in other provinces and islands which have not been reached by aid even today. The death toll is staggering and decaying corpses lie on the streets still uncollected after more than a week. Those injured by flying debris and strong water surges some as high as 2o feet or second story buildings are in dire need of immediate medical attention. International aid and volunteers from different countries have offered their help and medical assistance but the problem is huge. The massive destruction in lives and property is believed to be brought by global Climate Change. The scene in coastal Tacloban City alone depicting houses and buildings destroyed and trees uprooted is second only to a nuclear war devastation.
Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino 111 in a game of numbers dismissed a regional police officer for the initial 10,000 death casualty count while giving a low figure of only 2,500, perhaps, to hide his administration’s ill-preparedness and lackadaisical response to this disaster. Lately, government sources admit the casualty count have tripled than the low figure given by the president.
The rise in the number of casualties, the slow response by the Philippine government, the repacking of donated goods stamped with the name of the Vice President and the disorganized evacuation, relief and rehabilitation efforts have added fire to the already explosive expose’ of government corruption.
The accusation of corruption has also affected the president himself, senators, congressmen and others. Many of these politicians were caught off guard in the web of lies, deception, and public denials on their involvement in the pork barrel scams; of pocketing millions slated for development and livelihood projects for the impoverished population of more than 90 million.
On account of these corruption, Filipinos suffer from the lack of adequate social services, livelihood generation and support, medical needs and benefits, educational assistance, infrastructures and other projects despite the billions allocated for Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel funds which have been misused, abused and pocketed by these corrupt government officials. PDAF is now declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and it is right and proper that these funds should be returned to their rightful owners – the suffering majority of the Philippine population.
Today, thousands of Filipinos thru the initiative of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and media organizations are lighting candles and linking arms in commemorating another kind of hunger. This time, a long sought hunger for justice now four years in the making for the murders of 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre, 32 of the victims were journalists and two women lawyers who were killed in a single day doing their job in Mindanao, southern Philippines.
It has been four years now that justice has eluded the victims of this barbaric crime, their families and loved ones. The crime was committed by a political clan under the watch of the disgraced former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in November 23, 2009. The administration of B.S. Aquino is considered today by media groups to be worse than previous administrations with 24 journalists and media practitioners already murdered in his 40 months as president.
171 cases of Filipino journalists and media workers were killed since 1986, a report from Commission on Human Rights, Philippines (2000 report)
The year 2009 had the highest number of journalists killed, 32 of them massacred in Sharif Aguak town in, Ampatuan, Maguindanao , Southern Philippines on November 23, 2009.
Like the movie “Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” this version involving the second Philippine sequel of children of past presidents (Both Arroyo and Aquino are children of former presidents) also dwell on “the issue of state control, of media manipulation, of income disparity" and an emerging revolution.
Worse, this one tells of a culture of impunity reigning supreme in the country where union leaders, journalists and media workers, ministers and church workers, indigenous leaders, people’s rights and environmental rights defenders are extra-judicially executed by state forces, mafia-like vested interest groups and corrupt politicians.
It also confronts the issue of people clamoring for an end to corruption, the need to address the immediate assistance, relief, aid and rehabilitation of those who are suffering from the ravages of Climate Change, and the immediate need for food, clothing, clean water, and roof under their heads.
Also, on a national scale, the government mandate to put an end to unemployment, poverty wages and lack of government social and medical assistance. Of ending large ownership of lands in the hands of few families like the President’s “Hacienda Luisita” of politicians enriching themselves thru their political clout and position, and an end to foreign domination of the country’s natural and mineral resources, destruction of the environment, a subservient administration and economy, of reviewing and ending unequal treaty rights and trade agreements, and ending the culture of violence and impunity by the state against its own citizens.
Today and the coming days or years, this hunger for justice, for food, for an immediate and lasting solution to our decades old problems will haunt our government leaders.
There are growing embers of resistance and protests everywhere, in almost all sectors of Philippine society. If Philippine politicians continue to play their games, and turn a deaf ear to the increasing clamour for justice, for democracy and the growing anger and protests go unheeded, unresolved satisfactorily and justly… these conditions will one day catch fire with dire consequences.
However, unlike the “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” movie, a cliff hanger ending will not be a good thing to sit idly by and watch.***