11 April 2017. Urban poor groups dramatized the crucifixion of Jesus Christ portrayed by a poor man as he was sentenced to death by PDurtz, Batorte, pro-death penalty Congressmen and Senators, and Mochang Angel because he fought back (Nanlaban)— an emphasis that the poor people are unjustly killed in the war against drugs by saying that they fought back.
Dubbed as “Kalbaryo ng mga Maralita (Calvary of the Poor)”, 3,000 individuals from the urban poor sector on Tuesday marched from Plaza Miranda to the Peace Arch, Mendiola led by seven poor people carrying 7-foot crosses with the following themes:
Stopping Extra Judicial Killings and the Death Penalty,
Reducing the age of Criminal Responsibility,
Uncertainty in the Provision of Housing and Basic Services,
Proliferation of Fake News,
Climate Change and Evictions,
Culture of Fear and Lack of Respect for Women, and
The Decreasing Space for the Free and Critical Participation of the Citizenry.
With them were members of housing rights groups including Urban Poor Associates (UPA), Community Organizers Multiversity (COM), and other organizations like Kaya Natin, Koalisyon ng mga Organisadong Samahan sa Maynila (KOSMA), Ugnayang Lakas ng mga Apektadong Pamilya sa Baybaying Ilog (ULAP), fisherfolk from Laguna de Bay and residents of relocation areas in Bulacan. The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) trained the urban poor actors for the Kalbaryo.
The big march is a reminder to the President and government leaders that the poor people are closely watching and monitoring events under his administration. Poor people feel very deeply that their lives are being sacrificed in the guise of peace and order.
Bernadette Sabalza, President of Samahan Magkakapitbahay sa Slip-0 walked slowly with a 7-foot cross on her shoulder, depicting the present situation — “The culture of killings dominates our communities. The government’s war against drugs makes blood flow continuously in our areas where the number of EJK cases is rising. We have become sacrificial lambs in the guise of peace and order. Our neighbors were never given justice.”
Sabalza added, “We condemn in the strongest terms the return of death penalty, it is the urban poor as usual who will suffer. Because the poor in prison are not able to hire a good lawyer to defend them, it is again us, the poor who will be victimized. We are against drugs and condemn those who commit illegal acts. But suppressing them, especially for us poor, will not happen simply by killing us. We are calling for the President to consider us as people with dignity, poor Filipinos who have human rights under the rule of law, including right to life.”
“Stop the killings! Eliminate the death penalty! We also condemn violence against women and insulting comments which diminish our worth as human beings. End the culture of fear and honor women!”, shouted Sabalza during the dramatization.
Leo Obnamia, the “penitent” who carried the cross with the theme “reducing the age of criminal responsibility” asked, “Don’t you have grand children who are nine years old? Don’t you have brothers or sisters or children who are nine years old? I do! I have a beautiful grandchild who soon after six more years will become nine years old.”
Obnamia reiterated, “If the bill to reduce the minimum age of criminal responsibility of Filipinos is passed into law, our children as young as nine years can be considered criminals. Instead of helping the children and their parents to correct their mistakes, however serious these may be, our legislators are choosing cruel measures to inflict more harm on still immature young children and eliminate any chance of a better future for them. Labeling children as criminals will scar them for the rest of their lives. We should give our children assistance, not imprisonment!”
In a statement, the urban poor groups said, “The uncertainty regarding the availability of housing and basic services continues to contribute to the daily “Calvary” of the urban poor. The lack of decent housing is a blot upon the lives of poor people like us. Our right to decent housing which the government is not providing is a burden we continue to carry.” The group is calling for the government to focus on in-city housing and address the needs of those relocated to distant off-city sites!
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo at the Mass commented, “We are one with the poor in this kalbaryo. The alarming deaths caused by the campaign against illegal drugs frighten not only the poor but the Church itself. To do extrajudicial killings is something that is against the law. That’s a crime. We cannot suppress crime by committing another crime. Surely there are peaceful and humane ways to discourage poor people from taking desperate means to earn a living. Surely users should be considered not primarily as criminals but as victims who need effective rehabilitation programs to be able to contribute to society in more acceptable ways.”
Fr. Robert Reyes, who concelebrated the Mass said, “We shall take good care of one another. We shall protect everyone from harm. Violence and the culture of fear will disunite groups of people towards individualism. People are beginning to be afraid of approaching and assisting their neighbor in need, fearful that they will be accused of coddling addicts or pushers. This is not the society we want to live in — a community of alienation and malice. We should nurture one another to create a community of generosity and tolerance.”
The Kalbaryo also pointed out the issue of decreasing space for the free and critical participation of the citizenry. According to the statement of the urban poor, “People will participate most effectively when they are not forced to agree to a certain point of view, especially if they feel that that view is wrong. It appears that the space for free and critical expression is becoming narrower and narrower.” The group calls on the government to listen to the voices of the poor and to recognize their right to participate in correcting the horrors presently taking place in the country.