Mindanao Peoples Caucus
July 19, 2009

Aspiring candidates for the presidency and the senate have started selling themselves to the public, spending millions of pesos to look either “pro-poor” or “champion of the poor” so that the poor Filipino masses will vote for them.
Aside from the paid ads, these presidentiables and senatoriables have managed to squeeze themselves into noontime shows, showbiz talks and whatever opportunity there is for public mileage – again to reach out to the Filipino people and tell them “I am for the poor;” “I am poor;” “I used to be poor;” “my heart is for the poor,” “I will fight for you.”

But the real test for the packaging is not much on what their ads say they are, but on what they have done for the poorest of the poor in this country.

One case in point is the humanitarian crisis in Maguindanao and North Cotabato – constituting the most number of victims out of 745,763persons displaced by the renewed hostilities between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from August 10, 2008 to May 18, 2009, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

The Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s (IDMC) April 2009 report had said Mindanao’s 600,000 IDPs was “the biggest new displacement in the world” out of 4.2 million newly displaced in 2008, higher than the “massive new displacements” in Sudan (550,000) and Kenya (500,000).

As of June 30, 2009, records of the Department of Social Welfare in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Region 12 as consolidated by the Office of Civil Defense, show that a total of 71,662 families or 359,022 persons are still languishing in evacuation centers or with their relatives in the ARMM and North Cotabato.
Of this number, Maguindanao posted the highest at 56,685 families or 286,542 displaced villagers, followed by North Cotabato at 8,384 families or 40,069.

Records showed a total of 339 evacuees have died since August 2008: 19 caught in the crossfire in North Cotabato and 31 in the ARMM. But more evacuees died from ailment in the evacuation centers: 223 of them, the OCD report said. The NDCC casualty figure is higher: 372 have died and 160 have been injured as of June 4, 2009. Of the 372, 109 died from actual encounter while 263 died “due to illness at evacuation centers.”

Many of those died either from mortar fire or from preventable diseases in the evacuation centers were children and babies but did any of our aspirants bother to look their way? Did they send relief goods to these IDPs, these poorest of the poor, some of whom have no more homes to return to?

Walk your talk, Sir, Ma’am: Instead of pouring millions of pesos on paid advertisements, you may want to visit evacuation centers and elicit from the IDPs themselves, what is the real STATE OF THE NATION.


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