“We want Pope Francis to know that there is still no justice here in the Philippines especially for us farmers,” said Maria Elena Sabillano.
Sabillano, 58, came all the way from Coron, Palawan to bring land reform issues to the country’s capital for the Catholic Church’s highest leader’s arrival.
Sabillano, along with 29 other farmers from Coron, joined yesterday’s Pagsambang Bayan (People’s Mass) to welcome and pray for the safe arrival of Pope Francis in the Philippines. Dubbed as Salubong ng Mamamayan (People’s Welcome), various people’s organizations and Ecumenical Church leaders came together at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila in the morning to celebrate the arrival of the Pope. Marginalized sectors including workers, peasant, urban poor, indigenous peoples, government employees, women, youth and human rights organizations led a liturgy depicting the situation of their sectors.
The Pope is here for the poor
“We hope he sees the true plight of the urban poor,” said Marites Bacolod, spokesperson of urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) Metro Manila.
Bacolod is among those who suffered harassment and lost her home in the demolitions in Corazon de Jesus village in San Juan City in 2011 and 2012.
“Our suffering continues, we are deprived of our rights to proper housing and basic social services”. added Bacolod.
[quote_center]Our suffering continues, we are deprived of our rights to proper housing and basic social services [/quote_center]
Eduardo Gado, 45, a worker from Toyota who was illegally dismissed in 2001 along with 236 others, is also hopeful that the Pope’s visit will give conscience to the worsening situation of workers in the country. Gado lauds the pope’s pro-labor messages and his clear stand that a person must have dignity with work.
“Fourteen years have passed but there is still no justice for us workers who lost our jobs while Toyota remains unaccountable. Contractualization has also caused many regular workers to lose jobs and worsened the economic situation of so many workers,” said Gado.
Kenneth Del Villar, a 21-year old seminarian from the St. Clement Mission Seminary of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer said that the Pope’s arrival to see the real situation of the people in our country inspires him to continue his vocation.
“We should go out and see that poverty is still widespread and corruption is still rampant in our country. Church people should unite with the poor and struggling people,” said Del Villar.
Del Villar and fellow seminarians have tried to see the pope as many times as they can since the High Pontiff arrived in Manila on January 15. They have joined the thousands of Filipinos who waited in the streets to catch an average 10-second glimpse of the Pope as his convoy passed by.
“The Pope’s dedication to the poor is inspiring and I promise to continue serving the people as a missionary,” Del Villar added.
Father Ben Alforque of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) emphasized that the Pope is here for the poor. Fr. Alforque recounted that the Pope clearly favored since his election in 2013. Explaining in an audience with journalists in Vatican City in 2013 why he chose the name Francis (after St. Francis of Assisi), the Pope was noted to have said: “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.”
“Only the poor can understand what it is to have a better life because of their poverty. Only the victims of violence and injustice will understand what it is to have a peaceful and just life,” said Fr. Alforque.
‘Overkill’ security preparations
Meanwhile, Fr. Alforque raised concern over the security preparations for the Papal visit.
“Why does this government welcome a man of peace with militarization?” Fr. Alforque questioned.
About 50,000 police and military troops were deployed to secure the pope. The metal barriers fencing off the sidewalks along the route of the pope’s convoy were fortified with layers of police, village watch, parish and diocese volunteers. Only after the layers of fortification of people are the ordinary people able to line up.
In Tacloban, wooden and metal barricades and fences were placed along the whole route of the pope’s convoy to keep the pope’s path free from obstruction. Along the pope’s route, too, there are policemen standing within a few feet from each other.
“We hope Pope Francis sees the poverty and the suffering of our people beyond the fences and barricades,”said Fr. Alforque.