“Michelle Silvertino’s case is an overlapping problem of absence of genuine rural development and the government’s sluggish pandemic response, especially to the needs of the poor and marginalized Filipinos,” National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said in a statement today.

“Silvertino is a concrete example of the risk rural women takes to provide the needs of their families. Her family is a victim of poverty, lack of job and livelihood opportunities, and social services in rural areas which pushed her to work away from home and her family,” Soriano added.

“Resources in the countryside including land and fishery remain at the control of landlords and large corporations. Farmers and fisherfolk families remain victims of land grabbing, displacement, low wages and become victims of human rights abuses and militarization of communities,” she said.

“Maraming “Michelle” ang pumapasok bilang kasambahay, labandera, tindera, nagiging OFW at iba pang trabaho para sa napakaliit na sahod, kasabay ang sakripisyo ng pagod, hirap at pagkakalayo sa mga anak at kapamilya,” she said.

“Ang pagpapanatili ng gubyerno ng kaayusang lumilikha ng kahirapan at kagutuman ang mismong nagtutulak sa napakaraming “Michelle” na lisanin ang probinsya at tumungo sa Kamaynilaan o sa ibang bansa,” she added.

Amihan stressed that the pandemic further exposed the indifference and misplaced priorities of the Duterte government making the lives of the poor and marginalized more miserable.

“Jeepney drivers seeking for income were arrested and jailed for violating quarantine protocols while thousands of working Filipinos are struggling everyday just to go to work due to lack of public transport. OFWs that have long been considered as ‘bagong bayani’ for their contribution to the economy have been stranded for months waiting for the results of their COVID-19 tests and transportation assistance from the government. OFWs and others stranded in Metro Manila during the lockdown are lining up in NAIA in the hope for immediate return to their families,” Soriano said.

Soriano said that while Hatid Probinsya Program is facilitating the return of our stranded kababayan, there are reported cases of the program’s beneficiaries testing positive to COVID-19 upon arriving to the province, Marawi being the latest, which recorded 8 new cases, which reflects lapses in the system being implemented by the government.

“Silvertino’s death is just one among the long list of the Duterte government’s criminal negligence. We should hold this government accountable and demand for immediate medical and socio-economic response amid the pandemic. We should make this government set its priorities straight and frustrate its efforts to trample our rights through the Anti-Terrorism Bill,” Soriano ended. ###

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