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Friday, October 19, 2007

3 million expected to ‘Stand Up, Speak Out’ against poverty

Below are articles on the recently concluded "STAND UP, SPEAK OUT" campaign against poverty, spearheaded by the UN Millenium campaign and participated in by various UN Agencies and their partners both from the government and civil society. From the Information Officer of UNFPA, Dino Subingsubing, the official tally of people who "STOOD UP and SPOKE AGAINST POVERTY" is 7,106,478 Filipinos, more than twice the targetted outcome of three (3) million people.

We sure hope this campaign translates to concrete actions from the government that would actually and directly benefit communities and families living below the poverty threshold.

First posted 05:22:34 (Mla time) October 18, 2007
Tina Santos, Kenneth del Rosario, Vincent Cabreza
The Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Some 2,000 Filipinos, including government officials, teachers, students and soldiers, Wednesday joined a global campaign to end poverty by standing up and making a symbolic pledge at the Rizal Park in Manila.

They pledged to reject not only excuses that allow 50,000 people to die every day because of extreme poverty but also the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

They also urged government leaders to govern fairly, fight corruption and fulfill human rights.

Many of them wore white wristbands with sketches of multicolored human figures.

Organizers in the country expected three million people to stand up and make the pledge -- in parks, government and private offices, schools, hospitals, restaurants -- around the country from 5 a.m. to midnight Wednesday night.

An auditing firm will do a head count and hopefully, a record of sorts will be established for possible submission to the Guinness Book of Records, Agnes Aleman, UN national information officer, said.

The “Stand Up, Speak Out” pledge is part of the UN campaign to promote the Millennium Development Goals that include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and ensuring a sustainable environment by 2015.

“Hopefully, this will encourage our leaders to fulfill their promise,” said Aleman.

Biggest headway

The Asia-Pacific region had more than one billion people living on less than $1 a day in 1990, but that number has dropped to 641 million and is likely to be cut in half by 2015, according to an Asian Development Bank-UN report.

China has made the biggest headway, with one in every three Chinese living in poverty in 1990, compared with one in every 10 today, the report said. But other countries were lagging behind, among them the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“We would like to be one with others in recognizing our effort to fight against poverty,” Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said.

In 1990, about 27 percent of Filipinos lived in extreme poverty -- on less than P1,022 a month -- but this has gone down to 17 percent, she said.

The country’s financial stability and social services, including subsidies for food and medicines, have helped reduce the incidence of extreme poverty, according to Assistant Secretary Dolores Castillo of the National Anti-Poverty Commission

Guinness record

Last year’s “Stand Up Against Poverty” campaign holds the official record title in the Guinness Book of World Records for 24 million people who stood up against poverty in 24 hours in 87 countries.

The Philippines ranked third in the Asia-Pacific region with 2.4 million joining the campaign, after India (9 million) and Nepal (over three million).

By holding fun activities on Wednesday, organizers said they hoped the youth would become aware of the need to eradicate poverty.

Exhibit, rock concert

Apart from the event marking the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty at the Rizal Park, an exhibit was held in Quezon City and a rock concert and cultural show were staged in Makati City.

At the Liwasang Aurora in Quezon City, the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) challenged government officials and policymakers to be “one with the poor” and live with only P41 for a day to “truly experience” what it is like to live on an empty stomach.

GCAP-Philippines said about 68 million Filipinos (more than 77 percent of the total population) were living on only P96 or less a day. Yet, the government claims that the poverty threshold is P41, thus creating an illusion of a reduced number of poor people in the country, according to the group.

“The government is feeding us with words and inaction perhaps because words are the only thing that the P41 per person can afford,” Erning Ofracio, an urban poor, said at a forum attended by some 60 nongovernment organizations.

At the fair, NGOs put up booths selling products of local communities and handing out advocacy materials. The fair became a place for discussions and exhibits on various initiatives aimed at ending poverty.

Poverty Requiem

Poverty Requiem, an artistic performance against poverty that combines visual arts, music and movement, was performed at the Liwasang Aurora.

GCAP-Philippines claimed that the P10 billion in additional budget for hunger and poverty mitigation programs announced on Monday was part of a “publicity” stunt.

“The government’s declaration of it’s six-month war on hunger earlier this year proved to be ineffective, simply palliatives or band-aid solutions to worsening hunger and poverty,” Nora Protacio, GCAP-Philippines Ambassador said in a statement.

She was reacting to a recent survey by Social Weather Stations, which showed that 21.5 percent of Filipinos had experienced involuntary hunger, the highest level recorded in the country.

Notes on dioramas

In Baguio City, everyone walking down Session Road caught a catchy note posted on wire-framed dioramas placed on Session Road on Tuesday.

The note read “Sana magutom din ang Presidente (I hope the President starves)!”

It was one of many notes written by students, vendors, teachers and bank employees who interacted with Baguio artists on the eve of the annual Stand Up Against Poverty campaign.

On Tuesday, sculptor Kigao Rosimo, musician Shant Verdun and performance artist Rene Aquitania shaped ordinary wire into 15 human figures to represent the country’s enduring war with poverty.

They covered the frames with colored plastic sheets to simulate stained glass, and installed the dioramas on Session Road.

Christmas wishes

The artists asked every one who walked by to post early Christmas wishes on the dioramas.

But people offered angry messages against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because of various scandals that have embroiled her administration, Rosimo said.

Foremost among the issues discussed by pedestrians was the money that Malacañang allegedly had given local officials.

“That is cruel. The people are starving yet she is still capable of granting politicians favors,” said a resident.

He wrote: “Tama na! Sobra na! Alisin ang mga corrupt sa gobyerno (Enough! We’ve had it! Remove all corrupt officials from government!).”

Another wrote: “Sana matugunan ng residente ang hinaing ng mga mahihirap (I wish the President can finally address the complaint of our poor people).”

The National Statistical Coordination Board has classified about 50 percent of Cordillera farming families as poor.

Innabuyog, the Cordillera affiliate of the party-list group Gabriela, said sharp increases in Cordillera malnutrition, which was noted this year by the government, confirmed that most poverty-alleviation projects have failed.

The Tuesday event led to a major concert Wednesday at the Baguio City Public Market where country western musicians were to be joined by 500 porters who would speak out against poverty.