NOT to belabor the point but to maintain focus on it, Juan’s fundamental problem is dire poverty. Because of it, he is ignorant, unhealthy and has really not much say in how to improve his life situation. He survives mostly by bowing to religious, business and political bosses.

The latter are not poor by any definition of that word. They do not have existential knowledge of poverty. Hence, they meet everybody else’s needs but Juan’s.

Juan needs a decent house; instead, they build superhighways on which to drive a car he does not own or transport a product he cannot produce in the slums where he lives.

Juan needs safe running water and sanitary toilets; instead, they build world-class airports and harbors he will never use because he cannot afford to miss a day of pushing his scavenger’s cart.

Juan needs security of tenure in the lot on which he has built what unsuccessfully pretends to be a house; instead, they buy helicopters and gunships to protect a country no part of which is in Juan’s name.

It is really a disgrace that we have so much money to spend for world-class airports, superhighways and bridges, helicopters and gunships etc. when 4.5 million Filipinos do not have a decent house, 11 million do not have access to improved water sources and nine percent of Filipinos aged 6-24 are out of school.

Juan’s dilemma is how to convey to people on top what he really needs. He cannot even get a word in edgewise in the ongoing dynamics between two groups that vie for control of the country’s economic resources?

On one side is government (the in-power faction of the oligarchy) that tags all dissent as communistic and that, therefore, it must stifle not to help Juan but to stay in power. On the other are the communists and not-in-power factions of the oligarchy that tag all attacks against communism as attacks against dissent, again not to help Juan but to retake the reins of power.

Juan’s situation does not figure in their heated exchange about red-tagging and academic freedom. The issue between the two groups is raw power to control the country’s economic resources.

Like the opposition’s push-back on the administration is not an attempt to help Juan but for them to get back to power. Once in power roles will only be reversed but Juan remains destitute as ever. In our history power has changed hands many times and regularly, yet our poverty is the worst in the region.

The twain will never meet. But even if they do, it will make no difference in Juan’s miserable life. His life will improve only when he is represented by peers and has a voice in government and his life is no longer dictated from above.

But how difficult is that for poor Juan to get to? Just how much more hopeless can he get?