04 December 2012

'Charity' at the expense of justice


Thanks for your prayers during my retreat last week.

I made my retreat in Cebu City where I was based from 1984 till 1993. One of the city's daily newspapers is The Freeman and for a number of years I wrote a weekly column for it, Under the Acacia.

Yesterday's issue had a fine editorial about the low pay of health workers while the government gives dole-outs to people who are poor. I think a more accurate term would be 'politicians' rather than 'government' giving these. Politics here is basically a form of feudalism with wealthy families holding power, sharing out offices between relatives and being 'generous' to people who have nothing but who will vote for them when they get something.

No doubt, the editorial is trying to make a political point but it raises a basic issue, one of social justice. the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about that here. Recently one of the dailies where I live featured an article about Operation Smile. The article was uplifting until it informed the readers that a woman who had had an operation courtesy of Operation Smile when she was a child was able to fulfil her ambition to become a nurse. But this 30-year-old fully qualified nurse is now working as a 'volunteer', ie an unpaid professional worker, in a government hospital in her local town. I wrote a letter to the paper pointing out that the many such 'volunteers' are basically slaves. The paper didn't publish my letter.

It is this kind of terrible injustice that The Freeman editorial is about.

The video above - thanks to Jane Frances on the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers - is related to the topic of the editorial.

Meanwhile, countless Filipino nurses are enabling people in such places as Ireland and Britain to have health services that they and their families back home can only dream of. I know that the Irish and British have legitimate criticisms about these services but they are far superior to those available to most Filipinos. The reality is that the poor of the Philippines are subsidising the health services in many Western and Middle Eastern countries. the vast majority of nurses come from families of very modest means, families that sacrifice much to put their sons and daughters through school.

Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910)

EDITORIAL - Government inhumanity is corruption as well 

Former senator Ernesto Maceda is right in his Philippine Star column of November 29. If the Aquino administration can give billions of pesos in cash doleouts to the poor, why can it not give meaningful and beneficial salaries to the health workers who serve them?

Philippine government health workers — doctors, nurses, midwives, and health aides — receive among the most ridiculously low salaries in the world. Their monthly salaries cannot even pay for one dinner at some fine restaurant that high government officials frequent.

So negligent and cavalier has government been toward workers in the public health sector that there was a time when nurses worked without pay as volunteers, with government accepting the practice until it became such a hot issue in media.

But when it comes to the poor who do not even pay taxes, government is very liberal in giving cash doleouts, for reasons that are purely political — the poor are not likely to bite the hand that feeds them.

So ridiculous has the situation become that the monthly cash doleouts given to the poor who do not pay taxes are even higher than the monthly allowances barangay health workers receive before taxes. [Note: the barangay is the basic unit of local administration in the Philippines and may be a village or a district in a city or town.]

After taxes, government health workers are left with virtually no means to keep body and soul together. And yet this negligent, unconscionable and politically-motivated government keeps constant pressure on the public health sector to perform and deliver above-par.

How this government appreciates the value of its health workers speaks a million times louder than the motherhood statements it pays about straight and narrow leadership and ethical governance.

Neglecting health workers in favor of the poor from whom political favors can be curried during election time is a far worse form of corruption than stealing or taking money. Crippling the dignity of people steals the most basic sense of humanity from them.



Despite whatever hardships come their way, low pay or none, being far away from home or whatever, Filipinos have a remarkably hopeful disposition, rooted, I believe, in the Catholic faith of the majority, a belief in God's love for them. Here is a group of Filipino nurses doing a traditional dance at a programme in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

1 comment:

Jane Frances said...

enGroThank you Father Sean - an important post about social justice. Bless you.