By PATNUBAY de GUIA
Spokesperson, NDFP-Southern Tagalog
On 25 July, it is predictable that Benigno Aquino III will go down a storm of applause at the halls of congress. Enthusiastically, his minions and allies will pose as proud and satisfied; the podium on which he stands and his lies shall project him as noble and magnanimous. On 25 July, it is predictable that once again Aquino will lie his way into his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).
As an add-on entertainment, he may not fail to mention the state of his lovelife. To glitz up the event, he may raise himself as a man of simple living by already selling his Porsche and with a wistful look will express his hope for the public to “focus more on a much more deserving topic”.
To hype up his administration’s year-long “accomplishments” — which goes without saying there are concretely none — he may boast about his poverty alleviation program dubbed as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), and his administration’s efforts of building cases against former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He is sure to launch a tirade against Arroyo, the opposition, his critics and enemies, and now and again may reveal explosive social issues to gloss over his administration’s lack of achievements.
Then, he shall proceed to outline his “priorities” in the coming year which is again predictable: he will ignore the most important matters, such as mentioning concrete solutions to the long entrenched problems of the basic masses like hunger, homelessness, landlessness and unemployment, among others.
None of his flowery prose will change anything. The true state of the nation being miserably suffered by millions of the Filipino people is far from Aquino’s abstract concepts of development, fabricated narratives and empty rhetorics.
Just six days before his second SONA, the prices of gasoline and other petroleum products were increased. The prices of food, water and power also continue to rise, causing more hunger to a greater number of Filipino families compared to last year when Aquino had just stepped into office.
More than 360,000 urban poor families face impending demolition to give way to “development projects” benefitting local and foreign businesses under Aquino’s Public-Partnership Program. Already, more than 7,000 families in Metro Manila were evicted from their homes and were relocated to remote communities where there are no opportunities for livelihood, education, health and other social services.
Budget cuts for education, health and other social services are increased to make them “self-sufficient” and they become accessible only to the privileged. On the other hand, there are hefty increases in military spending, foreign debt servicing and corruption-prone funds like the congressional pork barrel and dole-out funds under the CCT program. It is no wonder that the youth, farmers, workers and other poor sectors in the country have no place in Aquino’s development plan.
Unemployment rate in the country is accelerating. In April 2011, the number of Filipinos jobless and not earning enough from their jobs reached 11.6 million. The Aquino administration only approved a measly Php22 wage hike for the National Capital Region (NCR) in May 2011, compared to the previous administration’s Php25 wage hikes in June 2005 and July 2006. Even the proposed Security of Tenure Bill, which purportedly aims to strengthen the tenure of private-sector workers by amending parts of the current Labor Code, is deceptive and further legitimizes the anti-labor measures and policies of the Aquino Administration. Worth noting is Kilusang Mayo Uno’s (KMU, May One Movement labor center) condemnation of the bill. “The real problem here, the real bane to the Filipino workers and people, is subcontracting itself, and not the lack of protection from subcontracting. It may be a ‘valid business practice’ for capitalists but is far from valid for the Filipino workers and people,
In Southern Tagalog, the deplorable condition of the workers remains. It has, in fact, worsened under the Aquino administration. The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board issued Wage Order No. IV-A-14 on January 2011. However, it brings no significant change in the lives of the workers and their families after Aquino allowed a sharp increase in the prices of food; gasoline, diesel and other fuels; toll fees; services; and other commodities.
While justice for the nine (9) labor leaders that were killed during the previous Gloria Arroyo administration is still not meted out, extra-judicial killings among the ranks of the workers continue. Carlos Rodriguez, union president of Calamba Water District was killed on 12 November 2010 and Celito Bacay, union board member of Maeno Giken, on 08 March 2011, in Dasmariñas, Cavite.
Moreover, members of 202nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IB PA) are posted inside the industrial enclaves of Calamba and Cabuyao in Laguna; Tanauan in Batangas; and Sta. Rosa in Laguna. The workers are under surveillance, intimidation and harassment. These Aquino military forces are also involved in the labor dispute at Philippine Steel and the violent dispersal of its workers holding a picket protest on March 2011.
In February 2010, then presidential candidate Aquino said that he would distribute the family-owned Hacienda Luisita within five years. But in August 2010, two months after assuming the presidency, he announced a “hands-off policy” concerning the said land distribution.
In July 2011, the Supreme Court called for a referendum to determine whether farmers would choose land or stock distribution option. This action is obviously a part of Aquino’s plan of evading land distribution. Coming from the ruling class and whose family actually controls the sugar estate, it is naturally against Aquino’s class interests to constrict his family’s control over the coveted lands. But in truth, the sugar lands are owned by the farmers themselves as it was acquired though loans from the Government Service Insurance System after World War II, on condition that it would be distributed to the farmers after 10 years. But after five long decades, having land to till is still a dream for Hacienda Luisita farmers and farm workers.
In the Southern Tagalog Region in particular, vast tracts of land owned by a few landlords still await distribution to poor farmers. At present, there are 394,884 hectares of croplands under various cases of landgrabbing in the nine (9) provinces, covering 76 municipalities and 168 barangays (villages), which are controlled by 67 landlords and 49 real estate development corporations. Majority of these lands are owned by big landlords and/or belong to big bourgeois compradors and national bureaucrats investing in the said lands. Fifty of the these pending cases concerning agrarian communities are expected to evict 156,092 individuals.
This is where Aquino clearly shows that the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) as his administration’s blueprint for implementing his “Social Contract with the Filipino People” is actually his social contract with the ruling classes, where his kind belongs, that makes up the majority of the government bureaucracy. For instance, sticking to the globalization policies implemented over the last decades, deepening and broadening privatization through Public-Private Partnerships and implementing social protection programs like conditional cash transfers (CCTs) as PDP’s essential economic thrusts, benefit not the poor and the Filipino people but primarily the United States of America and, as mentioned, the local ruling classes.
Globalization policies are proven to kill the country’s already small-scale industries. A case in point is the dying vegetable industry in Laguna and Quezon provinces. Among the 11 provinces that consist the Southern Tagalog Region, Laguna has the highest vegetable production. As a matter of fact, it is deemed as the region’s “vegetable bowl”. The province of Quezon is also the leading producer of vegetable in CALABARZON. Areas in this province that are near Mt. Banahaw are ideal for vegetable farming due to the suitable climate and fertile land. However, farmers do not own the limited land they cultivate; so vegetable production is not developed and maximized. Farmers don’t have the necessary technology they need in production. They also lack significant support from the local government such as post-harvest facilities and farm to market roads. Middlemen and the market itself are exploiting them by arbitrarily pricing vegetable products. With imported vegetables floodin
In Quezon province, prices of tomatoes recently dropped from Php40-50 to to Php20. Vegetable production is down from 4.8 million metric tons in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2001.
These problems are not only confined within the region. In the past few years, farmers in the Cordillera Region noted a consistent decline in vegetable production. Rice production in almost all parts of the country is affected. Benguet, in particular, calculated a Php2 billion deficit from July to August 2002 in agricultural productivity due to trade liberalization policies.
The Aquino administration’s plan of deepening and broadening privatization through Public-Private Partnerships lays the ground for diverting public resources for private gain. It also shows the Aquino administration’s plan of abrogating its responsibility to provide free and accessible social services to the people. Encouraging private corporations to invest in infrastructure, education, health and housing do not guarantee efficient social services. The main objective of private corporations is business; their ultimate motive is profit. By opening social services to the private sectors, fewer people will be able to afford and access them.
To top it all, the Aquino administration continues to undermine democracy. This is manifested in the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Oplan Bayanihan”. As the latest counter-insurgency program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Oplan Bayanihan is essentially the continuation of the previous Arroyo regime’s Oplan Bantay Laya I and II.
Under the operative framework of Oplan Bayanihan, intensive military operations are conducted, causing extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture. The culture of impunity that the reactionary armed forces have enjoyed for too long is intensified as Aquino is toothless over the legal and judicial system, and has no political will to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights abuses, and criminals and corrupt politicians who are accustomed to inventing a mix of lies and fantasies to justify their crimes. Justice for victims of human rights violations is still not realized. Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara and Eduardo Serrano are among the 55 political prisoners coming from the region that are awaiting release.
Aquino bragged about the Filipino people being able to dream again during his first SONA. He further maintained during the June 2011 Independence Day Parade at the Quirino Grandstand that the country has gone far towards reaching its goal. But his anti-people, anti-poor policies prove that he is all talk and those remarks only exist in his dreams.
The Filipino people are not downright ignorant or detached from concrete realities that Aquino is hopelessly trying to distort and give new meaning to. In the first place, Aquino has no right to prompt when, what and how the people should dream for his PDP, his social contract with the USA and the local ruling classes is nowhere near the people’s aspiration for peace, justice and development. The Filipino people can address and testify that the true state of the nation is essentially made up of an inept and incompetent government subservient to the needs and interests of its imperialist master and the local ruling classes, while deaf to their very own needs and interests. This, the people can all agree, is nothing but the crooked path.
Aquino himself stated during the 2011 Independence Day Parade that freedom is not simply bestowed to an oppressed nation like ours; it is gained by fighting. But he was wrong to say that it can only be attained by diplomatic and peaceful means. A week before Aquino’s second SONA, a series of protests are already staged by different sectors in the country against the Aquino administration’s negligence and ineptness. The women sector and the youth understand that Aquino is insensitive to their needs. The urban poor sector, evicted and facing more eviction in the years to come, recognizes that they have no place in Aquino’s development plan. The labor sector is aware that huge profits for capitalists, not job security, decent wages and upholding of trade-union rights, are Aquino’s prime concern. The peasants are conscious that genuine agrarian reform, not the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or its extension will resolve landlessness. Most of all, the exploited classes are vibra
Indeed, a war fought for genuine freedom is pressing and necessary. Outside the halls of congress that revere and glorify Aquino are storms of protests brewing from the countryside up to every road, place and community where oppression, repression and exploitation are present. Steadily deepening and intensifying are the masses’ strong resolve in continuously waging protracted people’s war to topple foreign intervention, overthrow the local ruling class and free the country from its age-old problem that is feudalism. This is clearly the straight path. This is the revolution.