Carvajal: ‘Maayo pang basura’

“Maayo pang basura, naay dumpsite. Kaming gidemolisan o gibaharang demolisan og balay, walay relocation site.” The urban poor housewife did not quite succeed in hiding her anger and holding back her tears when she lamented in a Cebu City Council session about her group’s sad and deplorable predicament as a result of Mayor Michael Rama’s Gubat Batok sa Baha and Singapore-like fantasy.

What immediately came to mind were Christ’s words in Matthew 8:10: “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” If, as we Christians believe (or do we?) God resides in every man, woman and child, Jesus would likely say today that the Son of Man has no relocation site to build a house on, no market stall to make a living on.

It is a sad commentary on the Christian morality of government officials who launch their election campaigns with a holy mass yet once in office are able to sleep soundly after demolishing houses and stalls and leaving owners and stall holders to their own devices in looking for places to build a house on and make a living on.

Sadder still that government officials swear to uphold the Constitution yet violate, without batting an eye, the provision that bans demolition of informal settlers’ homes without proper compensation and relocation. Worse, it is arguably a willful violation as they have been reported to resort to subterfuge to avoid compensating and relocating their victims.

Gubat Batok sa Baha definitely helps secure the city from being devastated by floods. But does the price have to be the demolition of poor people’s houses without just compensation and proper relocation?

Cleaning up the city’s sidewalks without a clear plan to relocate their unsightly obstructions, namely sidewalk vendors and homeless folks, is morally and legally unconscionable for leaders who profess to be Christians and who swore to uphold the Constitution and its laws. Street vendors and homeless folks are people not flies you can just shoo away.

Public office is public trust. Government officials have the duty of enabling citizens to find jobs so they can house, feed and educate their families. Obviously, they are failing to do this. Thus, I find it hard to understand why instead of being thankful to small market and street vendors for helping themselves by selling in Carbon or on sidewalks, City officials instead drive them into joblessness by simply (without alternatives) driving them away from their places of work.

It is bad enough that the neo-liberal capitalist system inherently makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. It simply blows my mind that Cebu City Government officials willfully push the homeless, jobless or otherwise minimally earning poor further down towards poverty by depriving them of their homes and livelihood.

She was right to make the lament that sa Cebu City maayo pa ang basura kay naay kabutangan, ang mga tawo wala.