You just can’t order people with empty stomachs what to do.
Despite threats from the military of “waging war” against those who will participate in the mercy mission being held this week by the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement, residents of several villages in San Andres town in Quezon made a beeline for the relief and medical services handed out by the said group.
“The thirst of Quezon folks for basic social services that the government fails to provide is evident in their decision to brave even the harassment and smear campaigns by the military,” Orly Marcellana, spokesperson of the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement, said.
As of yesterday, the group composed of human rights advocates, Church-based organizations, health workers and concerned citizens reported that its mercy mission has already provided 300 individuals with medical and dental services and at least 500 individuals received food packages.
The group also reported that 60 individuals have undergone through psychosocial intervention and 30 young residents joined cultural and visual arts workshop.
Mylene Santua, a resident of San Francisco, Quezon, said the psychosocial first-aid conducted by the Childern Rehabilitation Center has helped restore a semblance of normality to the life of her child, who was experiencing trauma from intimidation by military elements.
Santua said that 15 soldiers from the 85th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army stormed inside their house last June 25 and told her not to join the mercy mission if she does not want to face trouble.
“We can see here the proverbial trigger-happy soldier spreading fear and terror among the people, instead of ‘serving and protecting’ their democratic rights,” Marcellana said.
When asked why she still decided to participate in the mercy mission despite threats from the military, Nanay Belen, who refused to give her real name due to security considerations, said they badly need medicines.
“The Aquino government is deliberately forgetting its responsibility to its citizens who are steeped in ever deepening misery and poverty. If the government is really sincere in uplifting the plight of the poor, why does it continue to send larger military contingents? People can’t eat bullets,” Marcellana added.
Meanwhile, the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement was overwhelmed by the turn out of participants. Ian Mostrales, a registered nurse and midwife from the Health Alliance for Democracy said, “We have exceeded the expected number of beneficiaries for the mercy mission. The people of Quezon really need basic social services.”
The peace caravan, which kicked off last June 25, will continue to provide immediate relief to residents of San Andres until today and will continue to Lopez town for the second leg of its peace mission on June 30.