The Rich Grow Richer, the Poor Poorer. Reflections No 399, 3 August 2012
Margie was just a young woman, about 23, freshly trafficked and lured from her province to the Philippine sex industry in Angeles City with the promise of earning money as a waitress to help her family. Still innocent in the ways of the lustful officials, sex tourists and bar operators, she applied on 25June for a work permit in Angeles City Hall. But what awaited her in the permit section was a small closed office, where the male official quickly demanded sexual favors from her saying it was the custom – all applicants for work permit in a club had to do it. Margie was sexually assaulted but struggled to get away and went to the next room to escape there, but another man did the same. She cried and ran out, traumatized, but bravely reported it.
The Angeles City health officer, Dr Lenario T. Santos, responded and wrote to the courageous businessman who heard of the assault and reported it. The city health officer wrote: “'first step I did is to remove male workers in desks that attend to entertainers seeking licenses to work and replaced them with female employees'. Santos said he will look for more victims to help them file charges. The Golden Nile Bar operated by Irishman Richard Agnew was raided by the police.
It's just one small incident but an insight into what happens to the impoverished trying to get a job in a sex club, demeaning as it might be. But the economy is still not helping the poor; they have to endure life in sex clubs to make a living for their family. Hundreds of thousands have to sell themselves to local and foreign sex tourists and one in every ten has been discovered by the International Justice Mission as being a minor. A cruel, short and bitter life starting at an early age.
The good news for the rich is that the Philippine economy may be taking off, but for others like Margie, it is going in all the wrong directions. The benefits are gushing upwards to the pockets of the permanently and perversely rich and none hardly reaching the millions of impoverished Filipinos. After ten years of corrupt government, President Aquino and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have countered with a conditional cash dole out of up to fifty US dollars per month per impoverished family. It keeps them alive longer to suffer all the more. But changing the grave social injustice and creating a just society by squashing the fat cats of corrupted government and industry, taxing the wealthy justly, is the challenge. It is blocked by a congress of millionaires. Hardly a democracy 'the people by the people', but one for the rich by the rich. The dynastic family clans and businesses own and rule the land in the beautiful Philippines. They dominate the Congress to favor their interests and block pro-poor legislation.
It’s no trickle down system that delivers prosperity and wealth to the poor but it is an upward surge of riches to the pockets and bank accounts of the one percent of the population that owns or controls 70% of the economy. Some of them are developing a forest of high rise luxury condominiums around Metro Manila. They are islands of obscenity in an ocean of slums.
The Filipino elite invest in the condominium building boom to resell to foreigners. These condo developers are backed by wealthy politicians and money magnets and other suspect investors .The condos are thought to be the ideal 'washing machines' for laundering the money from corrupt kickbacks, illegal trade in arms, gold, drugs and trafficking people.
The Constitution bars foreigners from owning property or real estate in the Philippines and there is a lost lucrative market. To change that, powerful politicians are advocating Constitutional change primarily to allow foreigners to own land and real estate.
Unashamedly, they say it will encourage investment in mining enabling mining corporations to get property rights to environmentally sensitive areas, like ancestral lands of the indigenous people. The laws which are being ignored already and meeting stiff resistance by the people will be breached all the more quickly. Then the owners can destroy the environment at will with open pit excavation mining.
Thousands more will be driven off the land into the arms of sex traffickers, as Margie was. They will be the sex slaves of the rich. It is the fastest growing money making business in the world. Be sure to watch the next movie Taken 2 with Irish Actor Liam Neeson. Working non-violently for peaceful political and social justice is the best we can do to change the situation. We can all do something to take a stand for human dignity and rights. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.preda.org