June 8, 2020
Today’s programme says that I am supposed to give an inspirational message. Instead, I will share with you some of my observations and analysis, and ask you to draw strength and inspiration from each other as we face these daunting challenges. More than ever, we need to stay strong together.
We are in deep trouble.
The virus continues to threaten us with death. The resulting economic crisis threatens us with hunger. The political duplicity and deceit threaten our freedom. All of these threaten the very future of our children and their children.
The virus threatens to stay longer, if not forever. Those in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental are relatively luckier. Of the 18 highly urbanized cities in the country, CdO has the second least number of cases. We can therefore say that the chances of getting infected here are also less. But how about our colleagues and partners in the Bangsamoro, in Caraga, in Metro Davao, Metro Cebu, MetroManila, the US, South America, Europe and many other places hit hard by the pandemic?
As of the first week of June, DOH has reported more the 23,000 cases and more than a thousand deaths. This is way beyond the projected maximum number of 460. The global figures are even more alarming with 7 million cases and close to half a million deaths. And the numbers continue to rise by the hour.
The lockdowns caused the closure of thousands of businesses. By April, unemployment soared to 18%, which means that at least 7.3 million Filipinos are jobless. In the Bangsamoro Region, the unemployment rate is 29.8% which is almost a third of the entire population.
The OFWs who have helped us survive the past financial crises are coming home jobless because of the virus. As of 2019, there were 2.2 million OFWs sending at least P500,000,000,000.00 every year. More than half of this amount is in danger of being lost this year.
Most of those who lost their jobs and incomes will go home to their local communities, and add to the increasing number of relatives and neighbors who have also lost their jobs, incomes and livelihoods.
We are in the brink of economic collapse.
As if our health and economic problems are not enough, this government now threatens to deprive us of our human and civil rights by surreptitiously passing the Anti-Terror Bill. If this becomes a law, peace and development workers and advocates could be among the first to suffer its brutality – surveillance and arrest without warrant, detention without charges, and most dangerously, its chilling effect that could silence and immobilize us into submission to a tyrannical regime.
What do these realities tell us? We are called to continue the work of accompanying people and communities as they struggle to survive by using alternative, creative, appropriate and liberating approaches, responses and interventions.
How will our current programs and projects concretely respond to the signs of the times? Our interventions are expected to be sensitive and responsive to these challenges. This requires groundedness, critical thinking, courage, tenacity and commitment to our vision and mission.
All is not lost. There is hope.