Caritas head applauds Philippines new anti-poverty measure

Manila, Philippines, May 29, 2019 / 12:05 pm (CNA).- A new law in the Philippines to support those living in poverty has won the praise of Caritas Manila, a Catholic aid agency in the country.

“We congratulate and support President Duterte 100% in his bold signing of this Magna Carta for the Poor,” said Father Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila, according to UCA News.

“That’s what good government is all about, taking care of the poor and marginalized,” he said.

The priest voiced hope that sufficient resources will be dedicated to the implementation of the law, noting that government efficiency is “always a problem” in the country.

Earlier this week, the government of the Philippines announced that President Rodrigo Duterte had signed legislation known as the “Magna Carta for the Poor.”

The law seeks to ensure that those whose income is below the national poverty line will have their basic needs met. It says that the government must prioritize programs that offer food, housing, mental and physical health care, education and work for the poor.

The law states that within six months, the National Anti-Poverty Commission must create regulations to implement the provisions of the legislation, Philippine News Agency reported.

As of 2015, more than 20% of the population in the Philippines was living below the national poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank.

The praise of Duterte marks a positive interaction in what has been an often-tense relationship between the president and the Catholic Church.

Duterte has referred to saints as “drunkards” and Church officials as “idiots.”

Last August, he called the Church a “hypocritical institution” and said that he wanted to “kick [the] a**” of the bishops. Last June, the president said that God is “stupid,” and a “son of a b-tch.”

The president’s spokespersons have frequently mentioned that the context for his statements is the abuse he apparently suffered while a student at a Catholic school.

Duterte has said he was molested by Fr. Mark Falvey, SJ, who has been accused posthumously of serially sexually abusing children. In May 2007, the California province of the Society of Jesus reached a $16 million settlement with at least some of his victims.

In January 2019, a few weeks after suggesting that people should kill and steal from Catholic bishops, Duterte officials said the president was interested in dialogue with the bishops on various issues affecting the nation.

Duterte’s war on drugs has also been a major point of contention with Catholic leaders.

Thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the brutal crackdown. The alleged suspects are usually shot by police under the allegation that they attacked first. In addition, extrajudicial killings have sprung up, with vigilantes killing those suspected of drug sales or use.

The bishops of the Philippines have repeatedly denounced the violence. They have stressed the need for justice and have encouraged peaceful efforts at drug reform, such as the parish-based rehabilitation program in Manila called Sanlakbay. They have also held novenas and days of prayer for an end to violence in the country.

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