PRIORITIZE ENVIRONMENT, HUMAN RIGHTS
Faith groups and civil society organizations urged the aspirant leaders of the country in the coming 2016 Elections to incorporate the issues of the environment and human rights in their campaign platforms by seriously going through the Pope’s encyclical.
“All candidates, even the non-Catholic ones, can learn a lot of things from Laudato Si where Pope Francis succinctly discussed the connection of several environmental issues with the call for social justice,” Ed Garingan Anti-Mining project officer of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) said.
Laudato Si is Pope Francis’ encyclical released in June 2015.
The media conference was the product of a National Forum on Laudato Si and the 2016 elections organized by PMPI and the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA/Caritas Filipinas) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Saturday, April 9, in Quezon City. About 100 church workers and CSO leaders were present.
Kidapawan Violence and electoral gimmickry
“What we are seeing so far for the 2016 electoral campaign is the usual circus. They can do better than this,” said Garingan.
He shared that candidates only talk about the environment and human rights to ride on current controversies and to get votes instead of raising the conversations and sharing their comprehensive platforms on these important things.
One of speakers also weighed in on the April 1 incident in Kidapawan, North Cotabato where El Nino-affected farmers protesting the lack of government support and relief action were violently dispersed by state forces.
“At least three people died and more than a hundred were injured, yet the best we got from most candidates is either finger-pointing on who’s to blame or them riding on the issue to popularize themselves,” Rene Pamplona of the Social Action Center of Marbel shared what happened on Kidapawan clash as an example.
He said that there had been almost zero statement that talks about a clear plan how to improve the delivery of social services to El Nino-affected farmers and how to prevent such widespread hunger to happen again.
“On the part of government, nothing is coming out but false solutions that, in our view, will just ultimately fail. We must remember that this dry spell is not only an issue in Kidapawan and not even just in Mindanao but a national issue. Latest data shows that about Php6 Billion-worth of crops were destroyed, in the first quarter of 2016 alone, because of the drought,” he furthered.
Pamplona, who is the Justice and Peace Desk Coordinator of SAC-Marbel furthered that with climate change, slow onset impacts such as El Nino are bound to happen again and save for a few progressive and sincere individuals and groups, the things our candidates offer so far are photo-ops and blame games.
“Our dream is that our candidates’ electoral agenda must reflect a concrete program of action towards the resolution of problems such as this,” he said.
Leunisse Crisostomo, a youth leader from the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) expressed disgust on the patterns of the 2016 electoral campaign.
“With the things that are happening, we cannot imagine where this will all put us. Without the decisive action of candidates to talk about the important issues, like taking care of Mother Nature and ensuring the people’s enjoyment of their human rights, the future for the younger generations seems bleak,” she said.
All is not hopeless for Crisostomo, however, as she calls on voters to “take an informed decision and never be swayed by the cheap gimmickry” of the candidates.
“As we are asking for the best and most comprehensive platforms from our candidates, we, the voters, should also acknowledge that we have the responsibility to be discerning enough to come up with the right decision come May 9,” she said.
Garingan and Fr. Alex Galo of the Diocese of Borongan also presented a voters’ manifesto that encapsulates the calls of the organizations present.
“Our message to our fellow voters is this: Before we vote on May 9, let us think of the environment and our human rights; think of the forests, the mountains, the rivers, and the seas; think of our farms, our food, our livelihood, and our health; think of how this elections can mean a future that is both peaceful and bright for all of us,” Garingan concluded