[Statement] Priest Inspiring Workers to Access DOLE’s CAMP, Intimidated by Police Forces -CTUHR

Priest Inspiring Workers to Access DOLE’s CAMP, Intimidated by Police Forces

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9 )

“Fr. Gerry Jorge is simply living out Jesus’ mission in helping the needy. He should be commended, not intimidated by police forces. When the poor workers are in limbo about the government’s assistance program, then it is his responsibility as a parish priest to create the way for them. What is wrong with that?” says Daisy Arago, Executive Director of Center of Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR).

This is CTUHR’s reaction when they heard the news about the Mariveles local police intimidating Rev. Fr. Gerry Jorge of San Nicholas de Tolentino Parish in Bataan in connection with the workers’ mass filing for DOLE’s COVID-19 Assistance Measure Program (CAMP) last April 24,2020.

On April 27, 2020, Fr. Gerry Jorge was informed that the Mariveles PNP Chief was looking for him for allegedly “agitating” the workers through social media regarding their application for the P5,000 financial assistance of the Labor Department.

The Mariveles Ecumenical Workers Desk (MWED) – a parish-based program under the Social Action Committee, launched a petition thru Facebook on April 24, calling on workers who haven’t received the assistance from the DOLE to file en masse. Support for mass filing poured in and the desk was able to assist 632 individuals in filing their applications. MWED is currently assisting the processing of 10,000 more CAMP applications.

CTUHR is seriously alarmed by the police’s reaction. A population without income, livelihood, and hungry do not need agitation to cry out loud. “We condemn this act of local police as it imposes a threat, not only to the priest but to anyone who uses social media to air their grievances and criticisms to the government. Much more, in this difficult time with the pandemic, the intimidation is uncalled for as it adds to the burden of the most affected,” added Arago.

CTUHR knows Fr. Gerry who has a big heart for the workers and thanks to his initiative in setting up Mariveles Ecumenical Workers Desk to help workers, particularly to claim the aid that the government has promised. This, for CTUHR, is simply an act of compassion. Using social media, Father Gerry was able to foster unity among the workers to fight for their rights and welfare.

When the Pandemic COVID-19 hit the country, Fr. Gerry was relentlessly working on finding ways on how he can help the workers. Through the MWED, he was able to hear the grievances of the workers of the Freeport Area Bay (FAB) – an industrial enclave in Bataan comprising different companies for exports that employ 44,000 workers. Most of the companies operating in the FAB are in the garments and electronics sectors. The workers reported that they haven’t received the government’s promised assistance, as many of the companies have not applied for DOLE’s CAMP for unknown reasons.

More than a month into the ECQ, thousands of workers still have not received any assistance. CTUHR pointed out that the government’s incompetence and its militarist approach in handling the public health crisis deepen the burden of the poor. It added that the government should remove its bureaucratic processes that further delay the aid to the people. “As ECQ is extended, more people will go hungry and find means to survive. Threatening, arresting, detaining or killing them will do no good, but will only heighten the problem,” CTUHR ended.

28 April 2020
Daisy Arago
CTUHR Executive Director
Tel # 0961 507 1418 / 7718 00 26

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