Time for President Duterte to address the causes of poverty, not just the effects
By Monica Lunot Kuker
My mother used to lament, “Tapos na ang bagyo bago nagsuhay.” What she meant was how damage from typhoon has already happened before preventive action is taken.
She may as well be talking about the current circumstances in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte. Like the storm surge Yolanda that struck the Visayas in 2013, the threat was greatly underestimated. The death toll was higher and damage to property was unimaginable because the country had no idea what was coming.
Many Filipinos have this attitude where we take for granted things that we assumed will not affect us greatly or will not affect us immediately. Take our health, for example. We just shrug our shoulders when there is a reminder for us to go see a doctor. “Malayo sa bituka.” (Far from the gut, not yet serious). Until we find out it’s cancer, it’s spread at Stage 4 level, and it’s too late.
The people who voted for Duterte can barely recognize how huge his impact is on the country and what is coming at their doorsteps. Until they actually happen. Barbaric killings of suspected drug users and pushers are now the norm, and some Filipinos find glee from the gory media accounts like they were watching a telenovela or the gladiator sport of boxing. Crimes are never resolved by committing another crime.
Extrajudicial killings (EJK) – or the killing of crime suspects without abiding by the rule of law – is being pursued by the Duterte Administration in its all-out war on drugs. Duterte denies the police are being ordered to ‘eliminate’ drug suspects, but seems to justify this approach as his government’s response to the “drug crisis” and the start of “change” coming to the country.
Filipinos truly long for change and see drugs as a social ill that previous administrations have not been able to address fully. What some people fail to understand is that this is only one part of the many problems the country is facing.
To be blunt, EJK is lazy and ineffective. Clearly, poverty is the root of the country’s social problems. Unless Filipinos find jobs to support their families, and corruption in government is put to a stop, gruesome killings are nothing but a ‘band aid’ to a decaying wound.
Threat to labor
Another threat that is killing the working class is contractual labor.
President Duterte promised to get rid of this form of modern-day slavery during the campaign. He vowed to “immediately stop” contractualization within the first week of his administration, but nothing seems to be moving. Laborers continue to work under circumstances where they become vulnerable to contract termination after six months and are not paid correct wages or offered benefits. The sad fact is that a majority of Filipinos are passive, and are ignoring the high rate of labor inequality being perpetrated by their government, past and present. Cries against the twin dangers of neoliberalism and fascism continue to ring true to this day.
The sufferings of the masses never end.
Now they are moving targets in the war on drugs. What we are seeing is a nasty and gruesome bloodbath where gunmen don’t care if they kill a five-year-old boy as collateral damage, or a mother out to pick up her child from school.
The killings continue with very little condemnation in the country. No one seems to be holding Duterte accountable for all these deaths – almost 6,000 people killed since he became president, according to a December 16, 2016 report from Al Jazeera.Social media is now the arena of savage debate and misleading stories to promote opposing agendas. Fake News is the new weapon.
This coming new year will be challenging to Filipinos who are here in the U.S. and in the Philippines. With President-elect Donald Trump who is well known of promoting hate like his Philippines counterpart, we need to act collectively and boldly to prevent further violence or the possible annihilation of mankind.
Monica Lunot Kuker is an artist, nanny, and activist. She illustrated the children’s book “Manny and the Mango Tree” available on Amazon. Her paintings are on Facebook under Mona Lunot-Kuker ART. She lives in Forest Hills with her husband Steve Kuker.