Pandemic made the poor poorer and the rich richer

by Fr. Shay Cullen

| Photo by Alex Proimos via Wikimedia Commons

The Covid pandemic caused great harm, and the rich became more affluent. In contrast, the poor became poorer, and an additional 4.27 million Filipinos fell into extreme poverty like Maria Mahirap, one of the poorest persons in the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of people like her have nothing in this world, no possessions, no money, no family. We that have should count our blessings.

Like hundreds of thousands of children today, Maria was a victim of child sexual abuse. She lived on the streets and was exploited by human traffickers. Maria became a sexually abused and trafficked child and then an exploited woman by foreign and local sex tourists. With nothing more than a dirty, smelly, ragged dress, she lost hope and then her mind. They brought her to the mental hospital in Mariveles, Bataan.

There are about 19 million women, children, and men in the Philippines in extreme poverty. If they are luckier, they can afford to eat a cup of cheap rice with salt and nothing else. That means eating pag-pag, one meal a day of re-cooked left-overs from the restaurant garbage bags, and a welcome gift from the well-fed rich.

It is the situation of millions of the very poor in the Philippines, a proud nation of 110 million people with 26.1 million below the poverty line, owning few possessions. At the same time, one percent of the population is super rich, owning about 45 percent of the wealth. That is nothing to be proud of, and the world knows it even if the rich don’t care.

The super-rich tycoons are just one percent of the population. They rule, exploit, manage and manipulate the permanent hungry pag-pag eaters so that they willingly sell their vote for 3,000 pesos in every election and live in paradise for two days. The one percent rich live in luxury all their lives. They attend thanksgiving Masses to celebrate their trickery unwittingly blessed by the church.

” … since 2018, an increase of 3.9 million hungry Filipinos, mostly malnourished women and stunted, under-educated children. They survive with unpayable debts. An additional 4.74 million Filipinos fell into extreme poverty during the pandemic.”

Millions of unfortunate Filipinos are caught up in a grossly immoral, disgustingly unjust system by which the super-rich live in luxury as they manipulate and exploit the hunger of the poor to take political power, all the while throwing scraps to the sick and dying lying in the slums under the shadow of their towering condos.

In the first quarter of 2021, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) counted 26.1 million Filipinos living in “relative” poverty, those without property, living in shacks and shanties, and eating just a little more than pag-pag. That is an increase of 23.7 percent over the previous years since 2018, an increase of 3.9 million hungry Filipinos, mostly malnourished women and stunted, under-educated children. They survive with unpayable debts. An additional 4.74 million Filipinos fell into extreme poverty during the pandemic.

In 2019, there were 15 Filipino billionaires, US dollars, and there will be 17 billionaires by 2024, according to a Statista Research Department report as of November 2021. There are fewer than 569 ultra-super wealthy Filipinos, each worth less than 30 million US dollars.

Between them and their combined trillions of US dollars, mostly made on the Philippine economy, they could change the lives of the 22.26 million starving Filipinos. However, besides throwing scraps to the poor, it seems they are hell-bent on making more riches for themselves.

The system is rigged by the rich, and the super-rich is the de facto rulers of the Philippines. They are the political power behind the presidential throne. With their great wealth, they get themselves and their relatives and friends elected to congress and others appointed to high government departments across the land. With economic and political power, they get huge loans which the people must pay back by taxation.

Congresspeople pass laws that benefit their sponsors and patrons from the dynastic families. They control the wages and benefits of the poor workers. Their corporations benefit from inflation through government subsidies. Their corporations get tax holidays, and the lucrative government contracts are rigged to fall into their hands and those of their relatives and cronies. This is systematic corruption where government officials benefit their patrons and themselves.

The corporations of the dynastic families form interlocking directorates with the banking and insurance industries and other corporations in finance, mining, food production, construction, and housing, among others. These elites have a powerful monopoly on most products. They have the political power and connections to block outside investors, reducing or eliminating competition. Their domination of the political process and the economy caused capital flight and greater poverty for more Filipinos.

” … one percent of families or households worldwide own 43 percent of all the wealth in the world. They are the filthy rich. On the other hand, the poor make up 50 percent of the eight billion people in the world and own only one percent of all the wealth in the world.”

None of the Filipino super-rich has declared that they will share their massive wealth with the poor as US billionaire Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates have done. Buffett promised to give away all before he died.
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If they did and followed the example of Zacchaeus in the Gospel story, they could save millions from hunger and poverty. Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus of Nazareth pass by. Zacchaeus was a corrupt tax collector and traitor to his people as he worked for the Romans. He was an outcast sinner to the Jews. But Jesus called him down from the tree and had dinner with him. He repented, confessed his corruption, gave away half of his wealth to the poor, and repaid restitution four times that he stole (Luke 19: 1-10).

What a new world it would be for Filipinos if the billionaires did likewise and made the economy work for the benefit of the poor. They could eliminate poverty and change the lives of millions of Filipinos.

However, it seems they are not looking to meet Jesus of Nazareth and avoid his challenge to repent at all costs. They are like Dives (Mr.Rich), who lived in luxury but would not give the scraps that fell from his table to Lazarus dying at his gate. (Luke 16: 19 -31) Only the dogs showed care and compassion to Lazarus. Dives went to the fires of hell.

As of October 2021, one percent of families or households worldwide own 43 percent of all the wealth in the world. They are the filthy rich. On the other hand, the poor make up 50 percent of the eight billion people in the world and own only one percent of all the wealth in the world. That level of inequality is staggering, shocking, and disgusting.

There is no solution to this systematic unjust and unequal society other than repentance and spiritual renewal of the ruling elite, which is what Jesus of Nazareth called for, as do reformers and true dedicated Filipinos. Look at what they do to them today and did to Jesus of Nazareth- imprisonment and execution.

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