Realities further dictate that disaster management goes beyond charity.  Geographical location and biological factors need comprehensive scientific analysis towards coming up of a holistic and responsive approach to the issues and concerns of catastrophes.  Undeniably, the neoliberal regime complicates the matter as “social services” being privatized and self-help (pay your own) pushed as acceptable in light of public-private partnership emphasized by the present dispensation. 

By PROF. MAE ANCHETA-TEMPLA
Davao Today

Last August, I shared comments on an article posted in Bulatlat.com entitled “Beyond Charity: Analyzing Relief Work in the Context of Social Conflict.  I believe the same should be taken up today if only to reflect on and examine the nature of disasters in the Philippines and how the people are responding as they scramble to fulfill their human rights.

It is important at this juncture to highlight two major events within the mainstream social development work involving the three peoples (indigenous, Moro peoples and lowland settlers) of Mindanao.  One involves confronting human-made disasters, where resisting  the unending expanse of large-scale extractive mining results in the extrajudicial killings of the people.  The other involves understanding the phenomenon of recurring natural calamities in an archipelagic country such as ours.

Just like the catastrophe that was Sendong of last year, Typhoon Pablo historically shattered the island’s more than seven provinces and two regions.  While the Filipino people’s disaster management remains dependent on the capacities of the local government units, various multi-sectoral and sectoral people’s organizations have taken upon themselves to employ a comprehensive and systemic approach to the issues of disasters linked to the characteristics of poverty facing the more than 80% of the population.

No, it is not purely a nature’s way of depleting Mindanao peoples’ resources, the vulnerabilities of these communities are more than doubly projected by the incursions of the foreign monopoly capitalists with local cohorts in the bureaucracy through the Mining Act of 1995 and related state policies, thus facilitating the worst scenario in the history of the bleeding island.

But how are local people reacting to this scenario?  I must reiterate that welfare is a basic right.  There are committed individuals and groups who are inclined to do welfare work as they see it as a social responsibility.  Our own values system demonstrates this as we learn it from pre-colonial traditions of bayanihan (collective/communal effort), damayan (look after/help) and pakikipagkapwa (being-with-others/equality/shared identity).  Communal undertaking is an indigenous way of responding to situations of distress, vulnerability and losses as in times of disasters or emergencies in the Philippines that remain intact to most communities in rural Philippines especially.

When people begin to be more involved in the work and start asking questions about the situation, they may be able to raise their own consciousness along with others who may have already reached higher level of awareness.  Thus there are those who remain simple in their acts of charity while others take up more concrete actions on a sustained manner by engaging in collective efforts addressing issues of the causes of disasters in the context of social realities.  Acts of others that remain more of narcissism (egoism) than altruism (concern for others/understanding self in relation to others) tend to block genuine responses to the realities of disasters in the country.

Realities further dictate that disaster management goes beyond charity.  Geographical location and biological factors need comprehensive scientific analysis towards coming up of a holistic and responsive approach to the issues and concerns of catastrophes.  Undeniably, the neoliberal regime complicates the matter as “social services” being privatized and self-help (pay your own) pushed as acceptable in light of public-private partnership emphasized by the present dispensation.

Furthermore, self-help as a notion is placed into a negative frame as the state frees itself of its core responsibility in welfare programs and social services, even if self-help is supposedly a positive value — a sense of empowerment.  State agents exploit this to the detriment of the majority who are facing hunger, malnutrition, curable and preventable diseases, underemployment, unemployment landlessness, land-use and crop conversions, and dislocation not to mention violence against their persons (specifically, women and children).  Assessment of the social impacts of these forms of disaster would lead us not only to welfare system check but to the overall socioeconomic, political and cultural systems.

Sad to say, confounding the welfare system is a framework that is patchwork and localized where DSWD assumes a key role of steering rather than rowing, following a new public management informed by free market ideology, reinforced by undertaking national leadership’s flagships that are inclined to residual approach than to developmental, empowering and liberating perspective in helping such as employing conditional cash transfer, among others.
With this, the people’s resistance is going bolder and bolder is expected.  To what extent and how would others help resolve the social conflicts against this backdrop?

As I speak, a mobilization of sorts is well into its seventh day in Manila.  I  refer to the  Manilakbayan (Journey to Manila) of Mindanao  leaders which commenced last December 3 and is expected to culminate on the day of the commemoration of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, December 10.  This journey led by the federation of indigenous peoples in Mindanao, Kalumaran and the Mindanao-wide network of defenders of the environment, Panalipdan (Defend) Mindanao , seeks to expose to a broad audience at the national and international levels, the issues and concerns of Mindanao with respect to human rights, democracy and social justice.

Manilakbayan is a Mindanao People’s Mobilization for Land, the Environment, and Human Rights that brings voices of concern on mining affected communities and the attacks on environment defenders.  While this bold and daring mobilization aims for the cessation of large-scale mining, introduces people’s mining bill (now in the House of Representatives) and  aspires to halt the accompanying political killings of 35 large-scale mining oppositionists, the reality speaks more of the urgent need to advance the social causes as Typhoon Pablo rushed to the already vulnerable towns that were wiped out, figuratively and literally, erasing heritage of the vast resources the indigenous and Moro peoples.

Prof. Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa is a women and children rights activist, social worker, peace advocate and chair of the Social Work Program of the Assumption College of Davao, Southern Philippines.  Her fields of interest in research include gender, women, children, Moro and indigenous peoples, psychosocial help, community organization, indigenous social work and social administration.  She was a research fellow at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

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