Hold the Aquino government accountable over rights violations and neglect of disaster victims’ welfare!

Child rights advocates from the Save our Schools network supported the victims and survivors of super typhoon Yolanda’s (Haiyan) continuing call to hold the Aquino government accountable over its neglect to adequately respond to their needs. A year after the typhoon struck parts of Visayas, survivors still clamor for justice and continue to demand government support.

The slow-paced rehabilitation of hard-hit areas plunged survivors into deeper poverty. According to research group IBON, 8 out 10 of those who managed to have work are earning less than PhP 5,000.00 a month and some 780,000 families have no livelihood support while some are just relying on efforts of non-government organizations (NGOs). Meanwhile, the National Housing Authority (NHA) has finished only 500 out of the 205,000 houses, belying claims of the Department of Social Welfare Secretary (DSWD) Dinky Soliman that no more refugees live in tents.  Children’s education is likewise gravely affected by the inept response of the Aquino government. Classes are still held inside makeshift classrooms and the Department of Education (DepEd) is planning to finish rehabilitation of classrooms only by June 2015.

Save our Schools network spokesperson, Madella Santiago, questioned the very few outputs of different government agencies “It makes us wonder why government outputs are surprisingly this small of a fraction vis-à-vis their own targets. How did they utilize the almost 1.2 billion pesos local and foreign donations, claiming to have spent a big amount and only has a balance of almost 99 million pesos as of October this year? Most survivors say that they have not felt these resources, and that after twelve months since the disaster, they still live in dire poverty.”

Aside from the injustice experienced by typhoon victims and survivors, the network also demanded justice for other forms of disaster that the Aquino government has caused the people, especially children. Santiago explained, “Indigenous peoples and peasants are continuously facing man-made disasters brought about by heightened military operations in rural communities. Like the victims and survivors of typhoon Yolanda, the government has long neglected the welfare of rural children and communities by denying them basic social services such as health and education. Adding insult to the injury, they are victims of human rights violations perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its para-military groups.”

Santiago cited recently reported cases of harassments, strafing and successive firing, affecting Lumad schools in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and burning of another school and corn sheller in San Agustin, Surigao del Sur that disrupted the schooling of almost 900 students and led to the forcible evacuation of Manobos. “It is infuriating because these violations are manifestations of the AFP’s utmost disrespect for children’s rights and other human rights. While it pains us to learn about these violations, it angers us that the Aquino government seem unresponsive to the call to pull out military troops in schools and communities. It enrages us more that rights violations persist because of the Aquino governments brutal Internal Peace and Security Plan aka Oplan Bayanihan,” added Santiago.

The Save our Schools network vowed to strengthen its advocacy for the welfare of children, especially children’s right to education and genuinely peaceful communities. “We will never forget Yolanda and we demand justice for the victims and survivors! We will never forget the children whom the government have neglected and continue to neglect, disaster after disaster and we are crying for justice with them,” concluded Santiago.###

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