Wednesday, February 15, 2006

[Philippines] ERAP Launches Movement Against Hunger, Poverty

from The Philippine Headline News

By James Mananghaya - Amid tight security, ousted President Joseph Estrada and his allies launched a livelihood and food security program at his vast estate in Barangay Sampaloc here on Valentine’s Day.

Estrada is detained at this estate, just across Camp Capinpin — his former place of detention — while undergoing trial before the Sandiganbayan.

"I can think of no better gift to the Filipino masses than to provide them with a sure source of food and livelihood through self-reliance," Estrada said in a statement. "Hopefully, this will lighten their burdens."

Estrada opened the gates of his estate to the masses with the launch of his food program, "Rebolusyon Kontra Gutom."

Former Maguindanao congressman Didagen Dilangalen, Estrada’s spokesman, told reporters yesterday that Estrada’s "Rebolusyon Kontra Gutom" is an urban farming program aimed at alleviating the worsening poverty faced by the masses in the country.

"President Estrada is following a popular teaching from Confucius that says when you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day," he said.

"When you teach him how to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life. Hindi naman maiiwasan na hindi ma-link sa pulitika ito dahil mga political figures ang mga nandito (We cannot avoid linking this to politics because political figures are here), but some of President Estrada’s friends also came here in their private capacities to show their support for this noble project."

Dilangalen said that the program, a brainchild of Estrada, was launched two years ago and re-launched yesterday after gaining the support of local leaders and agriculture experts.

Dilangalen said all 14 towns of Rizal would initially benefit from the food program, and Estrada hopes to make the province the food basket of Metro Manila.

Rizal is a mountainous province ideal for growing fruits and vegetables, he added.

Dilangalen said although political figures attended yesterday’s affair, "Rebolusyon Kontra Gutom" is apolitical.

It is a sincere effort by Estrada to help ease the plight of the poor, he added.

The food program will spread throughout the country after making Rizal province a pilot area, Dilangalen said.

Joining Estrada were Susan Roces, widow of action star Fernando Poe Jr., former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and allies of Estrada from politics and showbiz. Roces planted vegetable seedlings at a garden in front of Estrada’s rest house during the launching of "Rebolusyon Kontra Gutom."

Speaking to reporters after the event, Roces said there was no better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with close friends.

"Early this morning, I visited my husband’s tomb," she said.

"There were supporters there, and for this Valentine’s Day, that is something I always thank God for. All the love from family and friends is what makes me happy."

Roces and some personalities close to Estrada spent a few minutes inside the rest house before joining other supporters in a Mass.

After handing out certified vegetable seeds to farmers, Roces and her friends returned to the house to lunch with Estrada.

Roces said the food program offered proof that Estrada really loves the masses — those who overwhelmingly elected him as president in 1998.

"Isinasabuhay ni Erap ang tunay na pag-ibig sa kapwa dahil tinuturuan niya ang mga ito na magsikap sa kanilang mga sarili upang makalaya sila sa kahirapan (Erap is giving true love to his fellowmen because he is teaching them to fend for themselves so they can be freed from poverty)," she said.

Although Estrada was not allowed to join the ceremonies, he found a way to greet his supporters who had gathered outside his rest house.

He climbed on a platform and waved to them from a concrete fence.

Later, Roces, Jinggoy and Guingona planted seedlings at the vegetable garden in front of Estrada’s rest house.

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