Family man kills self over scarcity, cost
Daily Tribune – 6/01/2008
Apparently having been overcome by the dreadful prospect of not having to eat himself and to feed his family after rice became scarce and its prices soared, a 52-year-old man in Midsayap, North Cotabato decided to end his life. Rodrigo Villar Bangca, a small-time vendor in Poblacion 6, Midsayap, committed suicide Wednesday by hanging himself with the use of a rope. His body was found by a woman farm caretaker allegedly a day after he killed himself. Bangca�s wife told police investigators that her husband had been very depressed after learning that the supply of rice in his town has become scarce and that its prices had increased substantially.
Most rice retailers in Midsayap and in other towns in North Cotabato closed their stores when prices of rice became unstable.
Last week, we could still buy a sack of rice from the wholesalers for P1,850. A few hours later, it increased to about P2,050. A day after, it soared to about P2,200. Today, a sack of Milagrosa rice is sold at P2,500, a rice retailer in Kidapawan City, also in North Cotabato, said. The retailer said Milagrosa rice, a first class rice, is sold in the market in Kidapawan at P50 to P52 per kilo because of scarcity in supply. Meanwhile, other rice varieties are sold between P38 to P40 per kilo there, while NFA (National Food Authority) rice, the government-subsidized rice, is still sold at P18.25 per kilo. Bangca’s wife told police investigators that days before her husband killed himself, he heard him saying that life was getting harder for poor people like them. He had lost hope. But I never expected he would kill himself this way, she said. Bangca’s suicide adds to other such recent cases that mirror the country’ s dire economic condition. The suicides among the poor somewhat serve to discredit the Arroyo administration’s claims of having achieved great strides in lifting the Philippines� economy. In November last year, an 11-year-old girl also hanged herself in her family�s shanty in Davao province after leaving a letter and diary depicting a life of extreme poverty. The case of Marianeth Amper put a human face to poverty blighting the nation, where nearly 14 percent of the 87 million population live on less than a dollar (P43 on the current exchange rates) a day even as the government has been touting that the economy is on a roll. In a letter found under her pillow after her death, Marianeth said she wished only for a bicycle, bag, new shoes and jobs for her parents so she could finish primary school. The letter was addressed to a local television program that grants wishes to viewers. An accompanying diary revealed the girl, whose family lives in a shanty that has no running water or electricity, felt she had been absent from school for more than a month. Her father said he had been out of a job for several months while his wife worked part-time at a noodle factory, earning less than a dollar a day. The story was reported on the day President Arroyo told a business forum that her economic changes were bearing fruit. The common people are now feeling the benefits of a growing economy,�� she had said, as she announced her ordering the release of P1 billion to boost hunger mitigation programs of her government. The polling firm Social Weather Stations (SWS) has found in a recent survey that about nine million Filipino families rate themselves poor, the majority of whom live in Mindanao, the southern part of the country where Amper and Bangca resided. Many of those also experienced severe hunger in the past three months, it said. Anti-poverty coalition the Global Call for Action Against Poverty said its own studies showed the nation�s economic growth was not trickling down to the ordinary people, and urged the government to do more. Meanwhile, a militant peasant group over the weekend questioned Malacanang’s plan to release P93.6 billion in tax payers’ money to be used to subsidize poor Filipino families, to help them cope with the rising cost of food and petroleum products. Is it really meant for the poor? Or is it geared to satisfy the eternal greed of the ruling mafia in Malaca�ang? Which is which? Fernando Hicap, of the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), said. It seems the release of people.s money for Arroyo�s sinister agenda is being rushed this early to make sure that all monies are already released on or before the campaign period for the 2010 national elections to avoid political controversies, Hicap added. According to Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, the P93.6 billion aid package approved by Mrs. Arroyo last week includes P2 billion in outright cash transfer. Teves said some 23.5 million poor Filipinos, or about 26 percent of the population, who earn about P67 a day will benefit from the State�s dole-outs. But Hicap said the government is merely offering a band-aid solution� to the economic woes of Filipinos because instead of addressing the problems of 88.5 million Filipinos, such as the lack of genuine land reform, lack of job opportunities, low wages, regressive taxes imposed on petroleum products and electricity and denial of basic social services, it is resorting to the mass flooding of empty promises and false hopes to the starving public. He asserted that Malacanang has continued to refuse to province workable solutions to immediately cushion the impact of high prices of oil and food such as the proposal for the repeal of the Oil deregulation Law and the Energy and Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), the scrapping of the 12-percent expanded value added tax (e-VAT) on oil and power, the approval of the nationwide P125 across-the-board wage increase both for minimum and non-minimum wage workers and the lowering of prices of basic commodities. But the problem is President Arroyo’ loyalty is not with the people, but to those who exploit them in exchange for fat kickbacks and political support from Malacanng’ greedy clients. Hicap averred. The militant group leader said he suspects the release of the P93.6 billion is rather intended for the 2010 presidential, senatorial and local elections, where Malacanng is expected to finance the electoral stints of its bets from the national down to the local levels. Malacanng merely brokered the news to Palace ally politicians that there is enough money for them in the 2010 elections. It is like President Arroyo telling pro-administration politicians and 2010 wannabes that stick with me through thick and thin and you will be rewarded with millions of cash bonanza, Hicap said. The Finance department said it would source the P93.6 billion from the P18.6 billion windfall e-VAT collection on petroleum products. It added the remaining P75 billion will come from foreign aid sources.