Political independence without economic freedom
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - June 11, 2019 - 12:00am

Tomorrow, our nation will celebrate our 121st Freedom Day. But, are we really free?

To our minds, the true freedom is the freedom from hunger, from poverty, and from insecurity. How can we celebrate freedom when millions of our people do not even know where their next meal will come from? There will be tens of millions of Filipinos who will sleep without a decent dinner tonight.

How then can we find salvation by raising the Philippine flag tomorrow, when more than fifteen million of our countrymen do not have decent shelter against the coming rains, floods, and natural disasters? While the government is unrelenting in its “Build, Build, Build” projects, erecting many infrastructures for trade, business and transport of goods and services, millions are still living under the bridges and in shanties built precariously along riverbanks and shorelines.

While tall buildings are being built for hotels, casinos, and condominiums, there are millions of homeless, jobless, and hopeless Filipinos wandering around in search of food and day-to-day relief against starvation and hunger. Thousands of half-clad children are roaming the streets, selling newspapers, flowers, and cigarettes to tourists, some of whom are pedophiles in search of young bodies to ravish. How can we find freedom in a country that allows its people to sleep in the sidewalks and families to pass the nights inside small pushcarts and parked tricycles? How can we find freedom in a nation of beggars and prostitutes while politicians squander billions in social funds and foreign donations for disaster victims?

No, there is no meaning to political freedom when the economy is still being controlled by taipans and tycoons who violate labor laws and do not respect the dignity and human rights of workers. There is no genuine freedom when workers are paid a pittance while millions are being paid as bribes to tax collectors, customs, and revenue officials. There is no freedom when guns, planes, and bullets are given higher priority in the national budget than the salary adjustments of teachers and social workers. There is no freedom when instruments for killing humans are deemed more urgently needed than seeds and fertilizers for marginalized farmers.

No, sir, there can be no freedom when the lowest paid workers cannot afford to feed their children while the children of their employers are showered with all the luxuries of gadgets and technologies. There is no freedom when the government cannot afford to build decent classrooms but has billions to erect a Senate building and a supreme court in the heart of the global city in Fort Bonifacio.

There is no true and genuine freedom, when children of squatters go to schools that are dilapidated while the children of tycoons are being taught in grand manners inside air-conditioned classrooms for the elite. While the rich and the famous are cared for by well-paid doctors in very expensive medical centers, the barangay clinics have no basic medicines to cure the illnesses of the poor.

No, ma'am, tomorrow's freedom will all be for show. There is no freedom for a starving child who will sleep sans supper in the sidewalk tonight.

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