“Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten, nor the hope if the poor be taken away.”
In one of his speeches, His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino, III, said “mula ngayon hindi na ang tao ang mag-aantay ng relief. Ang relief ang mag-aantay sa kanila.” (henceforth, people will not wait for the relief goods, the relief goods will be waiting for them) or something to that effect. A few days after “Pablo” struck, Mindanao was awash with relief goods from many countries, not to mention cash donations.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines is concerned that to this day we continue to receive reports of hungry communities of survivors. The actions of the survivors to bring their plight to the public is an act of desperation that is certainly a cause for genuine concern. We have received reports of continuing suffering affecting a total of 6.2 million people in varying degrees. It is understandable that they have taken initiatives in the last several weeks to demand attention. We only need to recall the people’s clamor in many parts here in Luzon and the Visayas when we ourselves were hit by disaster not so long ago to know the clamor of the survivors in Mindanao is for real.
Let us not divert from the main issue of hundreds of people going hungry. We urge national government response with dispatch. People are still waiting for those relief goods. It does not help at all to wait for some master list at this stage. It does not help at all to subject survivors who led the cry for attention to legal suits. It does not help at all that certain television commentaries suggest that the survivors and or their leaders are leftists. We thank God for decent people of faith-based communities who know better than to qualify whom to serve in disaster-stricken communities. We do not ask survivors or hungry people to be accountable. We ask those who claim to be at their service to be accountable.
The NCCP appreciates the relationship between the opposition of indigenous peoples and local governments to legal logging and massive resource extraction and the disasters in Mindanao. The NCCP also sees the relationship of these to human rights violation, extra judicial killings and the never ending presence of a large contingent of military forces in Mindanao. What is taking place is not economic development. What is taking place is plunder, the irreversible loss of our patrimony, and the senseless killing of people.
It is our prayer that the survivors of the disasters in Mindanao will not be forgotten. We pray that they will not be seen as statistics to promote political ends. We pray that their needs will be responded to the full extent we are all capable of.
These survivors, too, are the face of Christ.
Rev. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr.
The Most Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana
Obispo Maximo XII, Iglesia Filipina Independiente