UPDATE (Philippines): A villager died due to lack of food and access to medical treatment due to extreme poverty

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform that an impoverished villager died on July 25, 2010. The family had been suffering from lack of food and could not afford to take the deceased to the hospital before he died. After the extreme situation of the family was reported (AHRC-HAG-001-2009), the government authority denied that they were living in hunger and poverty. Following his death the provincial government donated 25 kilograms of rice, and sand for the deceased’s burial. The family testified that they hardly manage adequate food and exist on rice and bananas.

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERTS PROGRAMME
Hunger Alert Update: AHRC-HAU-004-2010

18 August 2010

[RE: AHRC-HAG-001-2009: PHILIPPINES: Landless farm labourers in Davao suffer from hunger and extreme poverty] ———————————————————————
PHILIPPINES: A villager died due to lack of food and access to medical treatment due to extreme poverty

ISSUES: Right to food; health care; extreme poverty
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform that an impoverished villager died on July 25, 2010. The family had been suffering from lack of food and could not afford to take the deceased to the hospital before he died. After the extreme situation of the family was reported (AHRC-HAG-001-2009), the government authority denied that they were living in hunger and poverty. Following his death the provincial government donated 25 kilograms of rice, and sand for the deceased’s burial. The family testified that they hardly manage adequate food and exist on rice and bananas.

UPDATE INFORMATION:

Mr. Faustino Balasa (68 years old) died on July 25, 2010. He lived with his wife, a daughter who is physically and mental challenged and a grandson in Sinayawan village, Hagonoy municipality, Davao Del Sur. Four other children do not live with the parents.

On the morning of July 25, Faustino climbed up a 20-feet-high coconut tree to get fruit as the family did not have rice for breakfast. The climbing aggravated his back pain which he had been suffering for a long time. He went to get treatment at a traditional hilot massage at Leling village where is 8 kilometers away from his home. Since he could not afford the transportation he borrowed a carabao from his neighbor. However, as he was on his way he fell down and this further aggravated his back pain. The pain became so severe that he returned home without getting treatment. The family was reluctant to take him to the nearest hospital fearing that they might be refused because they had no money to pay for the bill. Faustino died in a few hours after returning home.

Faustino did not have a regular income source. He recently managed to earn some money by braiding coconut leaves for a neighbour’s house. He could get 200 pesos (USD 4.3) per 100 pieces. His wife, Nita Balasa sometimes earns 50 to 100 pesos from a laundry. Their total income was usually less than 1,000 pesos (USD 22) per month.

The family has no choice but to ask for help from their neighbors. They eat bananas twice a day and can only afford to buy rice or corn when they manage to earn some cash from roof-making or the laundry.

When the provincial administration was informed of his death, the administration provided 25 kilograms of rice and the municipal administration merely donated sand and cement for the funeral. The rice granted by the administration was cooked for the relatives and neighbors who came for the funeral and helped the family to manage the cost for the funeral.

At present, after Faustino’s death, the family continues to face acute poverty after and the government did not provide them any social programmes to address the family’s situation who lives in extreme poverty.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The local administration denied that Faustino has suffered from lack of adequate food and poverty. When the municipal administration visited the family after receiving an appeal letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission, the administration denied the fact that the family live in poverty facing food insecurity. They stated that what the AHRC reported was not true.

Instead, the administration claimed that as the children have seasonal jobs and mobile phones, the family could not be considered to be living in lack of food and poverty. Visiting the family, the municipality administration provided 2 kilograms of rice for them. It is true that their children have seasonal jobs and mobile phones but in fact, they do not live with the parents. The children are themselves too poor to support their parents.

In addition, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office, Digos City, in its letter dated June 19, 2009, claimed that Faustino is a maintainer of 20 hectare of paddy field, who shares output only by farm preparation, and is separately paid 10,000 pesos (USD 221) per year during the harvest season. On the contrary to what the letter says, Faustino plows about 10 hectares of farmland using a buffalo he rent from one of the landlords in the village for which he was paid 600 pesos (USD 13) per hectare. He had to pay 70 percent of his total income, i.e. 6000 pesos (USD 130), accordingly he only received 3600 pesos (USD 80) when furrowing twice a year. He had never received 10,000 during harvest season. The family was able to grow some vegetables from a small garden behind their house for their own consumption.

Consequently, the administration failed to conduct a field visit based on facts. Furthermore, the municipality administration found that he had five children four of whom were married, whereas only one daughter married. One of the two sons, who lives in Sawata, Davao del Norte, works in a small scale mining company. He sometimes sends money to the parents, but this is erratic.

It is estimated that the family’s current income is 1000 pesos per month. Their daily income is less than 1 USD. When Faustino plows the farmland, he could manage 300 pesos (6.6) more per month, which in no way alleviated the extreme poverty. Simply considered the income, those who live with less than USD 2 a day are identified as living in ‘extreme poverty’. The government cannot claim that the average family consisting of four members in the Philippines as not being poor when they live on USD 2 a day or less.

In the letter, the local administration also says that the village head (Barangay captain) plans to provide livelihood projects in the village. It is learned that Faustino’s family have not received any assistance under the livelihood projects.
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SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please join us in urging the government to provide immediate and positive relief to support the family. The AHRC has written a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food and the Independent Expert on Extreme Poverty calling for their intervention.

To support this appeal please click here:

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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

PHILIPPINES: Please redress the family who lost bread earner living in extreme poverty

Name of the deceased: Mr. Faustino, 68 years old who lives with wife; his youngest daughter who is physically and mentally challenged; and a six-year-old grandson
Date of the incident: July 25, 2010
Place of incident: Sinayawan village, Hagonoy municipality, Davao Del Sur

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the family who lost their bread winner and who are living in extreme poverty.

I am informed that Mr. Faustino Balasa living with his wife, youngest daughter who physically and mentally challenged and a six year-old grandson died on July 25 2010. On the morning of July 25, Faustino climbed up a 20 feet-height coconut tree to get fruit as the family did not have rice for breakfast. The climbing aggravated his back pain which he had been suffering for a long time. He went to get treatment at a traditional hilot massage at Leling village where is 8 kilometers away from his home. Since he could not afford the transportation he borrowed a carabao from his neighbor. However, as he was on his way he fell down and this further aggravated his back pain. The pain became so severe that he returned home without getting treatment. The family was reluctant to take him to the nearest hospital fearing that they might be refused treatment because they had no money to pay for the bill. Faustino died in a few hours after returning home.

I have learned that Faustino and his family did not have regular income source. Faustino did not have a regular income source. He recently managed to earn some money by braiding coconut leaves for a neighbour’s house. He could get 200 pesos (USD 4.3) per 100 pieces. His wife, Nita Balasa sometimes earns 50 to 100 pesos from a laundry. Their total income was usually less than 1,000 pesos per month.

The family has no choice but to ask for help from their neighbors. They eat bananas twice a day and can only afford to buy rice or corn when they manage to earn some cash from roof-making or the laundry.

I am further informed that when the provincial administration learned about his death, the administration provided 25 kilograms of rice and municipal administration merely donated sand and cement for the deceased’s funeral. The rice granted by the administration was cooked for the relatives and neighbors who came for the funeral and helped the family to manage the cost for the funeral.

I am aware that the family’s extremely poor living condition leading to lack of adequate food and hunger was reported in previous hunger alert case of the AHRC. However, the local administration then denied the AHRC’s appeal claiming that late Faustino’s children have seasonal jobs and mobile phones ignoring the fact that the children do not live with parents and even cannot support the parents as being poor as well.

I have also read the letter dated June 19, 2009 from the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office, Digos City that is published on the AHRC’s website. The letter says that Faustino is a maintainer of 20 hectare of paddy field, who shares output only by farm preparation, and is separately paid 10,000 (USD 221) pesos per year during the harvest season adding that what the appeal (AHRC-HAG-001-2009) says is not true.

On the contrary, according to the field visit and neighbor’s testimonies, after rechecking the family’s living condition, Faustino furrowed about 10 hectare of farmland using a buffalo he rent from one of the landlords in the village for which he was paid 600 pesos per hectare. He had to pay 70 percentage of total income, i.e. 6000 pesos (USD 130), accordingly only 3600 pesos (USD 80) was net income as furrowing twice a year. He had never received 10,000 during harvest season. The family gets some vegetables from a small garden behind the house for their own consumption.

In addition to that, I am further informed that only one daughter got married whereas the administration claims that four of the children married. I am informed that one of two sons living in Sawata, Davao del Norte works in a small scale mining company. He sometimes sends money to the parents, which is erratic.

Consequently, I doubt if the administration did conduct a real field visit after receiving the letter from the AHRC with the purpose of supporting the poor family. The officer who visited the family gave only 2 kilograms of rice and left. The administration even officially said in its letter that the family do not live in poverty nor suffer from lack of food. I want to raise a question here on how the government identifies the poor in the Philippines.

It is estimated that the current family’s income is 1,000 pesos (USD 22) per month, daily income is less than 1 USD. When Faustino furrowed the farmland, he could manage Ps 300 more per month, which did not across beyond the extreme poverty. Simply considered the income without adopting Multidimensional Poverty Index, those who live with less than USD 2 a day is identified as ‘extreme poverty’. I am aware that it is one of the indicators in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 2015. Thus, the government cannot claim that average family composing four members in the Philippines as not being a poor live with USD 2 a day or less.

In the letter, local administration also says that the village head (Barangay captain) plans to provide livelihood projects in the village. It is alleged that Faustino’s family had not received any assistance under the livelihood projects.

I am in the opinion that the government authority’s indifference and denial on the poor fails to eradicate poverty and hunger in the Philippines and leads to death such as Faustino’s.

I therefore urge you to provide immediate relief for the late Faustino’s family and pay attention to the poor facing similar difficulties instead of denying them. Please bear in mind that the government of the Philippines has a legal obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as a state party and you are the duty bearers.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

2. Mrs. Corazon Juliano-Soliman
Secretary
Department of Social Welfare and Development
DSWD Bldg., Constitution Hills, Batasan Complex,
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2 931 8101 / 2 931 8107
Fax: +63 2 931 8191
E-mail: dinky@dswd.gov.ph

3. Mr. Enrique Ona
Secretary
Department of Health (DOH)
San Lazaro Compound, Tayuman
Sta. Cruz, Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 711 6744
Tel.: +63 2 743 8301 to 23
Email: etona@co.doh.gov.ph

4. Mr. Zamzamin L. Ampatuan
Secretary
National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)
3rd floor, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI)
Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 927 9838

5. Stephen L. Anderson
Country Director of World Food Programme
5/F JAKA 2 Building, 150 Legaspi St.
Legaspi Village, Makati City, Metro Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: + 63 2 750 2562
Tel: + 63 2 750 2561 / 2 751 9166 / 2 894 2730
E-mail: WFP.Manila@wfp.org

6. The Commissioner
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: mtm_rodulfo@yahoo.com

Thank you.

Right to Food Programme (foodjustice@ahrc.asia)
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)