Recently, Kadamay received a circulating press release from the DSWD stating that “DSWD distributes food packs to former members of CPP-NPA-NDF affiliated groups from Metro Manila, nearby provinces.” According to the press release, on April 22, the DSWD distributed food packs to 300 members of “former groups affiliated with CPP-NPA-NDF.” They are referring to the Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO) and Koalisyon ng Maralita (KnM) in Caloocan.
Kadamay would like to remind the DSWD of its own mandate. The DSWD was established as a national agency to provide assistance for the welfare of the people. It is not within its mandate to use taxpayers’ funds to intimidate residents of urban poor communities and be a tool in continuing attacks on the democratic rights of the urban poor to organize.
Joining legitimate organizations and their struggles for livelihood and housing security is part of human rights and is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. There is nothing wrong with it, no crime, and no terrorism.
The problem is DSWD’s selection of who it should help through a cumbersome bureaucracy and the asking for numerous requirements in the midst of various disasters such as floods, typhoons, or fires, and especially amid the worsening crisis of poverty and hunger.
The crime is the red-tagging of ordinary Filipino citizens who are only calling for their basic rights. The right to housing, job security, and a living wage are enshrined in the Constitution. Instead of addressing the hunger crisis, the DSWD is becoming a tool for violating democracy and state fascism.
Terrorism is the continued state intimidation of ordinary citizens, militarization of communities, and bombing in rural areas. Terrorism is the kidnapping, arrest, and killing of urban poor residents who are just fighting for their rights. And the DSWD, through red-tagging, is a tool of this terrorism.
What we want is peace based on justice with true freedom. The DSWD is not promoting peace by using hunger to silence urban poor residents with meager assistance, coupled with sowing fear through fake “surrender” of unarmed rebels. We are activists, not terrorists.
If the DSWD and the state truly want peace, they should address the root of poverty. The agency can start by providing real services, rather than being a tool of fascism.