• Elitism in the time of Duterte

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    KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO

    The upside to having a President like Rodrigo Duterte is that we are finally weeding out the elitists among us. And I don’t mean those who think that Duterte is so bastos, is so not a statesman, is so not President-material because not disente. No, this is beyond just some good ol’ Liberal Party campaign elitism. This is its more evil, less apologetic, more insidious twin. Elitists who even imagine themselves to be pro-poor, because they feel for them and wish to empower them, because they speak of the plight of the poor and the inequality in society.

    Yet in this time of Duterte, they cannot for the life of them understand why the urban poor might deserve decent housing, and neither do they care to talk about farmers disenfranchised from their lands by big business and oligarchs. In the time of Duterte, they cannot agree to the end of contractualization, neither can they deal with the pro-people rhetoric and policies of the best and most rebellious in his Cabinet.

    These are the same people who stand against the drug war because kawawa naman the poor!

    Apparently one can care about the poor being killed, but not care at all about how they live.

    Duterte does right by the poor
    It was on April 5 when President Duterte, regardless of double speak, told soldiers to let Kadamay keep the idle homes they had taken over in Pandi, Bulacan. Homes that had no running water, no electricity, many of which had no toilets, no doors, no windows. There were no trees in this housing project, the heat was unbearable, the wind carried dust painful to the skin and eyes.

    The urban poor who were informal settlers of Bulacan had seen these idle homes when they went to Pandi for relief goods after a storm. They then decided, as an organized collective that has fought for their right to decent housing, have gone through the processes required by the National Housing Authority (NHA), and have held dialogues with housing authorities time and again, that they would take over these homes that no one cared for – not the intended beneficiaries, not the present government, not the past government that had wasted public funds on homes declared by PNoy’s friend, NHA General Manager Chito Cruz, to be “unsafe and unfit” for humans (Inquirer. net, 28 Mar 2016).

    Certainly, the elite and privileged sector did not care for these homes. That is, until members of Kadamay took these over, and President Duterte did right by them and let them stay.

    Elitism versus Kadamay
    But the claws of the elite were out from the start, insisting that what Kadamay did was illegal, that they’re disrespecting due process. Recently, given media spin and headlines that decontextualize what Kadamay members have said, many have painted them as ungrateful and demanding: they already have homes, how dare they ask for access to water and electricity, and even employment!

    Yet there is nothing extraordinary about the urban poor’s demands. Access to affordable water and electricity is a right, and all of us deserve jobs that are stable and secure. These, along with housing for “underprivileged and homeless citizens,” are enshrined in the Constitution.

    The elitism that has taken over discourse on Kadamay does not care much for rights and the Constitution though, as it focuses instead on a vicious attack on the poor that paints them as demanding, ungrateful, lazy people. Not only is this about a refusal to look at the information already available about Kadamay and its years of engaging with anti-poor government policies, it is also a failure to see how this perspective about the poor is precisely the problem.

    It is this privileged perspective that has allowed for anti-poor government policies to prosper all these years, which is what has brought us to this point. It is this privilege that allows us to spew rhetoric against the urban poor, questioning their collective action and their demands on government, because why can’t they work hard like the rest of us?

    Privilege and blindness
    We forget that “the rest of us” are also born to this privilege, and this includes those of us who could afford to have our rights to education and self-determination respected, because we aren’t worrying about being homeless and jobless, we are not concerned about where to get potable water, electricity, food. We are not paralyzed by poverty, not reduced to a footnote in the bigger narrative of nation.

    It is this privilege that allows us to believe in notions of persistence and ambition, where we assert that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed. Yet for the majority who are poor in this country, equality is an illusion. It is this majority who are born with the odds stacked against them, who suffer through systems that keep them where they are.

    Privilege is what would allow us to see that the injustice against the poor is not about what the poor fail to do, but about the conditions created against them. Privilege teaches us to see beyond our own lives, it affords us the ability to do research, to listen, to learn from lives that we cannot even imagine living.

    To insist that the poor are like us, just lazier, just less persistent, is to refuse to use this privilege towards understanding and compassion, towards seeing bigger pictures and drawing broader strokes. It is only in soap operas and Pinoy melodramas after all that the poor rise from the ashes on hard work and not much else. Privilege equips us with the skills to see this fairy tale from a mile away.

    Elitism is when we choose to be blind.

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    10 Comments

    1. The Kadamay just revealed the corruption of our government and their well-heeled cohorts. It doesn’t make what they did right. Both the Kadamay and the government officials who started the housing projects and left them unfinished and also the process of acquiring housing for the poor are to blame. No one is better than the other. I am tired of people giving excuses for the immoral acts of either the elite or the poor. Many of the poor are lazy, whether we like it or not. My rich uncle wanted to fund the education of his domestic workers and their children. Did they take his offer? NOOOOO. You cannot make blanket statements that the poor deserve decent housing just because they are poor. How would they pay for it? As for jobs, they are not skilled enough and their work ethics are also sub par. Not all of the poor are like that but many of them are. The rich are not less guilty as well. They are greedy and like to control our economy and use their money to fund their lobbies. I consider myself a centrist since I am from the middle class and I have seen how the poor and the rich milk the system. Unfortunately, it is the middle class who pay the most in terms of taxes without getting much from the government. The middle class do not enjoy any programs aimed at them. They do not have tax cuts, good business deals, nor free housing or free healthcare. We always pay our way. No one thinks of us at all. The poor use jumpers. Meralco dumps their systems loss on the middle class. Both the rich and the poor always play the victim card. The real victim of most free societies are the middle class.

    2. I cannot 100 percent agree why the elitist administrations of the past have pitifully produced so much poverty,.Most of the poor are poor BY CHOICE. Now 12 years into retirement, I have the chance to “be” with tenants most of whom are factory and construction daily-waged workers. The fathers spend about 50 percent of their hard-earned money on gin, tanduay, red horse, emperador, billiard, videoke bars. The other half of his salary goes to the wife to pay the “tinderas” who provided their daily viands the past week, not forgetting to set aside an amount for “bingo” or “tong-its.” This situation mirrors a typical poor family. Their children cannot finish grade school. The kids work in junk shops or collected junks in the neighborhood to fill their empty stomachs. TESDA offers free training for employable skills. But these “parent” are too selfish to satisfy their own “wants” rather than the family’s “needs.” And there are professional squatters, too. Aren’t the kadamay’s them? But this kadamay experience must also pave the way for a thorough investigation on the sub-standard housing projects of government. In this kadamay case, who should be brought to the Ombudsman?

      • Leland Sacro on

        Correct Sir. Most of the poor are poor by choice. They normally have more than three children who end up not having any education, and become criminals later on.

    3. Eye opener, “Apparently one can care about the poor being killed, but not care at all about how they live”

    4. Just like what happened to the distribution of hacienda luisita to its poor farmers as decided by SC. 2 aquino presidents have been in power and got 2 opportunities to show act of selflessness and heroism, but they chose to simply defy the law and think about their personal gains rather than to set an example to all serving in the government. What kind of thinking we are instilling to the nation? That great power comes with great greedines

    5. This is the reality of life here in this country.. A never ending desperation and frustrations.. I hope leaders of this country may someday wake up and feel that its enough serving their interest and for once in their life they can please serve really those who needs…

    6. Brilliant psychological profile of the disconnect of the Filipino rich.
      Should be required reading.

      Kudos Ms. Santiago

      • Danilo Agoncillo Federizo on

        Around the world, in rich or poor nations, poverty has always been present. In most nations today, inequality the gap between the rich and the poor is quite high and often widening.The causes are numerous, including a lack of individual responsibility, bad government policy, exploitation by people and businesses with power and influence, or some combination of these and other factors. Many feel that high levels of inequality will affect social cohesion and lead to problems such as increasing crime and violence.