Poverty: Which caused what?

Bulan Observer, another site managed by Bikolanos from Sorsogon, has an interesting post about poverty. The author, Atty. Benji provokes his readers by asking as to who should be blamed for the poverty in the Philippines. In the process, he said, the culprit is corruption in the government and the government officials in general.

A few years ago, when the family planning program was still on the drawing board, the government and the Church debated as to which is which: Poverty caused population, or, population caused poverty? In the course of the debate, reference was given to Malthus who was popular for postulating that population grows exponentially as opposed to the resources particularly the food supply. Malthus’s theory was even tweaked to suit the debaters’ positions that over-population causes poverty and vice versa. Pero dahil masyadong epektibo so debate kaya hanggang ngonyan, bahag an buntot kan gobyerno na mag-implementar ki tunay na family planning program. That, of course, is another story.

Going back to the original issue as to what really is the cause of poverty, there is one thing I can say: It’s like the chicken-and-egg question with the accompanying rooster and the nest. On one hand we have the government, and on the other, the people and then we have the Church.

Whether the version of Rosseau or John Locke is to be believed, the people and the government are, no doubt, bound by a social contract wherein the government existed to serve the people and the people, in turn, are bound to respect the government and pay taxes or contribute resources for the government’s existence. The problem, a few individuals in the government became greedy. They became corrupt until corruption became a virus. By their silence, the people seemed to have allowed the virus to spread. Sa ngonyan, talamak na ta maski an pinakahalangkaw na puwesto, dai na libre sa iskandalo na dulot nin korapsiyon.

To give moral legitimacy to corruption, the Church also had her part. For instance, during the Marcos-Aquino presidential elections, Cardinal Sin was at the forefront saying: Ang pera sa bulsa, ang boto sa balota. In a way, this simply means that it is alright to get the (vote-buying) money as long as the voter votes for his/her choice.

This was further strengthened when the high-ranking members of the Church admitted accepting money from PAGCOR, or money from gambling operations. Some even said that as long as the purpose of the money is for some “good”, it is just alright to accept money even if it came from evil. This logic simply shows that it is just proper to be a corrupt government official as long as the proceeds of the corruption will be given to the public.

But more than the strengthening of the culture of corruption, the Church also has a role to play in strengthening the culture of poverty. Intentionally or not, she had been espousing a mis-contextualized Biblical passage “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Garo su ama na tinatapik-tapik an abaga kan aki tapos sinasabihan “Ayos lang an noy. Tutal, maduman man kita sa langit”. In the proper context, though, poverty should not be with a child of God. Again, basing from the Bible and even the Q’ran, man was created in the image of God. And God is not poor. As a matter of fact, God gave man the authority over everything on earth. Man can utilize that, etc., etc.

Of course, to be blamed also are the people. They accept things without questions. And they treat alleged authorities with pure reverence. Just like their treatment for the government. Just like their treatment with the Church. Otherwise, another people power uprising should have transpired even without the leadership of the Church.

Now which caused what? Actually it’s an interplay of different factors and actors. If there is an appropriate description, it’s a SALAD actually.

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2 thoughts on “Poverty: Which caused what?

  1. As far as I remember, before the Marcos regime, corruption was not that rampant. I remember, that several months before the election, there was this party convention, (Nationalista or Liberal). My grandfather, Saturnino Benito, one of the members of the party, never failed to attend these conventions. And as far as I know, each member contributed a rather big sum of money to be used by the party during the campaign. So, there’s the picture, why government officials are not that corrupt. Unlike today, the candidates pour out personal money, and worst , money from illegal means ( kidnap for ransom, juetengs, and even drugs) which they spend during campaigns, knowing that they’ll get back their money plus interest. Poor juan, he suffers because of these corrupt officials. Oh there are so many of them, from the highest official down to the lowest rank.

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