Long-suffering Filipinos have only known poverty since they have had many strongmen as presidents, believing that a man could rule justly with fear and force. They welcomed iron-fisted leaders of the past, hoping they could solve social issues, alleviate poverty and bring justice. That belief has proven to be a mistake. Filipinos were persuaded that “Might is Right,” what a disappointment that has been.
The poor and hungry Filipinos, 26.14 million of them in a population of 110.8 million, deserve a kind, compassionate, caring woman president who will work heart and soul to alleviate the hardship of the poor and lift up the lower middle class. The poor and low-income group, according to a 2015 research, makes up 58 percent of the population. The middle class comprises 40.5 percent and the rich are only 1.4 percent, but they own 42 percent of the wealth. According to other research, the Philippines has the greatest inequality in wealth distribution in Asia.
They need a woman president who understands the many millions of people on the edge of hunger and poverty. A woman with love in her heart and a strong will to serve and bring justice to the poor is the hope of the nation. That woman will not bow to crony capitalism that is controlling the economy and creating poverty. The people cry out in their millions for a woman of wisdom and determination. It is the burning hope of millions of people.
Since President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and ruled with an iron fist, the Philippines has continued to slide into dire poverty. Corruption and plunder grew on a massive scale that caused poverty and hunger to increase. Dissidents, critics, and journalists were killed, jailed, or exiled. The conjugal rule for twenty years of plunder created the roots of poverty until the present.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in 2015, 17.6 million Filipinos were hungry every day. By 2021, the number of hungry Filipinos rose to 26.14 million. The pandemic and lockdowns accounted for some of this increase but not all as the population increased and the poor have large families. However, the trend toward greater poverty has been constant. The poor are ever becoming poorer and hungrier. They are eating less rice and more noodles to fill their stomachs but noodles are of lower nutritional value. Low nutrition stunts the brain and hunger drive children onto the streets, begging and stealing to survive the hunger. There are an estimated 500,000 to one million children roaming the streets of Manila, looking for something to eat every day.
A woman president would have a lot of challenges to deal with. According to government statistics, 16 percent of all families do not have electricity, which means they do not have any appliances. But 82 percent own a television and 64 percent of families have a mobile phone. That means more or less 26.14 million living in tiny shacks, 10 by 29 square meters, watch television and have access to social media.
While eating flavored noodles from paper cups or rice and soy sauce once a day, they can be influenced by hunger and empty promises of relief and social services on social media and election propaganda. With hunger gnawing at their stomachs, they are likely to take the thousand or more pesos payment (approximately US$20) to support the vote-buying candidates. They are the multi-millionaires that spend ill-gotten wealth stolen from the people. Unfortunately, they can buy the election. The elite will always remain in power. So it is possible that the ruling elite and their dynasties let the poor stay poor and desperate so that at election time, the poor will always take the money and out of a false sense of gratitude, ‘a debt of honor’ (utang na loob) they will actually vote for the candidate who pays them. After voting, they will receive another payment.
The poor need a caring mother president to lift them once and for all out of this dire poverty. They are the ever-present pool of low-cost labor for construction, street cleaning, and so on. They live on the streets and eat pag-pag most of the time, begging, selling junk, or sometimes selling their teenage daughters just to survive, reprehensible as that is. Pag-pag is the recycled leftover, half-eaten food from the plates of diners in restaurants. It is collected, boiled by street vendors, and served as a meal to the very poor, it is a real treat.
One in every four poor families lives in a shack in slums and has no sanitary toilet, no electricity, and eats only once a day. They live in dire poverty in a rich and prosperous nation blessed with vast natural minerals and other resources, which benefits the super-rich that lives in the towering condominiums overlooking the poverty-stricken slums. The well-off drive on elevated highways, above the stinking hole of poverty and suffering, a quagmire of sickness and death. Poverty has also driven many teenagers to drop their studies and look for work but there are few jobs and many turn to prostitution to get money and clothes and gadgets.
The elimination of poverty through equality-creating policies should be one of the most important goals of any government where the power and energy of a nation are entrusted to the leader who will ideally work for the common good, the prosperity and well-being of all the people as a nation. A good leader will work for greater equality and justice, provide access to quality education and protect the rights and dignity of all people to education and well-being, especially that of women and children. A loving woman can best fit the daunting job of president.
Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.