July 23, 2013
Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, though his longest yet, was based on the same recycled rhetoric of “daang matuwid”, with hardly any real achievements to show.
The people had every reason to mount protests yesterday because of the fundamentally unchanged conditions since Aquino became president. These protests were met with vicious suppression by the Philippine National Police.
Suppression of dissent
The violent attack on protesters was the result of the city government’s denial of a rally permit, the court’s failure to uphold the people’s rights and the Aquino regime’s vicious suppression of dissent. The PNP tried to present itself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing by giving us flowers and balloons. The protesters rejected the bogus offer and continued with our march, reaching beyond the main blockade at EVER Mall. A stand-off ensued. Leaders of the protest were negotiating with the PNP when without warning or provocation, the PNP attacked the protesters even before the results of the negotiations were made known. It was plain treachery. The violence that ensued showed us one facet of the State of the Nation, fascism, under the discredited daang matuwid. At least 41 protesters were injured with 10 being brought to the East Avenue Medical Center while 9 were arrested.
The PNP also violently dispersed the indignation rally demanding the release of activists detained at Camp Caringal.
We note that the CHR has released an initial statement that protesters were to blame for the violence. We ask the CHR to first conduct an honest investigation instead of defending the PNP though unfounded claims that only show the ideological and pro-Aquino bias of the CHR chairperson from Akbayan. Video footae will show that there was a peaceful stand-off before the police started attacking the protesters.
On the issue of accountability and stamping out corruption, Aquino merely recycled the old issues of Pagcor, TESDA scams and PNP rubber boats. No mention was made of the dismissal of all cases versus the “Pabaon” generals. No mention was made of the questionable water contracts that allowed private companies to pass on their income taxes to consumers. Aquino also justified the MRT-LRT fare hike despite new allegations of corruption involving the purchase of trains. Aquino didn’t speak about human rights violations and justice for victims of state forces.
There was no mention of Charter change or the Freedom of Information Bill. Aquino also did not clarify proposals that would allow US military forces to access PH facilities and preposition military equipment in the country.
Aquino has made it a habit to publicly criticize some government officials during his SONA in order to deflect attention from his own shortcomings and failures. However, Aquino turns a blind eye to the biggest forms of corruption found in Congress, the AFP, or in the many questionable public-private partnerships that involve the Executive branch.
Economic “growth” for whom?
Aquino tried to create the impression that economic opportunities are available by citing, for instance, Tesda scholarships, however, these do not reflect the reality of a deteriorating jobs crisis in the country as shown by government’s own data as well as surveys indicating that available economic opportunities could not cope with the increasing labor force. Surveys by the SWS, for example, show that the number of unemployed adult Filipinos rose by two million under Aquino.
Aquino made a big deal of the supposed reforms in the MWSS but conveniently ignored the bigger issue of the anomalous and onerous PPP contract between the MWSS and Maynilad and Manila Water. Under the Concession Agreement, the private concessionaires have been allowed to pass on to water consumers the costs of practically everything – from income taxes to corporate donations and advertisements. Aquino’s silence on the issue further exposed the hypocrisy of the daang matuwid and anti-corruption rhetoric of Aquino.
While Aquino again trumpeted inclusive growth as the main principle behind his administration’s every initiative, he continued to promote policies that will further impoverish the people while creating more profit-making opportunities for the rich. For instance, he reiterated the supposed need to hike LRT and MRT fares so that government resources used to subsidize Metro Manila commuters will be freed up for social services. He did not say that the supposed subsidies actually go to paying debt obligations arising from onerous PPP contract in the case of MRT. He did not say that the fare hike is a sweetener for the P60-billion extension and privatization of LRT 1, scheduled for bidding this month, as the biggest PPP project so far of the administration. Aquino also justified the demolition of urban poor communities and even said that if those relocated were hard-working, they will surely find job opportunities. The implication is that urban poor who cannot find work in relocation areas are just plain lazy. Aquino proclaimed that Philhealth coverage increased but did not say that the cost of health services are surely going to escalate with the entry of private businesses erstwhile public hospitals. No mention was made of the erstwhile “modern heroes”, the Filipino migrant workers, and the issues that they face.
Aquino again hailed the massive expansion in the coverage and budget of CCT and announced that the program will now also include families with high school students. Aquino did not say how the program is actually helping reduce poverty in the country. SWS surveys show a worsening poverty trend (i.e., number of poor families grew by 1.6 million under Aquino) while NSCB data indicate that, at best, the poverty situation is not improving, during the period of enormous expansion of the CCT program.
What is to come
The next three years of the Aquino regime will give us more of the same policies with many dire consequences. As the Philippines moves towards more privatization, liberalization and deregulation of the economy, the people will be faced with increasing hardships and burdens. Aquino will try to cover up the crisis using the CCT dole-out program and meaningless indicators such as credit ratings upgrade and the stock market index. Aquino’s continuing hypocrisy regarding corruption; his inaction or support of questionable deals, is now coming out in the open. Palace spinmeisters will try hard to deceive the people but the emptiness of the regime’s rhetoric has already been exposed.
The next three years will see the people even more determined to fight the Aquino regime. ###