I am home for a year now. I have made friends with the local NGO of people with disabilities. I got acquainted with the city hall and have seen how the local government works.
I’ve worked in different countries strengthening local NGO, conducting disability awareness, developing community programs, teaching, dealing with government ministries and lobbying for the rights of people with disabilities. When I do all that, small wins are celebrated big time. Like when the able bodied football players compete against a team of people with disabilities using crutches and other leg devices in Sierra Leone or the signing of the first ever National Disability Policy in Timor Leste and let me not forget the bridging of Singapore and Cambodia PT Association therefore giving Cambodian PT opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills in rehabilitation and upgrading them to bachelors degree.
There are more … the first graduates of the CBR diploma 1 course for community workers and more than half of the participants are people with disabilities themselves, improvement of service records of regional rehabilitation centre, the creation of the wheelchair basketball team and using it to be an awareness campaign tools for the community to understand more about disability and their abilities in sports and recreation. The creation of national DPO and continuous training of local leaders. All that are small wins and all of that are always done in collaboration with the PWD themselves.
I am happy to be part of those development, but those are from other countries. I like to be part of the developments in my country, I know that there are already many players in the sector and there are many empowered individuals leading changes in the sector but there’s none in my city.
All I heard when I started collaborating with the people in my city, all they can tell me are problems after problems and when asked for solutions they have many too but they cannot do anything to change their situation because they don’t have MONEY. The local organization is dependent on what dole out they can get from people and from the local government even though they are in operation for over 9 years, they still have to show changes in the lives of their members. They have very minimal proof of change and often changes are not sustained. The LGU does not help unless they follow what the LGU wants not what they want.
I partially grew up in San Pedro, now a city, but in my younger days it’s a farm land for Sampaguita flowers – the national flower of the Philippines. My city is not far from the capital city of Manila where I was born, bred and educated and every summer we would go to San Pedro and enjoy fresh air and rural life with my grandfather when houses can be counted in my hand. My parents decided to retire here and gave up the house in the city, it has become too crowded for them and they needed the space to grow their flowers. Now every time I go home, even with my own house, I stay here in San Pedro, in my old room above my parents. Life remains simple in our household but San Pedro has changed into a chaotic semi city with too many people, new people, traffic and garbage.
The Sampaguita flowers are now imported from other provinces even though the city still celebrates it as a symbol of the city next St. Peter’s rooster. The old city hall is now abandoned for a much bigger monstrosities that still gives mediocre government services. Transport services proliferate but you still have to cue to get a ride to home 4 kilometers from the town. My city looks poor and overcrowded and I wonder why.
It is relocation city then and now – those removed from the city as informal settlers are dumped in San Pedro and those that are affected by flood in the plane are moved up to the hills
The leaders of San Pedro are recycled families – if it’s not the husband running for office it’s the wife and soon I heard would be the children; if one family finished their term another political dynasty will take over and the cycle repeats; and in spite of reports of corruptions people are not deterred they still vote for the familiar names
The public servants are still slow to react – however old I get I still see the same kind of government services all over – mediocre and people never grew compassion towards their beneficiaries; I worked in government hospitals and I know pencil pushers are like that and most of them by now had grown roots in their chairs it’s hard to teach them compassion and new tricks J
Corruption has become a past time for many including jeepney barkers – it has become so common that even ordinary people are doing their own fix to get extra money in the pocket and imagine the bigger fish with longer hand, with wider and tighter grips
The poor becomes poorer – in my village alone people rely so much on lending projects run by NGO or from private individuals giving loan for a higher interest; there’s proliferation of lending shop and pawnshop which is a sign that people are dependent so much on credit and debt
The rich becomes richer but they are not investing in San Pedro – there are not so many big private investments in the city that can create jobs for the people of San Pedro
Subdivisions and other private enclaves replaced the farmlands around San Pedro and Laguna province and low cost housing makes rich people richer while regular workers’ pay their mortgage via banks or government run investment institution (Pag-Ibig) for 10 – 25 years.
- The disabled sector remains the same – no development except their numbers – the population of the country is getting old and lifestyle has changed tremendously that more and more are getting sick but the health support and the cost of living to avail of basic services are getting more and more expensive; what’s being done to augment these problems? I don’t know …
I don’t want to sound very negative and don’t want to paint a picture so grim I am sounding very bitter. But actually I am – bitter and sad.
Bitter because there are so many problems that can be solved if only powers-that-be listen to the voices of the people. If only Jesse Robredo lives he would have empowered the voices of the masses to help in nation building and compel the government to act on them and everybody happy. Sad because in spite of the many funds, technical support and investments given to the city I have not seen a big change in fact I’ve seen worst because people in the government becomes complacent they treat their work as clerical work – punch in – punch out and the infrastructure around the city have seen very little face lift.
The disability sector remains the poorest among the poor and it’s not limited to San Pedro, it is all over the country if not the world – at least for the developing world. It is the sector that is constantly ignored by the powers-that-be because they don’t know how to deal with them – the ignorance of the people makes it hard for them to understand why the disability sector is crying for understanding, tolerance and eventually acceptance and of course support for them to access their basic rights.
There’s very little support to show for it and that little support I observed is just one person collecting names of people to be given national ID at the city level. The national government decreed that budgets are allocated for the sector – 1% from the taxes and revenues and it trickled down to the local government but is there a real plan for its use at the city level let alone at the barangay level? I doubt. I have yet to see a barangay (village) who understood the 2014-59 memorandum sent out by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Implementing Rules and Regulations for its use. So far, no barangay captain (village leader) or councilors who knows that unless I tell them or the organization gives them a copy of the memo. And the same rule applies to all government institutions – allocate support to PWD – universities, hospitals, government offices etc.
The LGU does not have clear plan on how to approach the issues of disability in San Pedro therefore use the allocated budget for what? I don’t know – it’s not transparent.
The staffs within the CSWD are not aware of disability or they know very little about this sector therefore does not know for sure the problems of disability city wide. Of course many would react and claim they know – but do they do something about it? No. ( I attended a meeting between PWD and CSWD staff and I was appalled at how ladies with golden hair talk condescendingly about PWD like they don’t know anything but in fact they are the ones that are ignorant).
The disability sectors representatives are not familiar how to approach government institution especially government funds – they are also just realizing what the 1% is for but because there’s no one to guide them they don’t know how to better access the funds allocated for them.
The plans of the LGU does not reflect inclusion for all – therefore problems associated with disabilities are not address such as health, rehabilitation, assistive devices, education, livelihood, sports, recreation etc. They call meetings but according to me – they are mostly lip service – I have yet to see proof that is reflective of their actions.
- There’s no real partnership between the LGU and the DPO – the slogan Nothing About Us Without Us is never practiced in San Pedro – the one with the loudest voice tells them what to do and those that would listen are given attention but those that insist they are consulted are ignored.
And I am only talking of 1 sector there are more and I am not sure if the others fair better than the disability sector but disability is cross cutting it affects all sectors – transport sector, gender / women, children, environment, youth and elderly sector so really the LGU should know how to bring them all together. There are others that I don’t know exist until recently – single parent sector which also should consider disability as part of it especially for those parents who takes care of people with disability, they too are burdened like single parents.
I am not sure what is happening now, what I am sure is that the output that will be reported are numbers with very little evidence to show sustainability. There would be pet project but I am pretty sure are not inclusive. The projects and budgets are not transparent and are manipulated by magician’s hands without anything to show for it. The lives of the many poor people that should be helped does not change and people are losing hope that their elected government will actually elect them back to have a better life.
The last quarter is the crunch time to spend all the remaining funds and rush to get things done. Such is the case with the livelihood funds of over 2 million (approximately $45,ooo)– has it come through, not yet! The funds still intact according to them but when it will be released is another issues but I am sure in the report it will be mission accomplished. Other than that, I saw an increase of activities by the local government to organize people from the different sector but mostly the poor in my village – why? To use the LGU’s remaining funds because they didn’t make very good plan to spend it during the year so the best way to do it is spend it organizing meetings after meetings, feeding them juice and bread and send out promises for the years to come – it’s quick, fast and receipts can be manipulated. I have to see years to come how the promises are made or broken.
So here’s how I think they spend their funds …
Spend money to give gifts to the poor – thinking always that the poor need dole outs and they will be happy
Create groups and organization of poor people – people that are too happy to attend for some juice and bread and be elected to their organization office with the promise that they will get money if they attend or continue to but what else do they have to show for it? Do they help these organizations plan to be self-sufficient? How can they if the LGU is not good at planning themselves tsk… tsk… tsk…
Create events and activities that will use up funds – road repair, flood control etc. these are money crunching activities that are done all year round but does it improve flooding in the city? No. It even made traffic worst and walking around dangerous.
- Existing organization, gullible to the real intentions of the LGU are too happy to receive fund support or the promise of it but the process always takes forever to complete and eventually nothing happens.
I wonder, with the amount of money provided to local government and with good planning I am sure it can solve some perineal problems such as garbage, traffic and maybe lawlessness and maybe establish a more viable services such as specialized health services or additional school for people with learning disabilities or special needs. Even create some jobs to stop proliferation of illegal drug trade and prostitution. All can be done by good planning and by partnership with organization and institutions that can truly help.
I wonder when will the local government actually goes local – meaning taking the pulse of the people and acting on it. At least it means they are returning the favor to the masses that voted for them and they can claim (without guilt) that they have done something tangible to the people of San Pedro, the city that adopted me and my family when we migrated here from the other city.
Don’t just show me the money … make the money work for the people and uplift the image of the city to how it should be – the city that opens the gates to development manned by St. Peter.