Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Government Hates "Eyesores".

I was with a group of Thais on an exposure visit to Manila. They wanted to learn why it is so easy for people in power to violate the laws that are supposed to protect the poor in the city. They wanted to learn if people with higher income in the Philippines had it in their sensibilities to see the deprivations and alienation of the poor from the standpoint of the poor. It is not just in their own country that they know of poor people's rights being violated. That's the reason they came. To see how poor people in the city fare in this so-called "pearl of the orient seas".

We went to Tatalon, a place near a waterway that the government wanted cleared of urban poor homes because the sight of shanties offends the eyes of investors. For the city to look seductive there should be no "eyesores".

Narrow views on "eyesores". For an introspecting government, success isn't dispossessing the poor of the city. It is identifying how their human potentials are maximized. This was not so in Tatalon.

Entering the covered basketball court, you see 88 families each occupying around 2 square meters for whatever it is they have in life - a kettle, a frying pan, a disfigured basin, old mats, old pails, a few plates a straw sack of clothes. Not much in terms of acquisition which you would think is actually an indicator of success if you were a philosophy student.

As you set your eyes on the different corners of the covered court, you see a number of women sleeping at a very untimely moment of the day. Because they had nothing to do. Because forcibly evicting them from where they were making a living was reducing them to liabilities. And we complain about poor people becoming social problems.

Talking to some people in the covered area, we were told by one mother that the night before bullies in the neighborhood hurled stones on the door of the covered court.
When their men went out to look for the offenders, a man from nowhere hacked at one man's back, the blade of the big knife used fortunately had not cut the upper back portion of the man. But in the end the hacker had succeeded in hacking at the hand of the intended victim and saw the small finger of his left hand dangling like a doll's finger pulled off by an angry toddler. On another night, the previous night,
another group of bullies came near the door of the covered court. When asked why they were there, they angrily retorted that they were the ones being provoked to anger by the language of their eyes. The wife of the leader of the group was in tears when she was relating what happened two nights before.

You wonder how people in power carry out the oath that they pronounced when they took the responsibility of being a public servant. Oaths are taken always in people's name .But these promises remain empty words.

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