For the past two days, I sat and listened to the people of Barangay Calantiao in Bubon, Barangay San Miguel in Las Navas, Barangays Hitapian, Osang, Nagoocan in Catubig.
All in Northern Samar, hotbed of communist insurgency in our country.
All of them living in extreme poverty in communities with long histories of grief, suffering and exploitation in the hands of the terrorist Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
And they were easy pickings because not only were they underserved by government but un-served.
So it was easy for this terrorist organization to manipulate them with their lies and bring their lives to great ruin with terrorism that had become interwoven into the fabric of their lives.
The terrorists only had to tell them a half-truth: your government cares nothing for you.
The terrorists, of course, conveniently forgot to tell the whole truth: that they cared even less for the people and were heavily invested in keeping them extremely poor, ignorant and fearful.
These days it’s harder for these liars to get away with their usual lies because now, our people feel government’s care.
A total of 822 barangays located in GIDAs that are mired extreme poverty are getting 20 million pesos worth of projects by way of the Barangay Development Program (BDP) – the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) program that has the vast potential to take our people out of poverty, make them formidable against the CPP-NPA-NDF and end this 52-year communist scourge in our country.
I would like to thank everyone who have made this possible – our President who told us at the NTF ELCAC, in no uncertain terms, what will end this 52 year communist scourge: good governance, nothing else.
I’d also like to thank our local chiefs who walked their constituents through the Revitalized Community Support Program, of which the BDP is part of, and which aims to capacitate and empower our people to own their destiny and partner with government so that they may finally claw their way out of generational poverty and into better, more empowered lives.
Truly, when I go down on the ground, I see what it is that studies have shown: when it comes to changing lives for better, local matters far more than the national.
I’d like to thank my colleagues at the NTF/RTF/PTF ELCAC – all the way down to the Barangay ELCACs for getting this done. The linking of our arms to defend and protect our people is bearing fruit and I am confident, like you are, that genuine peace for our people is at hand.
And I’d like to thank our countrymen who have made their voices in defense of the NTF ELCAC and its BDP heard. Tunay po na ang pwersa ng Bayan ay kayo. Kayo ang magpapapanalo sa atin ng laban na ito para maagaw ang ating Bansa sa kamay ng teroristang CPP-NPA-NDF.
I would like to thank our legislators, members of the House of Representatives and our Senators who approved the release of funds for the BDP.
It is a good thing you have done. You have given so much to those who’ve had nothing all their lives: the people of Barangay San Miguel will finally have potable water.
They will no longer trudge knee-deep in mud but will instead have decent pathways and a real road to trudge on.
The people of Barangay Calantiao will finally have electricity. Oh the joy in their faces as they tugged at my sleeves to shyly thank me!
They will also finally know what it’s like to have potable water in their homes. And they will finally have a health center right there in their community- no need to travel long distances carrying their fevered child in their arms for medical attention.
The children of Barangay Hitapian will finally have a school right there in their barangay and like the people of Barangay Calantiao, residents of Barangay Hitapian will have a health center right there in their barangay.
They also chose a slew of livelihood projects for themselves to get them off and running - bread making and raising of mallards. We wish them the best of luck in their new endeavors.
The people of Barangay Nagoocan thought it best to divide their 20 million into 9 projects – livelihood trainings on dressmaking, breadmaking, and electrical installations. They also asked for 2 hand tractors, a health center, electricity, potable water, cash for work for one member of their family, some cash assistance, assistance with their children's education.
The people of Barangay Osang decided they needed a school building, the rehabilitation of their water system, electricity, the purchase of 5 hand tractors, a health center, the purchase of 20 hogs for their livelihood program, handicraft training, cash for work programs.
And each of these barangays will finally have farm-to-market roads.
With these roads, the world opens up to them. The excluded gets Included, the forgotten, remembered.
The government will have access to them so that badly needed services will be theirs. Those who’ve not felt government all their lives will now do.
They will no longer trudge up and down steep mountains with treacherous cliffs carrying their produce all day with hardly anything to show for it. Backbreaking work for a pittance.
Those roads will make selling their goods easier and will give them some time to rest their minds and souls after a full day’s work- like the rest of us.
And it will make them formidable against the machinations of the communist terrorists who endeavor to keep them poor, ignorant, fearful.
It is a good thing you have done for our people, dear Representatives and Senators. Thank you.
For the past two days, I’ve hiked through mud to be with our people.
It felt good to look at their warm, humble, weather-beaten faces - to remember once again who it is I am fighting for and why it is I do what I do and who it is I serve.
All public servants should do this on a regular basis -- be with the people we have sworn to defend, protect, serve.
So that we may love again those we serve.
Love washes the grime off our political differences and personal ambitions- and makes us stand resolutely on our shared ground of this great love for our people.
I am grateful that despite the push and pull, the noise and chaos that is part of a vigorous democracy like ours, this beautiful program has landed and is well on its way to taking MILLIONS out of poverty.
The peace that has eluded us for decades now and that has cost us countless lives is now at hand.
I have seen it up close in the smiling faces of the least among us, recipients of the BDP.