, NOVEMBER 14, 2007 (STAR) By Katherine Adraneda - A 61-year-old farmer in Butuan City reportedly hanged himself because he had no money to buy medicine, according to the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

Carl Ala, KMP spokesman, said Estanislao Ablin used a rope and hanged himself on a tree near his house at Purok 2 in Barangay Mandamo, Butuan City last Sunday, more than a week after a 12-year-old girl who had no money for her school project committed suicide Nov. 2 in Davao City.

Reports received by KMP from its chapter in CARAGA region revealed that Ablin was forced to kill himself allegedly because he had no money to buy medicine to treat his ulcer.

“It is very sad that a fellow peasant would lose all hope and take his own life due to poverty, but we have no one else to blame but the Arroyo administration that had oppressed farmers in our country,” said Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, chairman of KMP.

Mariano said seven out of 10 peasants do not own the land they till and usury is so rampant in the countryside, with interest rates for loans reaching up to 400 percent.

Mariano explained that the average cost of farming per hectare is around P30,000 to P40,000 but the average profit per cropping is only about P10,000.

He said that agricultural products are so cheap because palay is sometimes sold at P5 per kilo as foreign agricultural products flood the local market.

Mariano said rampant land-grabbing and evictions as well as conversion of agricultural land into commercial lots had adversely affected the livelihood of farmers.

Meanwhile, a Catholic bishop had virtually vindicated Marianeth Amper, the girl who hanged herself because of poverty in Sitio Bugac, Barangay Ma-a in Davao City last Nov. 2.

Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of San Fernando, Pampanga, who is also chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said Amper should not be condemned for committing suicide but instead be given prayers for divine mercy.

“Let us widen our perspective and try to understand that the girl committed such an extreme act out of so many social and economic reasons, which perhaps include problems in their community and in her family. That is why our response to this is definitely to pray for her. Let us not condemn her,” Aniceto said in an interview with Church-run Radyo Veritas.

The archbishop described Amper as a “victim of social, economic and even political ills.”

Amper, a Grade 5 pupil of the Ma-a Elementary School and second to the youngest of seven children of Isabelo and Magdalena Amper, had expressed depression in her diary entries, lamenting how she wanted to continue her studies but her parents could not afford to send her to school.

Amper, who became hopeless over her family’s poverty, hanged herself inside their makeshift house a day after her father told her he could not give her the P100 she needed for a school project.

This incident prompted the government and other concerned agencies to intensify anti-poverty programs nationwide.

This developed as President Arroyo pushed yesterday for political reforms to end divisiveness, violence and corruption in the country as she stressed that “excessive politicking” was partly to blame for the suicide of Amper and the murder of Commission on Elections’ chief legal officer Alioden Dalaig.

Dalaig was gunned down last Saturday by a still unidentified assassin in Malate, Manila.

In her message at the National Anti-Poverty Commission-Cabinet Group meeting in Malacañang, Mrs. Arroyo said many Filipinos “remain poor because there are leaders who give importance to politicking and selfish interests over the nation’s progress.”

She said “politicians and groups who neither have heart nor conscience are prepared to resort to violence to achieve their ambitions.”

“The preoccupation with politics, past and present, does not promote the stability, policy continuity, security and peace and order that we will need to continue to move our country forward,” the President said.

“Now that our economy has been straightened out, it’s time for us to push for political reforms and end divisiveness, fight corruption, end violence and prioritize the interests of the common Filipino,” she said.

She however admitted that much more needs to be done by the government and the people in general to improve human rights, peace and order and to advance the national interest with other nations on trade, economy and security issues.

The people want results from the government and not rhetoric; action, not political posturing. “Let us get on with the people’s work,” she added.

“The people of the Philippines are tired of negative political rhetoric that does nothing to bring about legislation that will create a new future for our people,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

She called on lawmakers to stop their political wrangling and start legislating.

The President pointed out that Congress has demonstrated before that when it sets aside self-interest it can produce legislation that improves the quality of life for all Filipinos. The most notable recent examples are the bill that reduces the cost of medicine commonly needed by the poor and the 2008 budget especially for healthcare and education, she said.

The House of Representatives’ justice committee is set to deliberate on the substance of the impeachment complaint filed against Mrs. Arroyo by the opposition, while senators vowed to pursue hearings on various controversies hitting her administration. – With Edu Punay, Ben Serrano, Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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