Abusing the people’s tragedy

For a while now, I’ve been at loss as to what to blog. Scenes of devastation and the actual loss of life and property to millions of Filipinos were overwhelming. It didn’t feel right blogging about anything else where almost everything else will pale in gravity. Guilt perhaps, the very fact that I am able to blog in convenience indicates that, unlike majority of Filipinos who are poor, I am “unaffected.” For a while, blogging in the time of crisis reeked of insensitivity. Some people say blogging and online social media networks played a crucial role in the relief and rescue operations. I agree. But then again, the people who need the relief aren’t online, and prolonged online “involvement” seemed to me like a convenient excuse not to immerse with the people and get dirty with the actual operations. Posting and re-posting relief and rescue operations has to translate into actual relief and rescue operations. Many times, especially during the immediate days after the typhoons, they do, as proven by the thousands who flocked to organized relief operations. With an inept and inutile government, private citizens and civilian organizations needed to fill the vacuum in social services. But for how long? Especially when all those volunteers go back to their schools and to their workplaces?

During and after our relief operations, we still have to expose the ineptitude of the government and its causes. We, after all, pay taxes by force of law and thus maintain the system with almost every consumption we make. If the cost doesn’t translate to social services, especially in times of calamity, and worse, makes life more miserable for the masses, why maintain it? I’m posing that as a serious question. Even worse, calamities are often abused by the government and policy-makers to intensify the prevailing order by implementing unpopular and anti-people policies. Naomi Klen calls it the “Shock Doctrine” where government use “the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks ““ wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters – to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.”

A few days ago, I attended a Congress committee hearing on what we all thought to be was a junked proposal to tax SMS messages. Without as much attention as the previous hearings, and with the public focused largely on the relief operations, pro-tax congressmen actually revived the proposal, and even had the gall to use the calamity to justify the additional tax. Other congressmen who opposed the tax tried to junk it altogether to no avail. When more and more observers and media were coming in the meeting, the leadership suddenly decided to suspend the hearing and re-convene in executive session some other time, without all the observers and the media, and the other congressmen who weren’t members of the committee.

Another thing I’d like to point out is the excessive media exposure of American troops in their relief missions. This assistance, I’m telling you is far from selfless. It is a motivated and concerted action to ‘win hearts and minds’. I’m willing to bet that all these will be used to justify the continued implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. It’s all a big public-relations stunt. I’m not discounting the help they have probably extended. Yes, thank you, but it’s not worth our sovereignty. These are but a few government policies that are being rammed into implementation at the wake of the people’s tragedy. There will be more.

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Tulong Kabataan is continuing its relief operations for the victims of tropical storms Ondoy and Pepeng. We’re going to have a Balik Eskwela drive where we would do campus clean-ups and other intensified youth volunteer work to mark resumption of classes in storm and flood hit areas. Click here for more details.

A temporary relief for state universities and colleges

Last Wednesday, the sub-committee hearing the budget of state universities and colleges (SUC’s) unanimously committed to restore the budget to its 2009 level. It means to say that the proposed P3 billion budget cut by the President and the Department of Budget & Management is rejected at the sub-committee level, and the budget for the country’s 110 SUC’s would be back to around P24 billion.

Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino remarked that this is imperative, as the proposed budget has barely any allocation for SUC’s capital outlay. How then can SUC’s affected by the recent calamities rebuild their schools? A few days earlier, the DBM released a statement defending the budget cut in response to several protests launched by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP).

They claimed that the proposed P21 billion budget is sufficient to sustain the services of SUC’s, as they are anyway allowed to generate their own income. What they didn’t say is that this forced income generating policy is done at the expense of students, through tuition and other fee increases. The statement only proves that our analysis as correct, that budget cuts and tuition increases are state policies that harm the future of the youth and the nation.

The motion to restore the P24 billion budget drew cheers from the attending university officials and employees. One state university president, however, remarked that though he was elated by the motion of the congressmen, he feared that it may be another disappointment. Apparently, congressmen, the politicians that they are, have for the past years committed to similar promises of budget increases, only to disappoint SUC’s once the General Appropriations Act is passed. Hopefully, the attending congressmen stay true to their word and maintain the P24 billion commitment–insufficient as it is, is better than the P21 billion budget proposed by the Executive.

It must be stressed, however, that this relief is temporary, as though the sub-committee approved the increase, the same must also be approved by the Committee on Appropriations and the House of Representatives in plenary session. It also has to get the approval of the Senate. Needless to say, it is too soon to be glad about the development.


 

Tulong Kabataan‘s relief effort for the victims of tropical storm Ondoy is still ongoing! You may drop off your donations at any of the donation centers in schools across the Metro. You may also donate via Paypal. Or you may go to our headquarters at 118-B Scout Rallos St., Quezon City for volunteer work. The HQ is near GMA Network’s main offices along Timog Avenue. With your help, Tulong Kabataan was able to hold soup kitchens in some communities a few days ago.

Yesterday, we joined Makabayan’s clean-up effort at Tumana, Marikina. Hand in hand, volunteers helped the residents fill up two garbage trucks of debris. Today, there will be a medical mission in Malate. This weekend, if the weather permits, we will push through with the centralization of all relief goods collected from the donation centers and do repacking and distribution to several affected communities.

Tulong Kabataan: More help needed by Typhoon Ondoy victims

Students are encouraged to participate in the concerted effort to help victims of typhoon Ondoy. They may drop off their material donations at their respective student council’s offices. Many of the universities and schools are conducting their own donation drives. In UP Diliman, for example, the centralized relief operations is at the Church of the Risen Lord, near the UP Chapel and the Shopping Center.

On Friday and Saturday, October 2-3, there will be a centralized collection of all relief goods at the Headquarters of Kabataan Partylist at 118-B Scout Rallos St., Quezon City (near Timog Avenue and EDSA). We will be needing volunteers in the sorting and the re-packing of the supplies.

On Sunday, we shall be distributing the first batch of material assistance to several communities hit hard by the deluge. Assistance from youth groups and individuals is most welcome. You can contact me through this blog, and leave your contact number so we can keep in touch with you.

Also, here is an update on the fund drive being conducted by TxtPower. In a span of 24 hours, from 3:25 PM of September 27 to 3:25 PM of September 28, TXTPower received almost P500,000.00 for a grand total of P581,436.89.

As soon as these amounts are credited to the bank account, TxtPower will immediately turn them over to the Philippine National Red Cross in the form of manager’s checks. They will make the donation for and in behalf of all the donors who contributed via Paypal, SmartMoney and GCash. You may continue contributing to the fund drive by donating through Paypal here. Let us keep this up, friends!

Tulong Kabataan: Help victims of Typhoon Ondoy, donations & volunteers needed

Filipinos now need all the help they can get, especially those hit hardest by rampaging tropical storm Ondoy (international code name Ketsana).

The storm made landfall yesterday in Luzon, bringing endless rains and spawning huge floods in Metro Manila and many parts of Luzon.

Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos are now homeless and an hundreds are feared dead. News of two more storms in the next weeks does not bode well. TXTPower and Kabataan Partylist urges its members, supporters and friends abroad to make donations via Paypal.

You may also donate via SmartMoney (5577-5144-1866-7103) or GCash 09266677163 or 0917-9751092. All donations coursed through the hotlines will be sent to the Philippine National Red Cross. You may start donating by clicking here.

Donations can also be sent to Kabataan Partylist Headquarters, 118-B Sct. Rallos QC.

For more information please contact 0926-6677163 or kabataanpartylist@gmail.com. Volunteers are also welcome. Series of disaster relief activities will be held during the following weeks. Please leave a comment if you’re willing to help in any way.

National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) led the way and is now calling on all student councils to help with the relief drive. For UP Diliman students, you may drop off your donations and other supplies at the University Student Council office in Vinzons Hall. For UP Manila students, you may bring them to the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council office.

[photo above courtesy of Reuters]