Pnoy’s Midterm SONA: Highlighting Same Road to the Present Crisis by Kilusan
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On Monday, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino is expected to deliver the remainder of his road map for the second leg of his six-year term. Surely, he will give himself and his economic managers’ pats on the back for ensuring high economic growth, a bright green light for foreign investment.
But even as investors and big business applaud the rosy economic figures, Pnoy’s Social Contract with the Filipino people (according to his Philippine Development Plan): transparent, accountable and participatory governance; poverty reduction and empowerment of the poor and vulnerable; rapid inclusive and sustainable economic growth; just and lasting peace and the rule of law; and integrity of the environment and climate change adaptation and mitigation, has not quite reached its mark.
Indeed, Pnoy has proven who are his real bosses and its not us common folk.
Scarce Jobs and Contractualization
The quality of employment is unstable both in terms of wages and tenure. Job generation has been a sore spot for the Aquino administration. Almost four out of ten employed Filipinos (36.3 % or 13.772 Million out of 37.940 Million employed) are self-employed who are neither contractual nor regular, earning below the daily minimum even as they work more than 16 hours a day.
Meanwhile, six out of ten employed Filipinos (22,829,000 wage and salary workers) can be characterized as:, 2,123,000 or 9.3% are household workers receiving below the minimum wage and working more than 8 hours a day); 17,493,000 or 76.63% are employed in private establishments whose status is mostly contractual; and, 3,056,000 or 13.4% government employees that also include contractual employees.
20.9% (7.9M) are considered underemployed. These, along with the increasing number of contractual employees are clear signs that the means of livelihood of the majority of Filipinos are unstable and in fact, can be considered precarious.
This means that aside from the fact that jobs generated are not widespread and are mostly in the service industry, contractualization as a policy has been firmly entrenched in practice. For instance, the number of regular workers are shrinking relative to the ballooning ranks of contractuals.
As in the case of PLDT-Digitel share-swap integration, former employees of Digitel are redundated and are offered contractual positions at Digitel subsidiaries to do the same work, in the same work location for less pay and no security of tenure. Digitel employees bucked the redundancy and have been on strike since April 10.
If these workers were to lose this fight, even armed with a favourable Supreme Court decision, it will be another case guaranteed to further undermine organized labor in the country.
Poor, Hungry and In Danger of Demolition
According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the country’s latest poverty data, released in April, shows almost no improvement in the last six years. About 10 percent of Filipinos still live in extreme poverty, unable to meet their most basic food needs. This is the same figure as in 2006 and 2009, the previous years when poverty data was gathered.”
The board also estimated that 22.3 percent of families were living in poverty in the first four months of 2012, compared with 22.9 percent in 2009 and 23.4 percent in 2006.
Therefore, government estimates that there are more than nine million extremely poor Filipino households are not able to earn the 5,460 pesos, or $135, needed each month to eat.
Other reports confirm the government’s findings that poverty has persisted. In a survey by the independent Manila polling group Social Weather Stations, the number of Filipino families reporting that they periodically go hungry has increased in recent months. The survey found that 19.2 percent of survey respondents, about 3.9 million families, reported going hungry. This is up from 16.3 percent in December 2012, when a similar survey was done.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has slipped on the U.N. Human Development Index, ranking 114th of 187 countries in 2012 in categories like health, education and infant mortality. The country had a ranking of 105 in 2007.
The government has earmarked 50 billion pesos as Shelter Fund for the informal settler families in Danger zones in the National Capital Region and people’s organizations went through the exhaustive process of preparing and submitting people’s proposals as clear near city/ in city relocation alternatives to the offsite relocation favored by existing housing agencies. This intervention will surely be wiped out as emboldened local government units set to wipe out these informal settler communities independent of the DILG/ DPWH timetable with a token 18,000 subsidy to sweeten the forced eviction.
Surely, it exhibits the fact that government lacks the political will to root out and resolve the shelter problem, and are only interested in short term or ‘tapal-tapal’ solutions.
Fast Rising Income of the Rich
Cielito Habito has stated “the growth in the aggregate wealth of our 40 richest families in 2011—which Forbes Asia reported to have risen by $13 billion in 2010-2011—was equivalent (in value) to 76.5 percent of the growth in our total GDP at the time, which official data show to have risen nominally then by P732 billion, or around $17 billion. Meanwhile, according to Forbes, the number of Filipino billionaires grew to 11 this year. Fortunes of the country’s wealthiest individuals also generally grew in less than one year from as little as $200 million to as much as $4.1 billion.” Forbes added that “the wealth of the country’s top 40 corporations accounted for 76% of the country’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP).”
4Ps, Philhealth Negated By Privatization and High Cost of Living
The first three years of Pnoy Aquino also highlighted of more than three million of marginalized and poor people improving their living condition through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) which his government bankrolls with a P40 billion budget for this year. Definitely, the program have temporarily helped increased the income of the poor families but these are easily wiped out by the repeated increases of prices of oil and commodities.
The prices of oil and oil products keep on rising effecting increases in prices of basic needs: water, electricity and other utilities and services and cost of production. But nothing has been done by the government within its mandate, not even cushioning the impact of inflation. Immediately it could have suspended or reduced EVAT as suggested by some legislators. This could have been followed with the scrapping of Oil Deregulation Law and EPIRA and checking monopoly pricing by oil and energy cartels.
Staples like rice are in danger of shortage despite assurances of the Department of Agriculture (DA) that prices of milled rice are bound to increase during the lean season, from July to August. On the other hand, the National Food Authority (NFA) assured the public that there is no rice shortage given that the Philippines has enough rice supply for the next 71 days. Such pronouncement is shaky. Conventional wisdom teaches us that a condition of rice sufficiency limits if not denies the manipulation of prices by rice traders or rice cartels.
It is also not being admitted that the 4Ps is not immune from corruption and is a convenient way for politicians to build and sustain political patronage. The conditions that have to be met by the “beneficiaries” further promote mendicancy and non-productivity. In fact, reports say that some who have availed of the 4Ps are not poor!
Last June 21, Pnoy signed RA 10606 or the National Health Insurance Act of 2013. Among others, it will prioritize the health care needs of the underprivileged, sick, elderly, persons with disabilities (PWDs), and women and children and provide health care services to indigents. Under the law, the government will also shoulder the premiums for the health insurance of the indigent and informal sectors. Since the government has started with privatization of government hospitals, the indigent patient from the poor people are left with no choice but to pay for the high cost of health services. Even with Philhealth, a World Bank data shows an “increase in out-of-pocket of patients, reaching as much as 83.5% of the bill.
What has happened with the two water concessionaires of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), Maynila and Manila Water, undoubtedly showed long term effects of privatization, one of the pillar program of neo-liberalism. Maynilad and Manila Water had allegedly passed on their income taxes to water consumers, which had reached P15.5 billion from 2008 to 2012 or P3.1 billion a year. The MWSS-Regulatory Office has allowed the two concessionaires to include in their operating expenses the cost of corporate income taxes, which they could recover from consumers through monthly water bills. This is on top of the system loss or cost of water pilfered that is also passed on to consumers.
The expose surrounding the MWSS has further highlighted the anti-people character of a Private-Public-Partnership (PPP) project.
After a noticeable delay, Pnoy finally ordered a “full, fair, and impartial” investigation on the P10 billion scam involving the pork barrel of five senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives. The people have long demanded the abolition of the pork barrel because it “reeks of corruption.” He has to placate the rising anger of the people.
His sincerity on weeding out corruption is suspect. He had continued with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the subtle term for the most hated pork barrel. Furthermore, he has not even brought to closure the various corruption cases against GMA and her subalterns. The stand of Pnoy is tantamount of abetting corruption in the country. His intention is not to do away with corruption altogether, only to check excessive corruption. Pnoy’s government has to draw savings and earnings from its anti-corruption drive and improve revenue collection as not to default its debt payments.
Pnoy has a three year dismal record in promoting and upholding human rights. While not as worse as the previous GMA regime, it remains inconsistent with the pronouncements by PNoy, and echoed by the AFP and PNP of “respecting human rights”.
According to Peter Koeppinger, resident representative of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, “the 2013 Impunity Index done by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked the Philippines third worst in terms of unsolved murders of journalists, next only to Iraq and Somalia. In the 2013 Press Freedom Index done by Reporters Without Borders, the Philippines ranked 147th out of 179 countries.
More than that, the killings, enforced disappearances and arrests and detention of activists and journalists in different lines of advocacy from political to environmental causes– continue. This is a continuing insult and injustice because not one among those accused of perpetrating the extra-judicial killings (EJKs) and enforced disappearances from 2001-2010 is yet brought to justice. The most notorious of them, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan is scot free even as he is charged in the case of two missing students from UP. And of course GMA, who honored Palparan as a “defender of democracy”, is free and a congresswoman again!
The promised closure of cases involving GMA, her family and their accomplices in government, police and military is far from being realized. The process which has been blocked in the past regime remains impeded still. And among the big impediments is the indecisiveness and sluggishness of the PNoy presidency. For instance, the cases of human rights violations, election fraud and the other cases of betrayal of public trust are grave historical injustices to the Filipino people.
Peace and order
The police institution that repeatedly claimed to be protectors of the people are currently mired in serious scandal to another. Rub-outs are regularly becoming a fixture in their bust operations against syndicates and criminal gangs, especially when its high officials are reportedly to be coddling such syndicate and criminal gangs. Its parasitic character has remained through the years.
The workings of the police establishment has continued to make the lives of the ordinary people more miserable – from innocent individuals, petty criminals and eyewitnesses.
A peace agreement for the battle-weary part of Mindanao is on the horizon after both the panel of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have just signed the wealth sharing annex of the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). Both have agreed on a 50-50 sharing on fossil fuels (petroleum, natural, and coal) and uranium. Since both the national government and the new Bangsamoro political entity are operating within the neo-colony semi-feudal set-up, the new agreement will further open the natural resources of Mindanao for plunder, creating again a favorable climate for investment. Foreign capital has long before set its direction for the lands who residents are predominantly Muslims. US, for instance, already knew about the natural gas in Liguasan marsh as early as 1950s.
As things stand now, it is undisputedly clear for whose interests that such peace talk is pursued vigorously in the first place. It remains to be seen whether another war is forthcoming. The history of Mindanao is such that after each comprehensive peace agreement, another armed entity will emerge.
Surrender of national sovereignty
The PNoy presidency has confirmed once again that the Philippines is not sovereign. It is a US neo-colony and the Philippine government is a stooge of this declining but very aggressive superpower. It acceded when the US said it wanted more military access to the Philippines. Particularly, it offered its territory when the US said it has to put radars to monitor ships in the South China. It opened the country to more military exercises and to the entry of more aircraft and vessels. Lately, it has offered basing access rights to the US and other allies like Japan.
The clamor for charter change is resurrected again, using different focuses. One is to limit the charter change only to economic provisions of the constitution. A contrary position also suggests that “consistency in government policies would attract foreign investors more effectively than altering the economic provisions of the constitution. The other focus is on the political reforms.
Yet the last three years has exposed the resolve and capacity of P-Noy’s government to even suspend the operation of the law (constitutional provision on the ban of US bases) just to kowtow to the design of its imperial master. He has mastered in circumventing the law. He can go again against the wishes and interests of the ordinary people and become very un-democratic, if his real master demands it.
With or without charter change, Pnoy’s direction is a sellout of our national patrimony and sovereignty.
The masses of the Filipino people have suffered long and hard. They have been longing for liberation from the social ills. They elected a government that promised to be the alternative but has gradually faltered in uplifting the lives of the ordinary. The much vaunted P-Noy pronouncement that the Filipino people are his boss has repeatedly fallen flat.
Should they be failed again, the people would not cease from justly taking upon themselves the pursuit of liberation.
July 22, 2013
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