YOUTH GROUPS: HYPE WON’T SOLVE BADJAO GIRL’S PROBLEMS
Student-Leaders challenge Aquino, Duterte to address ‘neglected’ IP issues in country
Viral photos of Gabiola, taken while she was begging for alms in the streets of Lucena City, have propelled the young girl to be propelled into popularity. Since then, several personalities and institutions have rushed to shower her and her family with donations and other forms of aid.
SamahanngProgresibongKabataan (SPARK), a national organization of students which engages issues of exploitation and massive inequality in the country, noted several factors which are downplayed by the hype surrounding Gabiola’s rise to popularity.
“Members of the Badjao community, like many other indigenous groups in the country currently face issues of displacement, exploitation and alienation from their very own cultural heritage because of the growing inequalities, violence in their ancestral lands and the destruction of their native environment and livelihood,” said SPARK National Coordinator Arvin Buenaagua.
“As of 2015, data has placed the population of the Badjao community at 26, 400 scattered across Eastern Visayas, Northern Samar, San Bernardino Strait, Capul Island, San Isidro Island and Manila. While they are traditionally a seafaring tribe, some Badjao families have settled in impoverished coastal sections of highly-urbanized areas due to poverty and displacement,” Buenaagua said. “This leaves open the possibility of members of the tribe, especially children and women, to be subject to exploitation and harassment, not to mention the detachment of younger generations to their well-established traditions and culture,” he added.
“The surrounding hype implies that most people only notice IPs when they are ‘photoshoot-material’ and thus, ‘sellable,’” said Alex Castro of NagkakaisangIskolar Para SaPamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA UP).
Castro, currently studying Law in the University of the Philippines Diliman, stressed that the ‘romanticizing’ the plight of Gabiola and her family will do very little difference to the quality of life experienced by indigenous tribes. “Since the passage of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act in 1997, no successful attempt has been initiated to address the issue of poverty and exploitation among these nomadic tribes. Not to mention the disenfranchisement of these groups in policies addressing armed violence and environmental destruction in rural and coastal areas of the country,” she elaborated.
Castro noted that while civil society and individual citizens’ efforts to help the family of Gabiola are admirable, the Philippine government must recognize the societal realities that put Gabiola’s family into such dismal conditions. Castro also noted the fact that education in all levels remain inaccessible to most IPs, with its high cost and discriminatory policies.
“Gabiola’s desire for a quality education is reflective of the desire espoused by all citizens, especially those who see it as a tool for social mobility and self-realization,” said Castro. “We cannot simply address this issue by giving out token scholarships, but by providing free education for all citizens, regardless of where they came from and which group they belong to,” she concluded.
Duterte and PNoy urged to integrate IP issues in development policies
Castro and Buenaagua urged the incumbent Aquino government in its last few weeks. and the incoming Duterte administration to take drastic and immediate action to uplift and secure the lives and livelihoods.
“President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, as the first President to hail from Mindanao, must be very familiar with the poverty and violence IPs have to face daily and therefore should prioritize the integration of their issues in the country’s policies on development and peace,” said Buenaagua. “This entails a departure from the neoliberal policies espoused by the Aquino PDP, which President-Elect Duterte also professed to adopt, putting business interests ahead of the urgent demands of the people and resulting to massive displacement, loss of livelihood and the concentration of wealth to a privileged few.”
Arvin Buenaagua, SPARK National Coordinator – 0915 352 3951
Ale Castro, KAISA Spokesperson – 0906 404 5023
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