Archive for the ‘SONA’ Category

Aquino’s Sona: All for show, no substance – Bayan (bulatlat.com)

July 30, 2011

There were many important things to the Filipino people that were missing in Aquino’s Sona, most speakers in the Sona rally said.

Sidebar:
Aquino hit for embracing paramilitary group in Cordillera

“Wang-wang Sona: too much noise, too little substance” – KMU

Sona 2011 has little to report, less to look forward to – Ibon

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The second State of the Nation Address (Sona) delivered by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino yesterday was buttressed in Metro Manila by a deployment of 7,000 policemen and 700 to 1,000 soldiers from the Philippine Navy and Philippine Army, plus some armored carriers in case it would be needed. These were to counter the mass of protesters who had sought permission earlier to conduct a “true Sona” rally near the Batasan grounds.

President Aquino had wanted the protesters to hold their program far from Batasan but the protesters persisted, reasoning that that would indeed show they are worse off than before. In the end, the Sona protesters led by the multi-sectoral alliance of progressive people’s groups BAYAN and the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) managed to hold their program in front of St. Peter’s Church in Commonwealth Avenue.

Aquino has reportedly had a hand in drafting his Sona speech, which went through seven revisions by morning of his scheduled Sona. It was hyped to talk of “only the simple truth, without lies, in Tagalog,” as one of his communication secretaries, Sonny Coloma, promised on radio.

(Photo by Angelica de Lara / bulatlat.com)

On the day of the Sona, President Aquino reportedly woke up early to prepare, and for only the third time since he was sworn in as president, he had called for a Cabinet meeting.

But despite the numerous times Aquino had revised his Sona speech and conducted a cabinet meeting, protesters still found his Sona greatly wanting in substance. After a year of Aquino’s rule, progressive people’s organizations declared that they have seen and suffered enough from the policies Aquino just continued from where Arroyo left off. Their effigy of Aquino is that of a “smelly rotten egg”.

No change under Aquino

Aquino’s Sona was denounced as empty, for the Filipino masses at least, by leaders and members of progressive organizations that gathered for their main protest rally in Quezon City. More Sona protests airing “the true Sona” were simultaneously held in many other cities outside of Metro Manila. On the other hand, a single pro-Aquino rally was held and allowed to hold a program in front of the Batasan grounds.

“Aquino’s Sona may be better off entitled as State of the Wang-Wang,” Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of Bayan, commented, citing the repeated times the word wang-wang was mentioned in Aquino’s speech.

In fact, Aquino mentioned the word wang-wang 18 times in an hour-long speech marked by 79 applauses, 25 incidences of Aquino stuttering on his speech, and at least four coughing fits. In Commonwealth Avenue, Aquino’s stuttering and coughing were booed by protesters who pointed to it as signs of lying.

The protesters from Bayan paused their program to listen to Aquino’s Sona, but nearly halfway through they decided to shut it down, convinced that there was nothing good to expect from Aquino. Reyes of Bayan complained that he, meanwhile, had had to listen to Aquino’s full speech. He told the gathered protesters afterward that indeed, it was tiring to have to listen to Aquino’s hackneyed rhetoric, when Aquino’s Sona “did not offer any substantial reform.”

There were many important things to the Filipino people that were missing in Aquino’s Sona, most speakers in the Sona rally said. Reyes, for one, said Aquino’s Sona did not mention at all the issue of wage hike and peace negotiations, or even jobs generation.

George San Mateo, secretary-general of Piston, said Aquino did not mention at all the issue of oil deregulation and correcting the unmitigated overpricing of oil cartel in the Philippines. Neither did Aquino tackle the impact of his government’s Pantawid Pasada “stop-gap measure for the eroded earnings of drivers,” said San Mateo.

In fact, Aquino did not mention as well the issue of his government’s EVAT windfall on oil, even if he boasted about more than a hundred companies about to do oil and mineral exploration in the country.

Marie Hilao-Enriquez of Karapatan said she feared for the country’s human rights situation, as she noted that Aquino’s Sona failed also to discuss human rights, let alone resolving the cases of human rights violations.

Farmers groups likewise criticized the “lack of genuine agrarian reform in the country”, as the extension of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARPer) only “allowed for greater landgrabbing and land reconcentration,” said Danilo Ramos of Kilusan ng Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

Lito Bais, president of ULWU in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, attested to the failure of land reform in the country as he shared the still unresolved struggle for land in President Aquino’s family-owned hacienda in the province. Bais called on farmers and the Filipinos in general to support their Bungkalan-style of implementing land reform by themselves, “because nothing about land reform can be expected from the government” and it is “up to the farmers and the people to help themselves.”

Aquino’s positive is negative to the people (Same puppetry, mendicancy and state fascism)

Even the achievements cited by Aquino in his Sona, with statistics presented as seeming proof, only proved to progressive organizations the sufferings they would endure for “the long haul” under Aquino, as Marie Hilao-Enriquez of Karapatan put it.

While Aquino boasted in his Sona the increased credit-worthiness of the Philippines under his administration, this is only from the “investors’ point of view, and not of our ordinary fellow citizens,” said Reyes of Bayan. Reyes charged that this improved creditworthiness has hardly benefited the poor majority, who may even suffer from it later in the form of increased foreign debts and public-private projects.

A country’s improved credit-worthiness tends to bring down interest rates when it borrows money, encouraging the government to borrow more, and encouraging investors as well to come in with borrowed capital.

President Aquino also boasted about how his administration has brought down the number of hungry Filipinos by a million due to conditional cash transfers – a statistic which Aquino said would benefit from the saved P23billion ($542m) due to improved credit-worthiness. But protesters said Aquino, at the same time, evaded the issue of greater foreign debts, and the fact that most of the funds his administration is using for conditional cash transfers are actually funded from foreign debts which the Filipinos will eventually start paying soon.

Another boasted achievement that made it to Aquino’s Sona was the 4,000 housing units constructed for the police and soldiers. Reyes of Bayan asked how come the rest of the people’s need for housing was not considered. Lito Ustarez, vice-president of KMU, said that since Aquino took power, as much as 14 demolitions, many were violent, had been implemented. How would the affected people’s housing needs be ensured, Ustarez asked, if Aquino only looks at the needs of his soldiers and police?

In fact, Lana Linaban of Gabriela even criticized the Aquino government’s “corrupt-ridden so-called housing program.” She said that most of these housing programs are being run like a business, and so it is after profit, which, in turn, further takes housing away from the reach of ordinary low income earning Filipinos.

Aquino extolled how he had brought down the number of unemployed, but aside from not tackling even a broad sketch of his administration’s jobs generation strategy, as Reyes of Bayan had pointed out, Aquino was also only doing an Arroyo, said the protesters. In truth, approximately more than 11million Filipinos are jobless, but their number seems to have decreased because Aquino has done an Arroyo-like tinkering with statistics to exclude in the counting of unemployed those who, for various reasons, for example desperation, and scant job openings, had stopped seeking jobs.

Aquino’s Sona included a boast about Filipinos now being able to choose between working domestically or abroad. But Garry Martinez of Migrante International belied it, citing statistics too, such as the 4,040 Filipinos forced to leave for work abroad everyday, despite the tragic fact that six to 10 of them are coming back home as corpses everyday. Martinez also added that human trafficking continues to victimize Filipinos, despite the Aquino boasts that it had been licked. Martinez also said that some 7,000 OFWs are in jail in various countries, those with pending cases increased under Aquino to 122 from Arroyo’s last year of 108, and more are getting saddled with legal cases that the Aquino government cannot decisively act on because Aquino has slashed the budget for legal assistance of the OFWs.

Even Aquino’s boast of starting to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines and starting to stand up to neighboring bullies like China over the Spratlys dispute earned him the ire and scorn of progressive peoples’ groups. “Is the Philippines really learning now to assert its sovereignty?” asked Reyes of Bayan to loud boos from the audience. Reyes said that in the case of Spratlys, this sovereignty is apparently “not Philippine sovereignty vis-a-vis the US, nor about holding the US accountable to its violations of its Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines.”

Aquino’s vaunted energy projects were also criticized by spokespersons of indigenous peoples groups and advocates for the environment and science and technology. Saying Aquino has opened the country’s natural resources to multinational companies’ plunder, Pia Malayao of Kamp and Marge Pamintuan of Kalikasan said it can only continue degrading the environment and bloodily displacing the indigenous peoples from their ancestral domain. Ganni Tapang of Agham said the PPPs that seek to exploit the Philippines’ resources and sources of energies for the profit-taking of foreign companies not only displace the communities affected by it, and destroy the environment, it also stunt the country’s economy and industries.

Who has selective perception?

In his Sona, Aquino claimed the people remains as his boss. But he swiped at the progressive organizations protesting during his Sona, reportedly saying these critics are “too negative” and they only see the ugly side of things.

But the real question there is why Aquino is blind, mute and deaf toward these “many real, negative things,” shot back Reyes of Bayan who reminded Aquino that they are part of his vaunted “boss.”

The progressive people’s Sona concluded that there is nothing in the sphere of “change” that the majority of Filipino people can expect from the Aquino administration. “You’re all for boasting, yet you have done nothing,” Ferdinand Gaite, president of government employee organization COURAGE, said like a chant. Gaite urged the public and private sector workers to continue persevering in their “genuine unionism” and in participating in the people’s anti-imperialist movement.

Aquino’s once oft-repeated matuwid na daan (righteous path) is actually a killer highway, said Lana Linaban of Gabriela, after noting the unabated price hikes, wage erosion, joblessness, economic backwardness, etc., that are only some of Aquino’s “achievements.” She called on the people to “break this Aquino rotten egg before its stench kills all of us.”

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PGMA’s 2009 SONA (Full Text)

July 27, 2009

hand-talk color

PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO’S

9TH STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS DURING THE 3RD JOINT

REGULAR SESSION OF THE 14th CONGRESS OF THE

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

 

Session Hall, Batasan Pambansa Complex

Batasan Hills, Quezon City

 

July 29, 2009

07292000A

 

 

Thank you.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Good afternoon.

 

Before I begin my report please join me first in a moment of prayer for President Aquino.

 

Senate President Enrile, Speaker Nograles, Senators, Representatives, Vice President de Castro, Former President Ramos, Chief Justice Puno, Ambassadors, friends:

 

The past twelve months have been a year for the history books. Financial meltdown in the West spread throughout the world….

 

Tens of millions lost their jobs; billions across the globe have been hurt – the poor always harder than the rich. No one was spared….

 

It has affected us already. But the story of the Philippines in 2008 is that the country weathered a succession of global crises in fuel, in food, then in finance and finally the economy in a global recession, never losing focus and with economic fundamentals intact….(applause)

 

A few days ago Moody’s upgraded our credit rating, citing the resilience of our economy. The state of our nation is a strong economy. (applause) Good news for our people, bad news for our critics. (applause)

 

I did not become President to be popular. To work, to lead, to protect and preserve our country, our people, that is why I became President. (applause)

 

When my father left the Presidency, we were second to Japan. I want our Republic to be ready for the first world in 20 years.

 

Towards that vision, we made key reforms. Our economic plan centers on putting people first. Higit sa lahat, ang layunin ng ating mga patakaran ay tulungan ang masisipag na karaniwang Pilipino. (applause) New tax revenues were put in place to help pay for better healthcare, more roads, and a strong education system. Housing policies were designed to lift up our poorer citizens so they can live and raise a family with dignity. Ang ating mga puhunan sa agrikultura ay naglalayong kilalanin ang ating mga magsasaka bilang backbone ng ating bansa, (applause) at bigyan sila ng mga modernong kagamitan to feed our nation and feed their own family.

 

Had we listened to the critics of those policies, had we not braced ourselves for the crisis that came, had we taken the easy road much preferred by politicians eyeing elections, this country would be flat on its back. (applause)

 

It would take twice the effort just to get it back again on its feet—to where we are now because we took the responsibility and paid the political price of doing the right thing. (applause) For standing with me and doing the right thing, thank you, Congress. (applause)

 

The strong, bitter and unpopular revenue measures of the past few years have spared our country the worst of the global financial shocks. They gave us the resources to stimulate the economy. Nabigyan nila ang pinakamalaking pagtaas ng IRA ng mga LGU na P40 billion itong taon, (applause) imparting strength throughout the country at every level of government.

 

Compared to the past we have built more and better infrastructure, including those started by others but left unfinished. The Subic-Clark-Tarlac

 

Expressway is a prime example of building better roads. (applause) It creates wealth as the flagship of the Subic-Clark corridor.

 

We have built airports of international standard, upgraded domestic airports, built seaports and the RORO system. I ask Congress for a Philippine Transport Security Authority Law. (applause)

 

Some say that after this SONA, it will be all politics. Sorry, but there’s more work. (applause)

 

Sa telecommunications naman, inatasan ko ang Telecommunications Commission na kumilos na tungkol sa mga sumbong na dropped calls at mga nawawalang load sa cellphone. (applause) We need to amend the Commonwealth-era Public Service Law. And we need to do it now. (applause)

 

Kung noong nakaraan, lumakas ang electronics, today we are creating wealth by developing the BPO and tourism sectors as additional engines of growth.  Electronics and other manufactured exports rise and fall in accordance with the state of the world economy. But BPO remains resilient. With earnings of $6 billion and employment of 600,000, the BPO phenomenon speaks eloquently of our competitiveness and productivity. (applause) Let us have a Department of ICT. (applause)

 

In the last four years tourism almost doubled. It is now a $5 billion industry. (applause)

 

Our reforms gave us the resources to protect our people, our financial system and our economy from the worst of shocks that the best in the west failed to anticipate. (applause)

 

They gave us the resources to extend welfare support and enhance spending power.

 

For helping me raise government salaries through Joint Resolution 4, thank you Congress. (applause)

 

Cash handouts give the most immediate relief and produce the widest stimulating effect. Nakikinabang ang 700,000 na pinakamahihirap na pamilya sa programang Pantawid Pamilya. (applause)

 

We prioritize projects with the same stimulus effects plus long-term contributions to progress.

 

Sa pagpapamahagi ng milyun-milyong ektaryang lupa, 700,000 na katutubo at mahigit isang milyong benepisyaryo ng CARP ay taas-noong may-ari na ng sariling lupa. (applause) Hinihiling ko sa Kongreso na ipasa agad ang pagpapalawig ng CARP, (applause) at dapat ma-condone ang P42 billion na land reform liabilities dahil 18% lamang ang nabayaran mula 1972. (applause)

 

It’s timely because it will unfreeze the rural property market. Ang mahal kong ama ang nag-emancipate ng mga magsasaka. Ii-mancipate naman natin ngayon ang titulo. (applause)

 

Nakinabang ang pitong milyong entrepreneurs sa P165 billion in microfinance loans.

 

Nakinabang ang sandaan libo sa emergency employment ng ating economic resiliency plan. Kasama natin ngayon ang isa sa kanila, si Gigi Gabiola. (applause)

 

Dating household service worker sa Dubai, ngayon siya ay nagtatrabaho sa DOLE. Good luck, Gigi. (applause)

 

Nakinabang ang isang milyong pamilya sa programang pabahay at palupa, mula Pag-Ibig, NHA, community mortgage program, certificates of lot award, at saka yung inyong loan condonation. Salamat. (applause)

 

Our average inflation is the lowest since 1966. Last June, it dropped to 1.5%. (applause) Paano?

 

Proper policies lowered interest rates, which lowered costs to business and consumers.

 

Dahil sa ating mga reporma, nakaya nating ibenta ang bigas NFA sa P18.25 per kilo kahit tumaas ang presyo sa labas mula P17.50 hanggang P30 dahil sa kakulangan sa supply sa mundo. Habang, sa unang pagkakataon, nagawa nating itaas ang pamimili ng palay sa mga magsasaka, P17 mula sa P11. (applause)

 

Dahil sa ating mga reporma, nakaya nating mamuhunan sa pagkain — anticipating an unexpected global food crisis. Nakagawa tayo ng libu-libong kilometro ng farm-to-market roads at, kasama ng pribadong sector, natubigan ang dalawang milyong ektarya. (applause) Mga Badjao gaya ni Tarnati Dannawi (applause) ay tinuruan ng modernong mariculture. Umabot na sa P 180,000 ang kinita niya mula noong nakaraang taon. Congratulations, Tarnati. (applause) We will help more fisherfolk shift to fish farming with a budget of P1 billion. (applause)

 

Dahil dumarami na naman daw ang pamilyang nagugutom, mamumuhunan tayo nga panibago sa ating hunger mitigation program na sa nakaraan ay napatunayang mabisa. Tulungan niyo ako dito Kongreso. (applause)

 

Mula pa noong 2001, nanawagan na tayo ng mas murang gamot. Nagbebenta tayo ng gamot na kalahating presyo sa libu-libong Botika ng Bayan at Botika ng Barangay sa maraming dako ng bansa. Our efforts prodded the pharmaceutical companies to come up with low-cost generics and brands like RiteMed. I supported the tough version of the House of the Cheaper Medicine law (applause) over the weak version of my critics. (applause) The result: the drug companies volunteered to bring down drug prices, slashing by half the prices of 16 drugs. Thank you, Congressmen Cua, Alvarez, Biron and Locsin. (applause)

 

Pursuant to law, we are placing other drugs under a maximum retail price. To those who want to be President, this advice: If you really want something done, just do it. Do it hard, do it well. Don’t pussyfoot. Don’t pander. And don’t say bad words in public. (applause)

 

Sa health insurance, sakop na ang 86% ng ating populasyon.

 

Sa Rent Control Law ng 2005 hanggang 2008, di pwedeng lumampas ng 10% ang pagtaas ng upa taon-taon. Ayon sa kakapirma nating batas may isang taong moratorium, tapos hanggang 7% lamang ang maaaring pagtaas. Salamat, Kongreso. (applause)

 

Noong isang taon, nabiyayaan ng tig-P500 ang mahigit pitong milyong tahanan bilang Pantawid Koryente ng mga small electricity users.

 

Yung presyo ng koryente, ang EPIRA natin ang sagot. EPIRA dismantled monopoly. Ngunit minana natin yung power purchase agreements, kaya hindi pa natin makakamtan yung buong intended effect. Pero happy na rin tayo, dahil isang taon na lamang iyan. The next generation will benefit from low prices from our EPIRA. Thank you. (applause)

 

Samantala, umabot na sa halos lahat ng barangay ang elektrisidad. We increased indigenous energy from 48% to 58%. Nakatipid tayo ng dollars tapos malaki pa ang na-reduce na oil consumption. The huge reduction in fossil fuel is the biggest proof of energy independence and environmental responsibility. (applause) Further reduction will come with the implementation of the Renewable Energy Act and the Biofuels Act. Again thank you. (applause)

 

The next generation will also benefit from our lower public debt to GDP ratio. It declined from 78% in 2000 to 55% in 2008. We cut in half the debt of government corporations from 15% to 7%. Likewise foreign debt from 73% to 32%. (applause) Kung meron man tayong malaking kaaway na tinalo, walang iba kundi conjured the demon of foreign debt. We exorcised it. (applause)

 

The market grows economies. A free market, not a free-for-all. To that end, we improved our banking system to complement its inherent conservatism. The Bangko Sentral has been prudent. Thank you, Governor Tetangco, (applause) for being so effective. The BSP will be even more effective if Congress will amend its Charter. (applause)

 

We worked on the Special Purpose Vehicle Act, reducing non-performing loans from 18% to 4% and improving loan-deposit ratios.

 

Our new Securitization Law did not encourage the recklessness that brought down giant banks and insurance companies elsewhere and laid their economies to waste. In fact, it monitors and regulates the new-fangled financial schemes. Thank you, Congress. (applause)

 

We will work to increase the tax effort through improved collections and new sin taxes to further our capacity to reduce poverty and pursue growth. Revenue enhancement must come from the Department of Finance plugging leaks and catching tax and customs cheats. I call on tax paying citizens and tax paying businesses help the BIR and Customs cut those cheats. (applause)

 

Taxes should come from alcohol and tobacco and not from books. Tax hazards to lungs and livers, do not tax minds. (applause) Ang kita mula sa buwis ng alak at sigarilyo ay dapat gamitin sa kalusugan at edukasyon. Pondohan ang Philhealth premiums ng pinakamahihirap. Pondohan ang mas maraming classroom at computers.

 

Pardon my partiality for the teaching profession. I was a teacher. (applause)

 

Kaya namuhunan tayo ng malaki sa education at skills training. Ang magandang edukasyon ay susi sa mas magandang buhay, the great equalizer that allows every young Filipino a chance to realize their dreams. Nagtayo tayo ng 95,000 na silid-aralan, nagdagdag ng 60,000 na guro, naglaan ng P1.5 billion para sa teacher training, especially for 100,000 English teachers. (applause)

 

Isa sa pinakamahirap sa Millennium Development Goals ay yung Edukasyon para sa Lahat pagdating ng 2015. Ibig sabihin, lahat ng nasa tamang edad ay dapat nasa primary school. Halos walang bansang makakatupad nito. Ngunit nagsisikap pa rin tayo. Nagtayo tayo ng mga paaralan sa higit sanlibong barangay na dati walang eskwelahan upang makatipid ng gastos sa pamasahe ang mga bata. (applause) Tinanggal natin ang miscellaneous fees para sa primary school. Hindi na kailangan mag-uniporme sa mga estudyante sa public school.

 

In private high schools, we finance half of the students.

 

We have provided college and post-graduate education for over 600,000 scholars. One of them, Mylene Amerol-Macumbal, finished Accounting at MSU-IIT, (applause) then she went to law school, and placed second in the last bar exams, (applause) the first Muslim woman bar topnotcher. (applause)

 

Congratulations!

 

In technical education and skills training, we have invested three times that of three previous administrations combined. (applause) Narito si Jennifer Silbor, isa sa sampung milyong trainee. Natuto siya ng medical transcription. Now, as an independent contractor and lecturer for transcriptions in Davao, kumikita siya ng P18,000 bawat buwan. Good job, Jennifer. (applause)

 

The Presidential Task Force on Education headed by Jesuit educator Father Bienvenido Nebres has come out with the Main Education Highway towards a Knowledge-Based Economy. It envisions seamless education from basic to vocational school or college.

 

It seeks to mainstreams early childhood development in basic education. Our children are our most cherished possession. In their early years we must make sure they get a healthy start in life. They must receive the right food for a healthy body, the right education for a bright and inquiring mind — and the equality of opportunity for a meaningful job. (applause)

 

For college admission, the Task Force recommends mandatory Scholastic Aptitude Tests. It also recommends that private higher education institutions should be harmonized with state universities and colleges, and also the CHED should oversee local universities and colleges. For professions seeking international recognition — engineering, architecture, accountancy, pharmacy and physical therapy –it recommends radical reform: 10 years of basic education, two years of pre-university before three years of university.

 

Our educational system should make the Filipino fit not just for whatever jobs happen to be on offer today, but also for whatever economic challenge life will throw in their way. (applause)

 

Sa hirap at ginhawa, pinapatatag ang ating bansa ng ating Overseas Filipinos. Iyong padala nilang $16 billion noong isang taon ay record. Itong taon, mas mataas pa. (applause)

 

I know that this is not a sacrifice joyfully borne. This is work where it can be found — in faraway places, among strangers with different cultures. It is lonely work, it is hard work.

 

Kaya nagsisikap tayong lumikha dito sa atin ng mga trabahong maganda ang sahod, so that overseas work will just be a career choice, not the only option for a hard-working Filipino. (applause)

 

Meanwhile, we should make their sacrifices worthwhile. Dapat gumawa tayo ng mas epektibong proteksyon at pagpapalawak ng halaga ng kanilang pinagsikapang sweldo. That means stronger consumer protection for OFWs investing in property and products back home. Para sa kanila, pinapakilos natin ang Investors Protection Task Force. (appause)

 

Hindi ako nag-aatubiling bisitahin ang ating taong bayan at kanilang mga host sa buong mundo – mula Hapon hanggang Brazil, mula Europa at Middle East hanggang sa American Midwest, nakikinig sa kanilang mga problema at pangangailangan, inaalam kung paano sila matulungan ng ating pamahalaan — by working out better policies on migrant labor, or by saving lives and restoring liberty.

 

Pagpunta ko sa Saudi, pinatawad ni Haring Abdullah ang pitong daang OFW na nasa preso. (applause) Pinuno nila ang isang buong eroplano at umuwi kasama ko. (applause)

 

Mula sa ating State Visit sa Espanya, it has become our biggest European donor. (applause) At si Haring Juan Carlos ay nakikipag-usap sa ibang mga bansa para sa ating mga namomroblemang OFW. Ganoon di si Sheikh Khalifa, ang Prime Minister ng Bahrain. (applause)

 

Pagpunta ko sa Kuwait, Emir Al-Sabah commuted death sentences. (applause)

 

We thank all our leaders, all world leaders who shown compassion with our workers. (applause)

 

Our vigorous international engagement has helped bring in foreign investment. Net foreign direct investments multiplied 15 times during our administration. Kasama ng ating mga Together with our OFWs, they more than doubled our foreign exchange reserves. Pinalakas ang ating piso at naiwasan ang lubhang pagtaas ng presyo. They upgraded our credit because while the reserves of our peers have shrunk this past year, ours reserves grew by $3 billion. (applause)

 

Our international engagement has also corrected historical injustice. The day we visited Washington, Senator Daniel Inouye successfully sponsored benefits for our veterans as part of America’s stimulus package.

 

I have accepted the invitation of President Obama to be the first Southeast Asian leader to meet him at the White House, later this week. (applause)

 

That he sought the Philippines testifies to our strong and deep ties. High on our agenda will be peace and security issues. Terrorism: how to meet it, how to end it, how to address its roots in injustice or prejudice — and first and always how to protect lives.

 

We will discuss nuclear non-proliferation. The Philippines will chair the review of the nuclear weapons non-proliferation Treaty in New York in May 2010. The success of the talks will be a major diplomatic achievement for us. (applause)

 

There is a range of other issues we will discuss, including the global challenge of climate change, especially the threat to countries with long coastlines. And there is the global recession, its worse impact on poor people, and the options that can spare them from the worst.

 

In 2008 up to the first quarter of 2009 we stood among only a few economies in Asia-Pacific that did not shrink. (applause) Compare this to 2001, when some of my current critics were driven out by people power. Asia was then surging but our country was on the brink of bankruptcy. (applause)

 

Since then, our economy has posted uninterrupted growth for 33 quarters; more than doubled its size from $76 billion to $186 billion. The average GDP growth from 2001 to the first quarter of 2009 is the highest in 43 years. (applause)

 

Bumaba ang bilang ng mga nagsasabing mahirap sila sa 47% mula 59%. Maski lumaki ang ating populasyon, nabawasan ng dalawang milyon ang bilang ng mahihirap. (applause) GNP per capita rose from a Third World $967 to $2,000. (applause) Lumikha tayo ng walong milyong trabaho, an average of a million a year, much, much more than at any other time. (applause)

 

In sum:

 

1. We have a strong economy in a strong fiscal position to withstand political shocks.

 

2. We built new modern infrastructure and completed unfinished ones.

 

3. The economy is more fair to the poor than ever before. (applause)

 

4. We are building a sound base for the next generation.

 

5. International authorities have taken notice that we are safer from environmental degradation and man-made disasters. (applause)

 

As a country in the path of typhoons and in the Pacific Rim of Fire, we must be as prepared as the latest technology permits to anticipate natural calamities when that is possible; to extend immediate and effective relief when it is not….The mapping of flood and landslide-prone areas is almost complete. Early warning, forecasting and monitoring systems have been improved, with weather tracking facilities in Subic, Tagaytay, Mactan, Mindanao, Pampanga. We have worked on flood control infrastructure like those for Pinatubo, Agno, Laoag, and Abucay, which will pump the run off waters from Quezon City and Tondo flooding Sampaloc. This will help relieve hundreds of hectares in this old city of its age old woe. (applause)

 

Patuloy naman iyong Camanava, dagdag sa Pinatubo, Iloilo, Pasig-Marikina, Bicol River Basin, at mga river basin ng Mindanao. (applause)

 

The victims of typhoon Frank in Panay should receive their long-overdue assistance package. I ask Congress to pass the SNITS Law. (applause)

 

Namana natin ang pinakamatagal ng rebelyon ng Komunista sa buong mundo.

 

Si Leah de la Cruz isa sa labindalawang libong rebel returnee. Sixteen pa lang siya nang sumali sa NPA. Naging kasapi sa regional White Area Committee, napromote sa Leyte Party Committee Secretary. Nahuli noong 2006. She is now involved in an LGU-supported handicraft livelihood training of former rebels. We love you, Leah! (applause)

 

There is now a good prospect for peace talks with both the Communist Party of the Philippines and the MILF, with whom we are now on ceasefire. (applause)

 

We inherited an age-old conflict in Mindanao, exacerbated by a politically popular but near-sighted policy of massive retaliation. This only provoked the other side to continue the war.

 

In these two internal conflicts, ang tanong ay hindi, “Sino ang mananalo?” kundi, bakit pa ba kailangang mag-laban ang kapwa Pilipino tungkol sa mga isyu na alam naman nating lahat na di malulutas sa dahas, at mareresolba lang sa paraang demokratiko? (applause)

 

There is nothing more that I would wish for than peace in Mindanao. (applause) It will be a blessing for all its people, Muslim, Christian and Lumads. It will show other religiously divided communities that there can be common ground on which to live together in peace, harmony and cooperation that respects each other’s religious beliefs. (applause)

 

At sa lahat ng dako ng bansa, kailangan nating protektahan ang ating mga mamamayan kontra sa krimen’ — in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their communities. How shall crime be fought? With the five pillars of justice, including crime fighters. We call on Congress to fund more policemen on the streets. (applause)

 

Real government is about looking beyond the vested to the national interest, setting up the necessary conditions to enable the next, more enabled and more empowered generation to achieve a country as prosperous, a people as content, as ours deserve to be. (applause)

 

The noisiest critics of constitutional reform tirelessly and shamelessly attempted Cha-Cha when they thought they could take advantage of a shift in the form of government. Now that they feel they cannot benefit from it, they oppose it. (applause)

 

As the seeds of fundamental political reform are planted, let us address the highest exercise of democracy…voting!

 

In 2001, I said we would finance fully automated elections. We got it, thanks to Congress. (applause)

 

At the end of this speech I shall step down from this stage but not from the Presidency. (applause) My term does not end until next year. (applause) Until then, I will fight for the ordinary Filipino. The nation comes first. There is much to do as head of state — to the very last day. (applause)

 

A year is a long time. Patuloy ang pamumuhunan sa tinatawag na three E’s ng ekonomiya, environment at edukasyon. There are many perils that we must still guard against.

 

A man-made calamity is already upon us, global in scale. As I said earlier, so far we have been spared its worst effects but we cannot be complacent. We only know that we have generated more resources on which to draw, and thereby created options we could take. Thank God we did not let our critics stop us. (applause)

 

As the campaign unfolds and the candidates take to the airwaves, I ask them to talk more about how they will build up the nation rather than tear down their opponents. (applause) Give the electorate real choices and not just sweet talk. (applause)

 

Meanwhile, I will keep a steady hand on the tiller, keeping the ship of state away from the shallows some prefer, and steering it straight on the course we set in 2001.

 

Ang ating taong bayan ay masipag at maka-Diyos. These qualities are epitomized in someone like Manny Pacquiao. (applause) Manny trained tirelessly, by the book, with iron discipline, with the certain knowledge that he had to fight himself, his weaknesses first, before he could beat his opponent. (applause) That was the way to clinch his victories and his ultimate title: ang pinakadakilang boksingero sa kasaysayan. (applause) Mabuhay ka, Manny! (applause)

 

However much a President wishes it, a national problem cannot be knocked out with a single punch. A president must work with the problem as much as against it, turn it into a solution if she can.

 

There isn’t a day I do not work at my job or a waking moment when I do not think through a work-related problem. Even my critics cannot begrudge the long hours I put in. Our people deserve a government that works just as hard as they do. (applause)

 

A President must be on the job 24/7, ready for any contingency, any crisis, anywhere, anytime.

 

Everything right can be undone by even a single wrong. Every step forward must be taken in the teeth of political pressures and economic constraints that could push you two steps back-if-you flinch and falter. I have not flinched, I have not faltered. Hindi ako umaatras sa hamon. (applause)

 

And I have never done any of the things that scared my worst critics so much. They are frightened by their own shadows. (applause)

 

In the face of attempted coups, I issued emergency proclamations just in case. But I was able to resolve these military crises with the ordinary powers of my office. My critics call it dictatorship. I call it determination. (applause) We know it as strong government.

But I never declared martial law, (applause) though they are running scared as if I did. (laughter) In truth, what they are really afraid of is their weakness in the face of this self-imagined threat. (applause)

 

I say to them: do not tell us what we all know, that democracy can be threatened. Tell us what you will do when it is attacked. (applause)

 

I know what to do:

 

As I have shown, I will defend democracy with arms when it is threatened by violence; with firmness when it is weakened by division; with law and order when it is subverted by anarchy; and always, I will try to sustain it by wise policies of economic progress, so that a democracy means not just an empty liberty but a full life for all. (applause)

 

I have never expressed the desire to extend myself beyond my term. (applause) Many of those who accuse me of it tried to cling like nails to their posts. (laughter/applause)

 

I am accused of misgovernance. Many of those who accuse me of it left me the problem of their misgovernance to solve. (applause) And we did it.

 

I am falsely accused, without proof, of using my position for personal profit. Many who accuse me have lifestyles and spending habits that make them walking proofs of that crime. (applause)

 

We can read their frustrations. They had the chance to serve this good country and they blew it by serving themselves. (applause)

 

Those who live in glass houses should cast no stones. Those who should be in jail should not threaten it, especially if they have been there. (applause)

 

Our administration, with the highest average rate of growth, recording multiple increases in investments, with the largest job creation in history, and which gets a credit upgrade at the height of a world recession, must be doing something right, (applause) even if some of those cocooned in corporate privilege refuse to recognize it. (applause)

 

Governance however, is not about looking back and getting even. It is about looking forward and giving more — to the people who gave us the greatest, hardest gift of all: the care of a country. (applause)

 

From Bonifacio at Balintawak to Cory Aquino at EDSA and up to today, we have struggled to bring power to the people, and this country to the eminence it deserves.

 

Today the Philippines is weathering well the storm that is raging around the world. It is growing stronger with the challenge. When the weather clears, as it will, there is no telling how much farther forward it can go. Believe-in-it. I believe. (applause)

 

We can and we must-march-forward-with-hope, optimism and determination. We must come together, work together and walk together toward the future. (applause)

 

Bagamat malaking hamon ang nasa ating harapan, nasa kamay natin ang malaking kakayahan. (applause) Halina’t pagtulungan nating tiyakin ang karapat-dapat na kinabukasan ng ating Inang Bayan. (applause)

 

And to the people of our good country, for allowing me to serve as your President, maraming salamat. (applause)

 

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! (applause)

* * *

Editorial/Political Cartoon: GMA’s Legacy

July 25, 2009

her legacy

Political Cartoons: Sahidulla Slip

July 15, 2009

HULEEEE

Exposed anew the reality that ransom was indeed paid for Vagni’s release before SONA.

Political Cartoon: SONA Gifts

July 12, 2009

sona gift

waiting for the CIA talks result, and vagnis release.

The Youth’s View of the 2008 State of the Nation Address

August 13, 2008

The Arroyo government has been dismissing surveys showing that the satisfactory rating of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is at an all-time low of –38 and that majority of Filipinos think that the SONA is untruthful.  Do these reflect the views of the people?  The following are write-ups from two high school students, which was sent to Bulatlat.

Why is GMA’s SONA a False Pretense?
BY AMEE FLORENCE P. PAYNO
Arellano University Plaridel High School

The 2008 State of the Nation Address is the 8th SONA of our “President” Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and it is perhaps the most abysmal address that she has ever done in her entire term considering that this time is supposed to be a crucial situation.

Firstly, her so-called deceiving advertisement is a flaw of her Public Relation’s People. A SONA that has got to do with individual personalities such as Federico Alvarez – a jeepney driver; Rodney Berdin – 13 year-old boy; Edwin Bandila – a rice farmer; Rosario Camma – chieftain and mayor (in tribal attire); Jessica Barlomento, Shenve Catana, Mary Grace Comendador, Marlyn Tusi – all welders of Hanjin (a private firm); Victoria Mindoro – a farmer and factory worker; Pedro and Concordia Faviolas – rubber farmers; Justice Vitug and Francis Lim – of Texas Instruments and Philippine Stock Exchange, respectively; Allan Amanse – a fisherman turned whaleshark watching officer; and Joey Concepcion – a partner entrepreneur, is probably a publicity stunt to make herself appear like she’s doing a good job. Too bad this kind of deceiving doesn’t really work anymore.

This exploitation of these kinds of people from different walks of life is more about saving the president’s face than actually saving the people. She is implanting (or at least tried to) an idea on the minds of the citizens that everything is all right by showing illusory success and development in standard of living of these people. Moreover, we cannot use specific developments of people as individuals to prove success and improvement in our country’s state. A SONA is about the nation’s situation and NOT of an individual.

Another attempt of camouflage is bringing up the current oil crisis. She pinpoints the blame on the oil crisis for the nation’s current downward spiral so much in order to cover-up the misgivings of her government. Isn’t her government supposed to be finding concrete solutions to this problem instead of blabbering and defending it that it isn’t the government’s fault that people are suffering?

Because of her persistent stubbornness regarding the removal of VAT, believing that this will save the people, there is still no apparent solution to the nation’s problem though oil prices had already decreased. VAT would be really helpful if the people of the country she is suppose to be governing has money. But at this current state, how can the people carry the burden of paying the VAT if they have barely enough money to SURVIVE? Ideally, the said value added tax is to benefit the Filipino people but let’s not kid each other in facing the reality that the people pay their taxes but they aren’t really getting the benefits they should. It’s like dumping the citizens’ money in an endless pit.

Where does the money go? The pit that I’m talking about is the hungry pockets of our government leaders.

And there is the P 0.50 cents text messaging. This is the one project that gathered the most number of applause. But this reward is not even close to an inch of what the nation really needs. This is another deception because following the SONA, we all found out that it’s a promo – a promo that will probably last for 3 months or so.

Mrs. Arroyo spoke generally about what her government aims and what it has achieved for the past year. The issues in Mindanao were expected to be tackled in the first place since they have been issues way before her term. In history, one way of getting the sympathy and love of the people is when you talk about uniting the Moslem and Catholic Filipinos. It’s not surprising if she attempted to use this issue to gain the people’s love.

I don’t know if anyone else considers the president’s statement, “I will let no one – and no one’s political plans – threaten our nation’s survival,” an irony or not. Considering that the president has been involved in controversies, including the infamous “I am sorry” speech, isn’t this a proof that she herself has political plans? And up to now it remains a question mark if her plans are for the nation’s survival or for her family’s wealth.

The Sona 2008 made the 9th Sona on 2009 less anticipated since it gave no impact to the people. Maybe because the people are too tired to listen to words that are so good to hear but bear no action, or maybe the people feel that the government has already lost its integrity. They choose to depend on themselves because the government’s promises bear no fruit for them. This is probably the most critical problem of all – to regain the nation’s trust, which the government officials had long ago killed.

Critique of the 8th State of the Nation Address
BY RONAH JANE M. VIDAL
IV-Einstein
Arellano University Plaridel Campus

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo delivered her 8th State of the Nation (SONA) last July 28, 2008 at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

Another fairytale story has ended. The SONA of Pres. Arroyo for this year 2008 was so full of unbelievable reports, all were a fiction maybe that even me, I don’t know if I can still believe or trust those words.

In her 8th SONA, Pres. Arroyo said that we ended 2007 with the strongest economic growth in a generation, inflation was low, the peso strong and a million new jobs were created that we were all looking to a better brighter future. Do we all look to a better brighter future? It seems that our president was joking when she said that thing. The records from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) showing that millions of Filipinos are “mired in poverty, have no work, and are being punished by high food and oil prices. “Seven years after the she made these promises, poverty further worsened, prices of commodities increased, and many lost their jobs”, Binay read from his five pages SONA entitled “Ang Tunay Na Kalagayan ng Bayan” (The True State of the Nation) at the Makati City Hall. And DOLE Statistics reveal that almost three million Filipinos are unemployed while nearly seven million are underemployed, contrary to Pres. Arroyo’s promise to create one million job opportunities every year. There is only one truth that our economy is getting worse and nearly to fall. According to national statistics, the inflation rate this month of July which is 12.2 is the highest in 17 years ago which only means that food prices and other necessities of people are getting higher and higher that cause suffering on the side of Filipino people and additionally the truth that job opportunities in our country are not enough to employ all Filipino people.

According to her, we built a shield around our country that has slowed down and somewhat softened the worst effects of the global crisis. What kind of a shield? A shield that are made up of fragile materials. In other words, a solution that is only for short period just like a pain reliever. Our nation doesn’t need an alternative or ephemeral solution just to ease the worse effects of the global crisis. What we need is an unhurried action. Our nation needs a definite answer which serves as a long-lasting solution to this global crisis. Because the worse effects of the global crisis will be felt by our nation again and again if there is no definite solution to solve it and we are not prepared for its coming.

Pres. Arroyo mentions that we have the money to care for our people and pay for food when there are shortages; for fuel despite price spikes. I believe that there is really money obviously a larger amount of it. The question is that, where is the money that she is talking about? Why does every Filipino still endure the sad fate rooted in poverty? Open your eyes and take some time to look at your surroundings and you will see and realize how our nation is poor. For the past years, even until now, our nation has been in the financial tight spot, a problem that the previous and present administrations failed to stamp out. In every highways, streets and places you are walking, you will see a large number of Filipino people with no food to eat. The answer is that the money our president is talking about was already in the pocket or wallet of every abusive public servant. The fact is that the money is being used in the wrong way, received by wrong hands and reserved for wrong people.

In the speech of Pres. Arroyo, she said that the telecoms responded to her pleas to cut the cost of messages between networks; it is now down to 50 cents. Paradoxically, right after the speech, headlines said that there was actually nothing in the 50 cents reduction in text messages.

She said she cares for our teachers and for our OFW. But why do some teachers sell food or anything to his/her students or co-teachers to earn additional income if Pres. Arroyo really cares for them? Why do some teachers bear and suffer from the low wages they receive? Teachers don’t need praise like the government programs intend to do. What they need is action for the betterment of all teachers. If Pres. Arroyo cares for our OFW, why are there so many news showing that many of our OFW are being abused and violated abroad? Why are there are so many helpless OFW who can’t come back to their home? If she really cares, she must do something for the goodness and improvement in the conditions of our teachers and OFWs.

Pres. Arroyo said that rice production since 2000 increased at an average of 4.07% a year, twice the population growth rate. If that’s true why are there food shortages and the Philippines continues to buy rice from other countries? She can’t say that it is merely because of nature that according to her puts our islands ahead of our neighbors in the path of typhoons from the Pacific. There is a way that we can fight and avoid the disastrous effects of typhoons. The government just need to improve our drainage to where all waters flow. We don’t need to import rice. Improvement in technologies is a must and full support to our farmers is necessary. In importing rice, Filipino people are not the one consuming the benefits and take the advantage out of it because imported rice is higher than our own rice. So the person taking the most benefits is the one who is going to sell the imported rice.

She strongly said that VAT or E-VAT is so important and without it we can’t survive and should not dispose of it. We can’t deny that the Expanded Value Added Tax (E-VAT) has contributed to the oil price increase, but instead of giving the people immediate relief by suspending the E-VAT, Malacañang opted to use the windfall from E-VAT collections to extend more subsidies. In her exhaustive enumeration of the amounts of money taken from E-VAT for various programs of government, it becomes crystal clear that without E-VAT, her administration should have long succumbed to death.

President Arroyo’s SONA 2008 is replete with fake economic gains and band aid solutions to the worsening poverty. There is nothing to be thankful for in the programs being implemented by this government.

To end, let me quote what the great Augustine once said in The City of God be alluded to: “I think I have now, by God’s help, discharged my obligation in writing this large work. Let those who think I have said too little, or those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I said just enough join me in giving thanks to God.” We may have said too much about this thing of urgency, but that’s only a faithful accomplishment of our duty. However, few words are enough. We don’t have to be verbose about a national concern at all times. Actions are still better than words. Actions would suffice. “Amen.” Posted by Bulatlat

Statements: GMA’s 2008 SONA a cover-up

August 11, 2008

Windel Bolinget, Secretary General, Cordillera Peoples Alliance
Chie Galvez, Secretary General,Tongtongan Ti Umili

July 29, 2008

The fake president harped on self-reliance and self-sufficiency as key goals that must be achieved. Consistently, she blamed the global crisis for the national economic mayhem, as if her leadership and regime had absolutely nothing to do with it.

While it is true that the world capitalist system has created such a crisis, it is incorrect to abuse this as judgment to describe the poverty that beset us. The world capitalist system has created such a crisis, but globalization policies made our country extremely vulnerable to market speculations and monopolies. This is what happened to the rice, oil and price crises.

The only way for our country to be truly self-reliant is to break away from imperialist globalization. Yet GMA implements and localizes this, as proven by her anti-people policies that made the Filipino people poorer and hungrier than ever.

Much to our embarrassment, GMA has defended the value added tax (VAT) to high heavens the way she praised her generals in last year’s SONA. In her distorted justification of this anti-people policy which shows her subservience to imperialist globalization, GMA claims that VAT shielded the people from the economic crisis. In truth, the subsidies she claimed as “Katas ng VAT” (VAT juice) comes from a very small portion of the total collection. VAT’s primary purpose is debt-servicing aimed at boosting the credit-worthiness of the credit-driven administration.

It is deplorable how the GMA government distorts the truth when the very sight of the ordinary Filipino people will say that VAT only plunged us deeper into poverty. VAT as a regressive tax does not take into account the capacity of taxpayers to pay, making the poor more burdened and more violated. Defending it is an insult to the poor Filipinos already bleeding dry.

GMA worsened national oppression

We condemn her use of human visual aids to prove her so-called achievements, and we strongly condemn her use of indigenous peoples, such as the Bugkalot chieftain clad in his traditional attire at the Batasan to earn “pogi points” in her SONA. We urge our fellow indigenous peoples not to be dissuaded by her antics and be used in her propaganda blitz. The individuals GMA used in her SONA 2008 do not embody the 90 million Filipinos.

Since her term in 2001, GMA had always been staunchly anti-indigenous peoples as she is anti-people. Her stay in power worsened national oppression of indigenous peoples by violating individual and collective rights through programs and policies.

In her mining liberalization program, 18 of the 23 priority mining projects are located in indigenous territories. Five of these are in the Cordillera. Sixty-six percent of the region’s total land area is already applied for by various mining applications, on top of the large mining operations already taking place.

GMA is proud of the issuance of Ancestral Domain titles to indigenous territories in Aurora, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya, yet these are the very areas where large mining is present. The titles are merely ploys to facilitate the entry of destructive projects. Violation of indigenous peoples rights was unprecedented under the regime, with 120 documented cases of extra-judicial killings of IPs from 2001 to present.

GMA was even cautious not to say anything related to human rights because clearly, nobody will believe another thing she will say about human rights, much more her administration’s promotion of human rights. It will be an insult to the memory of the 1,000 victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of her government if she dares claim of any achievement in the human rights front. We are in a state of undeclared martial law, and we do not want another term of state terrorism.

On graft and corruption

GMA was shameless enough to say that she has been battling graft and corruption, taking into consideration stronger measures and being self-righteous about it, even encouraging the Congress to pass an Anti-Graft Act. It is absurd, when we all know that most of the large scams such as the ZTE NBN deal and the fertilizer scam involve the First Family and the president herself.

GMA should stop invoking executive privilege and subject herself to legislation process on the graft and corruption cases filed against her and the First Family.

Public opinion perceives her to be the most corrupt president in the history of the Philippines.

The people know

GMA does not care for the people. Even with her repetitious claim in the SONA that she cares, the people do not believe her. We are too tired of her lies and deceptions amid glaring realities of hunger, poverty, fascism and plunder. GMA should resign if she had any amount of decency left.

The only correct thing to do is for the people to further unite and march in step for GMA’s ouster. This is the clarion call for every Filipino, for the immediate relief from this national crisis.

Enough of Gloria! Oust GMA! #

Pagkahibang sa post-sona, ex-sona

August 10, 2008

Rolando B. Tolentino

BINASA ko ang SONA (state of the nation address) ni Gloria Arroyo at para itong pelikula. Kung hindi ko inawat ang aking sarili, parang ang ganda nga talaga ng kanyang naipatupad.

Malalamon ang sinumang nagbabasa dahil sa makinang na datos at papuri sa sarili. Wala ang monotonong boses, ang deadpan na mukha, ang pagiging fashion victim.

Sa papel, seryoso siya sa pagkapangulo. Pantastiko ang naipatupad. Lampas sa dalawang milyong ektarya ang naipamahagi sa land reform at ancestral domain claim.  Pinakamura ang NFA rice sa Asia. Pinababa niya sa kalahati ang texting, 50 sentimos na lamang. 65 milyong Pilipino na ang may health insurance.

Sa aking guni-guning nagtampisaw sa kanyang pamamantasya, gusto ko siyang yakapin. At matapos ng isang segundo, gusto ko siyang bulyawan ng mga mura, at “sinungaling ka!”

Pero inisip ko, hindi sinungaling si Arroyo. Ang pagsisinungaling ay isang pagkakataon lang, hindi kanyang kabuuang termino. Hindi rin pathological liar ito o ipinanganak na sinungaling. Hindi sana siya naluklok sa EDSA 2 ng sambayanan kung sa simula’t sapul ay sinungaling na ito.

Kaya ang aking kongklusyon ay kahibangan ito. Megalomia o delusion na pantasya ng kapangyarihan, yaman at henyo, tulad nina Marcos, pero without the edifice. Ang mga Marcos kasi ay sinabayan ng mararangyang bakod at gusali ang pagtatakip sa malawakang kahirapan at pambubusabos sa karapatan.

Si Arroyo ay “simpleng mega.” Hindi megastar, kundi megalomaniac. Ayaw ni Ate Shawie (Sharon Cuneta) niyan. Isang manyakis na ang turing sa sarili ay anak ng diyos. Kaya tulad ng sex maniac, may taliwas na entitlement na mang-abuso ng mahihina at kayang abusuhin.
Ang pangunahing pagtatangkang infrastruktural ni Arroyo ay ang mga kalsada at RORO. Sina Marcos ay ang mga edifice, tulad ng Cultural Center of the Philippines complex at ang monumento ng Apo sa Naguilian Highway sa Baguio. Si Arroyo ay pragmatiko – Macapagal Highway, Subic-Clark Expressway, airport at sea ports.

Na ang tanging lohika ay higit pang maipatagos ang bawat sentro at laylayan ng bansa sa dayuhang kapital. Na tulad ng mikropono sa buong panggabing shift ng call center agent, nakakapang-udyok mapaniwala na nandoon na tayo kahit wala pa, na mabuti ang lagay kahit hindi naman.

Na makakatulong kahit wala namang iniaalok, si Arroyo ay nagbubuga ng mainit na hangin mula sa kanyang malaking ego. Hangin ang loob at labas ng wafer ng ampaw.  At ito ang batayan ng pagkahibang ni Arroyo.

Puro hangin ang lumalabas sa bibig. At sa batayang antas ng buhay, wala itong katotohanan. Ramdam ang kahirapan. Naghihikahos ang ordinaryong buhay. Walang kabutihang naidulot ang pagkapangulo ni Arroyo.

Ganito ang “lohika” ng pagkahibang. Kailangang kumbinsihin ang sarili (ang katawan at isip ng hibang) na totoo ang kanyang sinasabi. Kaya walang katapusan ang pagsisinungaling dahil paano mo papaniwalain ang sarili sa mga batayang kasinungalingan, maliban sa katotohan ng pagiging hibang?

At dahil nagdarahop ang kabuuang lagay ng maraming mamamayan, ano ang mas higit nilang paniniwalaan? Na mas lalo silang magdarahop, o kakapit sila sa hanging lumalabas sa bibig ng baliw?

Napapaniwala ang marami dahil hindi sila ang mas malaking baliw – mga baliw na naniniwala sa pangulong baliw. Napapaniwala sila dahil may hawak na kapangyarihang pulitikal ang pangulong baliw. Malupit ang hagupit ng latigong sabay na lumalatay at sumasakal sa mamamayan.

Pero ang sumpa ng kahibangan ng pangulo ay lahat ng sabihin ay post– (natapos na) o ex– (nakalipas na) sa akto pa lamang ng pagsisinungaling nito. Kaya sa nakikinig sa kanya, tune out na kaagad sa baliw.

Walang masasabi ito na mapapaniwala pa ang nakikibakang mamamayan.(PinoyWeekly)

Reaction to SONA 2008 and 2009

August 6, 2008

By DAVAO TODAY

The eighth state of the nation address (SONA) of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo elicited different reactions. Progressive groups staged their own version of the SONA, which they believe reflect the “real” condition of the Filipino people. People from the government, church, business and men on the streets also share their views. Some still believe in what the President said but others were not so impressed by her speech. Davao Today gathered their reactions:

“I happened to watch the Sona but it was not worth hearing at all because I didn’t believe in what she was saying. The poor are still hungry, lining up for rice everyday for a limited kilo. The expanded Vat is still there. Her speech had no soul, sad to say. Sona must provide direction on major concerns which depicts the state of the nation of the past year. Not to report on what has been perceived as accomplishments of the government which she does not need to tell us because we know already. No clapping is needed!”

–Sister Marietta Banayo, M.A., president, Assumption School of Davao, Cabaguio Avenue, Davao City

“Nothing really new but rehashed statistics that does not translate into food on the table of Mang Pandoy.”

–Mr. Allan Villanueva, board member/ project coordinator, Akbay Kalusugan, Inc.

“We do not need free education only. We need quality education at the elementary and high school level especially in public schools. Increase the number of class rooms, hire more ‘quality’ education graduate teachers, build schools in every barangay, and accommodate investments that will allow our graduates to work in their field of expertise (other than the call center industry).

According to Amartya Sen, a nation could only attain genuine development if the state develops the capabilities of its citizens. The Philippine government should focus more on improving the basic education system (as well as social protection program as health security) and make it available to everybody.

–Reine Kathryn Taya, professor, Department of Social Sciences University of the Philippines – Mindanao, Mintal, Davao City

“The Arroyo administration has just thrown out the window its austerity program. In proposing a P1.4 trillion budget for next year, it has likewise reneged on its promise to balance the budget. The current economic crisis is the convenient excuse for Malacañang to ask for a 15 percent increase in its budget in 2009. The increase in the budget next year is meant – not to prop up the economy – but to fatten the war chest of the administration in the 2010 elections. Oh, I can hear the trapos (traditional politicians) singing “the good times are here again!” ironically at a time when the number of poor families are rising. The call of the government to tighten our belts and live simply in these times of difficulties is pure hogwash. At the Senate, there is also a disturbing change of tune. Where before Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was batting for a side agreement on the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Pact (JPEPA), now she is about to lead the second surrender of the Philippines to Japan. Her beef – hard to educate people who are afraid of the unknown. The feisty lady, staunch defender of the Constitution and candidate for the International Court of Justice, is giving up! This is harakiri!

–Peter Laviña, councilor, Davao City first district (as posted in his blog: http://ptlavina.wordpress.com/)

“If Vat was to be removed, lowering fuel prices by four to six pesos…Give oil companies a few weeks, and they will find excuses to increase fuel prices again and again and again until the decrease due to the removal of VAT will eventually be lost. So, there is still no effect.”

–Karlo Bello, councilor, Davao City third district

“Who made the speech? Hahaha”
– Paolo Duterte, president, Association of Barangay Captains

“The President spoke of what is happening. I was surprised about Mindanao being the fruit rather food basket of the nation yet a lot of population here are hungry.” — Susabel Reta, councilor, Davao City second district

“I did not hear her Sona up to the end. But I think that the good programs will not be effective if corruption issues are not handled. If businesses are not happy, we won’t get the foreign investment.” — Angel Puentespina, president, Davao Tourism Association

“I’m happy that the president is focusing on programs that will alleviate poverty and help our countrymen survive the global economic crisis.” –Margarita Montemayor-Nograles, distributor, Havaianas

” If GMA says that VAT stabilized the economy, the people did not feel that. People suffer more because of VAT. VAT is the reason why prices of basic commodities are rising. She says that VAT became source of subsidies but majority of the Filipino people did not benefit from it. According to data, Arroyo collected 86 billion from VAT but only5.7 billion was distributed. Where did the 80 billion pesos go? Vat has only become a source of corruption. –Makpil Camacho, deputy secretary- general, Bayan

” For the workers under the Kilusang Mayo Uno, what GMA is saying that the economy has progressed is not true. Wage only increased by 10-20 peso and most of it is the cost of living allowance. Progress is not felt by the people. If you look at what’s happening, the cost of fare is very high. Lines are very long in NFA outlets. What she said are mere ‘pogi’ points. The economy is in crisis. Survey shows that hunger is prevalent. Workers are deprived of the 125 across- the- board wage increase. Where can you see the progress in the economy? There is no logic with that. Many people are starving.” — Robert Lausa, spokesperson, KMU- Southern Mindanao Region

“What more can we expect from PGMA’s 8th SONA? It’s just another round of state rhetoric, empty promises and lack of political will to address the real state of the Filipino children. Since PGMA assumed power, the gap between children’s vulnerability and the fulfilment of their rights continue to widen. To some extent, there’s growing despair among children who are deprived of their basic rights to survival, development, protection, and participation. Poverty and hunger incidence is at its peak especially here in Mindanao which registers a poverty incidence of 40 percent. Peasant children (Lumad, Moro, Christian) are also being displaced because of intensified militarization in the countryside. If she really meant social programs for the poor in her Sona, what we want is a comprehensive approach and not palliative measures. Filipino children demands food not bombs, education not bullets, free and accessible health services and not militarization, basic social services for the disadvantaged and not exhorbitant taxes.”

— Honey May Idul-Suazo

executive secretary

KABIBA Alliance for Children’s Concerns, Inc,

“Vat is the reason why the people wallow in poverty. Vat should be removed especially the Vat in gasoline because it directly affects the poor. Big oil players are not affected by this. There is no progress as what she claims.” –Gabriel Dumayac, 23, laborer in Matina

” The subsidies she gave are only propaganda to cover up her crimes against the people. She wants Vat because of the kickbacks. It could be true that she distributed lands but only to a few. ” –Richmond Madraso, 22, husband in Buhangin

“GMA’s speech is same old story. I don’t feel any progress. There is no change in the clamor for wage increase. The prices of basic goods and fare are very high. Oil prices are being manipulated because if Shell and Petron are loosing in their business, why is it that plenty of small players in the oil industry are emerging?” –Jhong Abraham, 24, self- employed

” Why is she prioritizing building infrastructures? She should feed the people. She only wants to boast to foreigners that the society is progressing but deep inside many people are hungry.” — Mark Anthony Casquio, 18, mountaineer

“She says that she gave plenty of scholarships and yet public schools are not for free.” –Marc Roca, 17, student

——————

SONA 2009 reactions were posted as comment by our valuable readers.  Read-on and comment.

Carmelite priest decries gov’t failure to address hunger

August 6, 2008

MANILA, August 4, 2008─The many proofs of good governance and good economy that peppered President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation address last July 28 are far from the truth according to the story of a Carmelite priest.

Fr. Jerry Sabado, O. Carm said the government is responsible in taking care of lives, nourishment and other basic needs of the Filipino children and the Filipino people as a whole.

“But penury, hunger and inhuman living conditions—that’s all that this government can give to the Filipino people,” lamented the priest.

Sabado said that days before Arroyo’s SONA, children in Payatas went hungry. And it was the same, days after the “historical” speech of the chief executive inside the Batasang Pambansa.

“In our church in Payatas, a child lined for the Holy Communion. But the problem is, he [was] not older than seven years old. The child cried when I told him, he [was] not allowed to take the Holy Host because he [has not taken yet] his First Communion. He cried and cried, begging me, saying ‘Father, sige na po! Gutum na gutom na po ako. Gusto ko po ng tinapay’,” narrated Sabado, a priest of the Order of Carmelite and a member of Kasimbayan (Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan) and Promotion of Church Peoples Response (PCPR) in statement sent to CBCP News a day after the 8th SONA last July 28.

The priest said he was moved by the scene. Then he continued his story:

“Last Monday, July 21, there was a huge fire in Pandacan. Some of the victims were Aglipayans. Two children died, unable to escape the fiery blaze, while the mother [was] in [a] long line, waiting for her turn to buy some kilos of NFA (National Food Authority) rice. Not so long ago, there [were] siblings that have died also in the fire, here in Payatas, while their parents [were] working—scavenging in the huge piles of garbage.”

“A small bread can bring a lot of joy to that small boy. How many breads, bags of rice and other food items can be bought and distributed to millions of our poor kababayans, by billions of pesos that were stolen and planned to be stolen by this government?,” asked Sabado.

“There is no moral basis for anyone to remain in power, especially those in the highest position, if their positions are being used to make themselves rich, while the people are impoverishing and dying because of hunger,” added Sabado.

“As a church that promotes life, it is righteous for the Church to join the people in condemning, in the strongest terms, the plundering of people’s money and the abuse of power of those who is in authority,” said Sabado.

He declared it is an un-Christian to remain silent in the face of ongoing corruption, and it is not right for Church leaders to explicitly support Arroyo.

“Gloria is riding over the pro-Life position of the Church, it is rightful that the Church be in front, in condemning the policies and programs of a corrupt president, who’s number one in destroying and in depriving life and dignity to the millions of Filipinos,” said the priest.

He added that as ordinary church people, like any ordinary Filipino, they can feel the impoverished state of the country.

“We will not close our eyes on the immorality of this government. We are with you in fighting and in making the Arroyo government accountable, who untiringly looting the country’s chest and economy and continuously suppressing and massacring the people. On that note, hand in hand, let’s call for her resignation,” Sabado said.

High percentage living in poverty

According to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS), 59 percent of the Filipino families, or 10.9 million people, say they are poor. This was nine (9) points higher than of last year, where the self-rated poverty had only recorded 50 percent.

Meanwhile, Pulse Asia, Inc., said that 66 percent of the Filipino population—or two out of three Filipinos—said that the Philippine economy have worsened, much worse than of 2005.

Still, the International Labor Organization (ILO) says that majority of the Filipinos still live for less than US$2 a day.

What is more saddening, before the SONA, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said more than 11 million children are malnourished.

Poverty due to corruption

In the 2007 Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International, the Philippines ranked 131, meaning that people perceive there is rampant corruption happening inside the government.

Earlier, in the height of investigation of the controversial national broadband network (NBN) deal with the Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited or ZTE, a Chinese company, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a strong Pastoral Statement—Seeking Truth, Restoring Integrity—condemning “the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder” and urging the “President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found.” (Noel Sales Barcelona)(CBCPNews)

Street Repertory: The Role of Art in the People’s SONA

August 5, 2008

Artists of various disciplines congregated to make the ‘People’s SONA’ a cultural affair as well. Theatrics, musical numbers and poetry-reading were performed. Enormous, hideous effigies stood side-by-side, creative banners and streamers were hung everywhere and the backdrop bore the color and image of people’s dissent. The cultural concept of the event intended to educate the people on the societal ills brought about by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s seven years in power.

BY JEFFREY OCAMPO
CULTURE
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008

The mass action dubbed by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-New Patriotic Alliance) as the “People’s State of the Nation Address” was staged to counter what the protesters called “talumpati ng kasinungalingan” (a litany of lies) of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Aside from Bayan and its member-organizations, leaders and members of the United Opposition (UNO), Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Solidarity Philippines, Youth for Truth and Accountability Now! (Youth ACT Now!), Oust Gloria Coalition, Gloria Step Down! Movement and the White Ribbon Movement were also present.

The People’s SONA refuted Arroyo’s claim of progress and presented the real conditions of the Filipino people. Thus, the cultural design – the performances, visual ambiance and the whole artistic aura – of the event expressed the people’s outrage. Artists from different cultural organizations congregated to create an impressive artistic repertoire encompassing various disciplines.

Ma. Victoria Socorro de Ocampo of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) said, “The role of art in mass actions is an integral one.”
De Ocampo stressed that like the speeches of the leaders of groups and organizations, the cultural performances and the visual elements, which have been “part and parcel” of mass actions, possess educational value as well. De Ocampo, being one of the program directors of SONA protests and other mass actions, emphasized that art is a powerful tool for arousing, organizing and mobilizing the people to advance their interests.

She said that the strength of protest art lies in its capacity to educate and mobilize the masses.

Street ensemble

Different groups of musicians performed before thousands of protesters.

Chikoy Pura of The Jerks gave an acoustic rendition of two of the band’s popular pieces, “Sayaw sa Bubog” and “Rage.” (The audience, including Adel Tamano of UNO and Liza Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party sang along). The strength of the performance, said de Ocampo, was that the songs, which were written for a particular context more two decades ago, possess ‘truth value’ and pressing relevance hitherto.
Datu’s Tribe performed two songs – Karne and Wow Filipinas – the latter tackles the conditions of Filipino migrants.

Poet and musician Jess Santiago performed his song “Only in the Philippines,” eliciting chuckles from the audience.

Sinagbayan or Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan (Art for the People), meanwhile, presented an “experimental” piece transfusing poetry, music and theatrics in a “mini-performance”. Filipino-American poet-activist Philippe Javier Garcesto’s poem “Tadhana” talked about the privation and ‘atrocities’ harnessed by the ‘status quo’ and the people’s collective dream “for a better world.” Sinagbayan collectively laid music into the literary piece. According to Joan Lerio, Sinagbayan’s education committee head, the group aims to “popularize art forms that carry out the aspirations of the people for a freer society.”

People’s Chorale composed of individuals from different organizations performed as well. Trained by Felipe “Jun” de Leon, former National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Commissioner on Music, the group performs regularly in anti-Arroyo protests.

Rap musicians were also present. San Francisco-based Active Leadership to Advance Youth (ALAY), BAYAN USA and ANAKBAYAN Malabon chapter collaborated to come up with a performance that dealt with ‘imperialist ties’ between the country and the US.

De Ocampo said, “In the Philippines, rap music, which has a progressive origin, appeals mostly to youths belonging to the marginalized sectors since it can be played even without musical instruments that they cannot possibly afford.”

BAYAN USA performed an oratorical piece written by Armando Vencero entitled “SONA ng Panlilinlang: Ramdam ang Kahirapan” (SONA of Deception: Poverty is Felt). The piece ended with the lines: Ramdam ang kahirapan at hindi ang kaunlaran!/Ramdam ang pagnanasang rehimen mo ay wakasan!” (What is felt is poverty, not progress! The urge to end your regime is felt!).

All throughout the program, Musicians for Peace provided the ‘bridge music’ (music which fills the gap between the parts of the program) using percussion instruments. The group also used ‘found objects’ such as a water jug aside from the traditional percussion instruments.

Portrait of the Filipino family

The UP Repertory Company (UP Rep), meanwhile, staged a “tula-dula” titled “Ang Kasalukuyang Mukha ng Pamilyang Pilipino”. It deals with the daily predicaments of a Filipino family.

The father, Nante Poorita, worked in a factory for a very low salary and was eventually dismissed. His wife Nancy is a public school teacher who tries to cope amid the crisis of Philippine education. Their daughter Iska is trying to survive in a state university, which is becoming more elitist.

UP Rep’s Mimi Aringo explained that “the story of Poorita family is the story of countless Filipino families. Workers, government employees such as teachers and students are all oppressed and exploited in a systematic way.”

Visual exigency

Red emerged as the dominant color of the event.  The sky was painted red as flags of different organizations were waved. Similarly, the stage’s backdrop was a red tarpaulin containing the phrase ‘People’s SONA’ with an image of clenched fists printed below it. Red has been historically used to symbolize radicalism and opposition to the prevailing system.

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) made higantes (large images) representing three marginalized sectors in Philippine society — workers, peasants and the middle class.

Roel Anda of PCPR said it took them a week to finish the higantes. The faces of the higantes were made out of papier-mâché and bamboos were used for their frames. The PCPR said the higantes represent the people’s “higanteng protesta” (giant protest) against the Arroyo administration. This, according to PCPR, is one way by which church people support the struggles of these sectors.

Members of Salinlahi Alliance for Children Concerns also presented their own version of higantes. They made faces out of cardboards and water-based paints. They also used torn clothes to symbolize the impoverished condition of the people. Franstel Garcia of Salinlahi said they used their “kalawakan ng imahinasyon” (the vastness of imagination) to come up with and execute these ideas.

Another effigy, made by Bayan Muna Partylist, portrayed the president as a bat. Bamboo and black taffeta cloth were used.  The effigy portrayed the president as a blood-sucking creature feeding on the misery of the people through the value added tax (VAT) on petroleum products. The logos of oil companies such as Petron, Chevron and Shell were used as pendants adorning the bat. The earrings, on the other hand, were shaped as dollar signs.

An image burned, a war long-declared

Bayan’s effigy this year has been the largest ever done for a SONA mass action. According to Max Santiago of Ugatlahi, an organization of visual artists who administered the production of the effigy, it took them weeks of brainstorming and meticulous collective work to finish the 21-foot effigy.

The tradition of creating effigies in the Philippines began during the Spanish colonial period when the people of Angono, Rizal created enormous caricatures of hacienderos (Spanish landlords) to protest the unjust system in the hacienda (vast parcel of land).
This year’s effigy featured a sinking ship and the president escaping aboard a soaring aircraft. They used the recent Sulpicio Line’s MV Princess of the Stars’ tragedy as an analogy to represent the Filipino people drowning in the economic crisis. Meanwhile, Arroyo aboard the aircraft symbolized her evasion of her responsibility and accountability as the president. The Ugatlahi painted the aircraft with the American flag to symbolize Arroyo’s puppetry to the U.S. government.

At around 3 p.m., leaders of various groups burned the effigy as a sign of the people’s resolve to end the Arroyo administration.
Before the burning, members of indigenous people advocates group TAKDER (Tignayan Dagiti Agtutubo ti Cordillera para iti Demokrasya ken Rang-ay) performed a patong. Patong is a Cordilleran dance ritual, which uses gansa (gong) to announce wedding, death of a family member, truce between tribes and other important events. In this case, they performed the patong to remind the people of the long-declared war against the “corrupt, anti-people Arroyo regime.”

s the fire consumed the effigy, the people chanted “Makibaka, ‘Wag Matakot” and “Pahirap sa Masa, Patalsikin si Gloria” (Dare to Struggle! Oust Gloria, a Burden to the People!).

At the end of the program, the bat effigy of the president was also burned while the People’s Chorale sang “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa” (Veneration for the Motherland).

De Ocampo said that art – through the performances, visual components and the whole artistic assemblage of the event’s cultural design – had accomplished its role in the ‘People’s SONA’. She said it was able to expose the ills perpetuating under and the “crimes” of the Arroyo administration. “It had achieved its goal of showing the utter disgust of the people toward the president and her administration,” she concluded.

The People’s SONA

August 5, 2008

PHOTO ESSAY
PHOTOS BY ANGIE DE LARA AND RONALYN V. OLEA
TEXT BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008

The sky was cloudy and there were intermittent rains on July 28, when activists took to the streets to greet Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) with protests. The weather had been like that for a few days previous to the event.


But that did not dampen the spirit and creativity of the protesters, who came up with colorful effigies and other visual works highlighting the Arroyo administration’s accountability for the economic and political crisis and the people’s misery.sona

SONA 2008

Several of the activists came “prepared” for the weather, and had their slogans written not on the usual placards, but on their umbrellas and scarves.

With the bright colors of the effigies and other visuals, the rally was almost like a parade, and indeed the program at times took on aSONA 2008 somewhat festive atmosphere. SONA 2008

sona 2008

SONA 2008

But not everything was merrymaking, of course. There were several heart-rending cultural presentations on human rights violations – including by Desaperacidos, relatives of activists who were forcibly disappeared, and a group of youth activists from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-USA.SONA 2008
Several speakers, including former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, Jr.,
gave serious speeches on the current crisis. Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, Jr

SONA 2008

The protesters highlighted their demand for the scrapping of the value-added tax on oil, power and other socially-sensitive products.

It is perhaps a testament to the proportions that the crisis has reached that even children could not be kept from joining the rally, and on July 28 they came in large number with their SONA 2008parents to the protest activity.SONA 2008

In the end, there had to be the usual effigy-burning, and many could
not help but comment on how long it took before Mrs. Arroyo’s face
could be burnt completely.

SONA 2008

Bulatlat

SOMAtion: State of the Media Add[REP]RESS[ION]

August 5, 2008

As the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) celebrated its 22nd anniversary, media practitioners presented today’s state of the Philippine media.

BY HANNAH FAITH DORMIDO
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 26, August 3-9, 2008

If Mrs. Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address was full of applauses from her cohorts in Congress, the State of the Media Address showed the depressing status of the media and journalists in the country.

“The media is a reflection of the SONA,” said Joe Pavia, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute, adding that the state of the nation is the reflection of the state of the media and vice versa.

Killings, threats

The Philippines is classified as one of the countries that have a partly free press, said Isagani Yambot, publisher of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Since 1986, the PDI and the NUJP have tallied 116 journalists killed. Citing data from the Philippine National Police’s Task Force Usig, he said that only four suspects in only two cases of killings have been arrested.

In most cases, only the gunmen, not the masterminds, were arrested, creating a culture of impunity, said Yambot.

Sonny Fernandez, NUJP vice chair, said, “The number of killings minus the few token cases solved equals culture of impunity.”

Many journalists also face threats and harassments from politicians and drug lords. Yambot said.

Libel

Yambot further said that libel cases are being used to repress crusading journalists. He recalled the libel cases filed by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo against several members of the media.
He also criticized efforts to limit the media’s access to information.

Low pay

Print journalists also suffer low wages as compared to television news anchors. Five years ago, Yambot said a news anchor earned P380, 000 ($8,592 at the current exchange rate of $1=P44.225) a month while newspaper section editors earned a meager P35,000 to P40,000 ($701 to $904) a month.

“You’re going to get your reward in heaven,” was all Yambot could tell journalists every time they ask for a wage increase.

Mike Ubac, president of the PDI Employees Union, said that many reporters do not have job security and benefits. Others would not receive their salary for five months.

Ubac also said that while the management wants media practitioners to become super reporters or multimedia reporters, they do not get additional compensation.

Fernandez said, “Ang mga journalists, araw-araw nakikibaka para sa disenteng pamumuhay.” (Journalists struggle every day for a decent living.)

Professional issues

Another problem cited by Yambot is the deteriorating proficiency in English. He said that some would literally translate Filipino into English.

Yambot also complained that some journalists don’t have a sense of historical background. As Joe Torres of GMANews.tv said, stories must be given faces and the proper context.

Ed Lingao, news director of ABC 5 pointed out two major challenges faced by broadcast journalists. He said some media students start on the wrong foot; they want to be into broadcast journalism because they just want to be seen on television or to become famous.

Lingao said another problem lies on the practitioners themselves. He said that many reporters and journalists are lazy and some are arrogant. He said lazy reporters fail to give background or context to their reports and arrogant reporters and camera persons would even punch or hit suspects in crime scenes.

There is also confusion between the roles of newsmen and entertainers, said Lingao. “Writing skills always take the back seat,” he said, “while appearances are deemed more important.”
He said that managers and producers as the most important gatekeepers should always be responsible.

Press freedom

Fernandez said the façade or perception of power and fame of the media remains only in the façade given all the threats and struggles faced by journalists.

He concluded that there can be no press freedom if journalists live in fear, corruption and poverty. Bulatlat

Krisis at kahirapan sa ilalim ng rehimeng US‐Arroyo

August 4, 2008

SObraNA!

Krisis at kahirapan sa ilalim ng rehimeng US‐Arroyo
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Hulyo 2008

Ika‐walong SONA na ni Gloria pero krisis ay lumala pa

Masyadong malala na ang inabot na pagkabulok ng rehimeng US‐Arroyo.

Sumadsad ang “approval ratings” ni Gloria sa pinakamababang antas ng sinumang pangulo mula 1986.
Nasa ‐38% ang popularidad ng pangulo dulot na rin ng patuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng langis, krisis sa
bigas at mapaniil na VAT. Hindi na nakabangon ang ratings ni Arroyo mula noong panahon ng dayaan sa
eleksyon ng 2004, Hello Garci Scandal ng 2005, extrajudicial killings at alegasyon ng malawakan at
malakihang mga kaso ng katiwalian.

Sa kabila nito, nagmamatigas pa rin ang administrasyon sa mga patakarang binabatikos na ng mayorya
ng mamamayan bilang pahirap sa kanila. Isang halimbawa ang VAT sa langis, Sa kabila ng apela ng mga
lider ng simbahang Katoliko at batikos ng mga mambabatas, ayaw pumayag ng rehimeng US‐Arroyo na
tanggalin ito dahil limpak ang koleksyon ng BIR mula sa VAT.

Hindi pa rin nakaka‐alpas ang rehimen sa mga isyu ng katiwalian. Sariwa pa sa isip ng tao ang
maanomalyang ZTE‐NBN deal at inaabangan ang magiging testimonya ni dating House Speaker Jose de
Venecia kung totoong isisiwalat niya ang kanyang nalalaman. Nagiging matunog din ang mga nakaraang
kaso ng katiwalian tulad ng “Swine Scam” at ang Northrail contract.

Ang korapsyon sa panahon ng matinding krisis ay lalong magpapatindi sa galit ng mamamayan sa
nakaupo sa Malacanang.

Ang pabigat na VAT ay binibigyang katwiran ng rehimen sa pamamagitan ng tinaguriang “subsidy” para
sa mahihirap. Tinutuligsa ng marami ang pakanang ito bilang panandalian, di tunay na solusyon kundi
panlilinlang at madaling mauwi sa korapsyon.

Nakakapanatili na lamang si Arroyo sa poder sa suporta ng mga heneral, big business (lokal na
komprador kapitalista at dayuhang monopoly kapitalista), mga tagasunod at mga kaalyado sa
lehislatura, sa local at pambansang pamahalaan at sa korte suprema. Nariyan pa rin ang suporta, ayuda
at panunulsol ng US sa rehimen dahil sa masugid nitong pagtupad sa mga maka‐imperyalistang polisiya,
kabilang ang neo‐liberal na globalisasyon at ang “gera laban sa terorismo”.

Desperado ang rehimeng Arroyo na bigyan ng “laman at sustansya” ang kanyang darating na SONA.
Hindi kumagat ang islogan nilang “Ramdam ang kaunlaran” dahil sa tindi ng krisis. Hindi rin
pinapaniwalaan ang islogan nilang “Labanan ang kahirapan” dahil hindi nga sapat ang mga ginagawa ng
gobyerno para bigyang lunas ang krisis o kahit man lamang ibsan ang epekto nito. Naghahabol ng
maaaring gamiting palusot si Arroyo sa gitna ng maraming mga bigong pangako at maling patakaran.
Sa huli ay mauuwi ang talumpati ni Arroyo sa litanya ng mga di‐umanong “accomplishment” na walang
batayan sa realidad, pawing kasinungalingan o kaya’y pinakikinabangan ng iilang naghahari.
mamamayan, kasabay ang mga planong “dole‐out” at subsidyong ginagawa na sa kasalukuyan.

Kahirapan, di pag‐unlad

Sa likod ng diumano’y paglago ng Gross Domestic Product, patuloy naman ang pagtindi ng kahirapan ng
maraming Pilipino. Sa pinakahuling ulat ng NSCB, lumaki ang bilang ng mahihirap ng 3.8 milyon sa
pagitan ng 2003 at 2006. Sa taya mismo ng gobyerno na malamang minemenos pa, umaabot na sa
27.6 milyon ang bilang ng mahihirap (o 33% ng populasyon) mula sa dating 23.8 milyon (30% ng
populasyon).

Tandaang napakababa ng pamantayang ginagamit ng gobyerno upang sukatin ang kahirapan.
Halimbawa, noong 2006, kailangan lamang daw ng isang pamilyang may limang kasapi ng P206 kada
araw upang huwag maituring na mahirap. Napakalayo nito sa tinataya namang halagang kailangan ng
isang pamilyang may parehong bilang ng kasapi na P894 kada araw upang mabuhay nang disente (i.e.
batay sa family living wage ng NWPC) kung sa NCR. Kaya higit na marami pa ang maituturing na
naghihikahos kumpara sa opisyal na datos ng gobyerno. Sa hiwalay na pagtaya, maaaring umabot sa 8‐9
sa bawat 10 pamilya ang maituturing na mahirap.

Sinusukat lamang ng mga macroeconomic indicators gaya ng gross domestic product (GDP) growth ang
paglago ng produksyon ng ekonomya sa loob ng isang takdang panahon. Pero hindi nito ipinapakita kung
paano naipapamahagi ang yamang nililikha ng ekonomya upang pakinabangan ng higit na nakararami.
Naipapamahagi ang yamang ito sa pamamagitan ng paglikha ng produktibo at sapat na bilang ng mga
trabaho, pagseguro ng disenteng sahod at kita, maaasahang panlipunang serbisyo at iba pa. Pero ang
mga ito rin mismo ang hindi tinutugunan ng rehimeng US‐Arroyo.

Kawalan ng trabaho

Lumalala ang krisis sa kawalan at kakulangan ng trabaho sa bansa. Sa pinakahuling ulat ng NSO, mahigit
16 milyong manggagawang Pilipino (o halos 28% ng labor force) ang wala o kulang ang trabaho.
Dinadaya pa nga ng gobyerno ang pagsukat sa kawalan ng trabaho dahil sinadya nitong baluktutin ang
depinisyon ng empleyo upang itago ang tunay na kalagayan ng job scarcity sa bansa. Samantala, ang
labor force participation rate (LFPR) na 63.2% noong April 2008 NSO survey ay siyang pinakamababa
mula noong 1995.

Hindi nakakalikha ng sapat at produktibong trabaho ang mala‐kolonyal at mala‐pyudal na lipunang
Pilipino. Ibayong pinalolobo ang bilang ng walang hanapbuhay ng patuloy na pagkawasak ng mga
industriya sa bansa at patuloy na konsentrasyon ng mga lupang sakahan sa kanayunan. Sa April 2008
survey ng NSO, iniulat nitong umabot sa 168,000 netong trabaho ang nawala mula sa parehong
panahon noong 2007 dahil sa 244,000 na nawalang trabaho sa industriya. Samantala, anumang
trabaho ang nililikha ng ekonomya ay batay sa kung ano ang pangangailangan ng dayuhang
pamumuhunan at hindi sa kung ano ang aktwal na pangangailangan ng ekonomya.

Bukod pa rito ang mga nalilikhang trabaho na di‐produktibo, walang seguridad at napakababa ng kita
gaya ng pangangatulong, pagtitingi, at iba pa dahil walang trabahong malikha ang industriya at
agrikultura. Katunayan, halos 50% ng bilang ng may hanapbuhay sa bansa ang nasa sektor ng serbisyo
kunsaan kabilang ang ganitong tipo ng mga trabaho gayundin ang mga negosyong call center at iba pa
na siyang pinapaboran ng mga dayuhang imbestor.

Krisis pangkabuhayan

Hindi rin nakakatiyak ng disenteng pamumuhay ang mga Pilipinong may hanapbuhay. Nananatiling
napakababa ng minimum wage at patuloy na iniiwanan ng umaalagwang pagtaas ng halaga ng
pamumuhay. Sa NCR, umaabot lamang sa P345 hanggang P382 ang arawang minimum wage kasama
na ang COLA, malayo sa itinuturing na ”living wage” na P894 kada araw.

Pumapatong sa kawalan ng hanapbuhay, disenteng sahod at kita at pangkalahatang pagkaatrasado ng
ekonomya ang napakatinding pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin na bunga ng
pagsasamantala ng mga dayuhan at lokal na monopolyo, maling patakaran ng gobyerno at mga pahirap
na buwis gaya ng VAT.

Bunga halimbawa ng Oil Deregulation Law (RA 8479), hindi mapigilan ang pagsirit ng presyo ng mga
produktong petrolyo. Mula nang ipatupad ang ODL, tumaas na ang presyo ng diesel, 738%; gasoline
products, 554‐572%, at LPG, 499%. Ngayong taon lamang, 19‐20 ulit na OPH ang naitala na nagpataas sa
presyo ng gasolina ng P19 kada litro; diesel, P24 kada litro; at kerosene, P22.50 kada litro. Mahalagang
tumbukin din na mayroon mang OPH o wala, dati nang artipisyal na mataas ang presyo ng langis bunga
ng pag‐iral ng pandaigdigang kartel sa langis.

Pero pinalala pa ito nang patawan ng rehimeng US‐Arroyo ng 12% VAT ang langis (RVAT Law) mula
noong Nobyembre 2005 sa dikta ng IMF. Sa kasalukuyan, umaabot na sa mahigit P7 kada litro ang
kuleksyon ng gobyerno sa VAT. Kailangan ng bangkaroteng rehimeng US‐Arroyo ang VAT upang matiyak
sa mga dayuhang creditor na patuloy itong makakapagbayad ng utang.

Magkasabwat ang rehimeng US‐Arroyo at mga kumpanya ng langis sa pagpapahirap at pagpiga ng
pakinabang sa mamamayan – ang gobyerno sa VAT sa langis at ang mga oil firms sa lumalaking tubo
bunga ng OPH. Sa taya ng Kontra‐KulimVAT, sa kada P1 kada litro na OPH, lumalaki ang koleksyon ng
gobyerno mula sa VAT ng P5.5 milyon kada araw. Ipinapaliwanag nito ang pagmamatigas ni Arroyo sa
VAT sa langis.

Upang bigyang katwiran ang VAT sa langis, ipinangangalandakan ng rehimeng US‐Arroyo ang subsidy
program nito na pinupondohan ng lumalaking koleksyon ng gobyerno mula sa VAT sa langis. Kabilang
dito ang inanunsyong P4 bilyon na subsidyo (P1B power subsidy; P1B microfinancing para sa asawa ng
mga tsuper at konduktor; P500M karagdagang benepisyo para sa mga senior citizens; P1B para sa mga
lalawigang tinamaan ng kalamidad). Ngunit walang makabuluhang pakinabang dito ang mamamayan
dahil sa bukod sa lubhang maliit, hindi rin ito naipapatupad sa buong bansa.

Samantala, kung aalisin ang VAT sa langis, agad na bababa ang presyo ng diesel ng hanggang P7.07 kada
litro; gasolina (P6.93 hanggang P7.46); kerosene (P7.20); at LPG (P88.62 kada 11‐kg tangke). Para sa mga
tsuper, maaring madagdagan ang kanilang kita ng mahigit P212 kada maghapong pamamasada; tricycle
driver, P29 kada pasada; maliit na mangingisdang gumagamit ng bangkang de‐motor, hanggang P69
kada pangingisda. Ilan lamang ito sa mga kongkreto at direktang pakinabang ng ordinaryong
mamamayan kung aalisin ang VAT sa mga produktong petrolyo.

Krisis sa bigas

Bunga naman ng patakarang liberalisasyon ng agrikultura at pribatisasyon ng NFA, hindi mapigilan ng
gobyerno ang pagsasamantala ng kartel sa bigas. Balewala at pakitangtao lamang ang panapanahong
raid na ginagawa nila sa mga warehouse ng mga rice wholesalers. Sa ilang bahagi ng Mindanao, umabot
pa sa P50 kada kilo ang retail price ng bigas at walang palatandaang nag‐iistabilisa ang presyo nito sa
buong bansa. At kahit maging istable, sinasabi na ng NFA na nasa napakataas na P35‐37 range ang
magiging presyo ng commercial rice, malayung‐malayo na sa P24‐28 (maliban sa fancy) na presyo noon
lamang Disyembre 2007.

Mula Disyembre 2007 hanggang nitong ikatlong linggo ng Hulyo 2008, tumaas ang retail price ng
regular milled rice sa NCR ng 50%; well milled rice, 46%; at premium rice, 43 percent.
Patuloy na pagsandig sa importasyon at liberalisasyon ang tanging solusyon ng NFA sa krisis sa bigas at
itinaas pa sa 2.4 milyon MT ang target nitong angkatin ngayong taon mula sa dating 2.1 milyon MT.

Ginagamit din nitong palusot ang krisis sa bigas upang ituluy‐tuloy ang pribatisasyon ng NFA at hikayatin
ang mga pribadong trader na mag‐angkat ng bigas. Lalo nitong pinalulubha ang kawalan ng seguridad sa
bigas ng bansa habang ibayong pinalalakas ang lokal na kartel sa bigas.

Pagsirit ng presyo

Sa pangkalahatan, pumitik sa 11.4% ang inflation rate nitong Hunyo, pinakamataas sa loob ng 14 na
taon. Itinulak ito nang husto ng 17.4% pagtaas ng presyo ng pagkain na bumubuo sa mahigit kalahati ng
badyet ng isang pamilya.

Pinatitindi ng pagtaas ng presyo ang kahirapan sa bansa lalo’t sa kalagayang marami ang walang trabaho
at kulang na kulang ang kita. Sa pag‐aaral, halimbawa, ng ADB, sa bawat 10% pagtaas sa presyo ng
pagkain, 2.3 milyon ang madadagdag sa bilang ng mahihirap. Sa kasalukuyang bilis ng pagtaas ng presyo
ng bigas lamang, tinatayang madaragdagan ang bilang ng mahihirap ng 660,000. Samantala, sa bawat
10% pagtaas sa presyo ng langis, 160,000 Pilipino ang nadaragdag sa bilang ng mahihirap.

Pinahihirapan na nga ng husto ng kawalan ng maasahang programang lilikha ng trabaho, na
pagpapanatili ng mababang sahod at kita, matinding pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin at
pabigat na VAT, wala pang maasahang panlipunang serbisyo mula sa rehimeng US‐Arroyo. Mula 2001
hanggang 2008, halos 28% ng taunang pambansang badyet ang inilalaan sa interest payments pa
lamang samantalang napakaliit ng nakalaan para sa edukasyon (15%); kalusugan (1.7%); at pabahay
(0.3%).

Sa halip na panlipunang serbisyo, karahasan at pagpapalayas ang dinaranas ng anakpawis at maralita sa
kamay ng rehimeng US‐Arroyo. Ayon sa tinipong datos ng KADAMAY, halimbawa, mula July 2007

hanggang February 2008, aabot na sa 24 na kaso ng demolisyon ang naitala sa NCR pa lamang na
nagpalayas sa may 12,345 pamilya bukod pa sa 2,650 kabahayan.

Papanagutin ang rehimeng US‐Arroyo

Walang aasahan ang mamamayan sa darating na SONA ni Gloria kundi pawing kasinungalingan.

Ipinapakita ng kasalukuyang sumasahol na kalagayan na dapat nang tapusin ang paghahari ng pahirap,
korap, tuta at pasistang rehimeng US‐Arroyo. Hindi dapat tiisin pa ng dalawang taon ang isang bulok na
pamamahala.

Dapat managot ang kasalukuyang rehimen sa pagkawasak ng kabuhayan at pagdarahop ng milyunmilyong
Pilipino.

Dapat managot ang rehimen sa patuloy na pandarambong sa kabang‐yaman, ekonomya at patrimonya
ng bansa sa gitna ng matinding krisis at kahirapan dinaranas ng mamamayan.

SONA 2008 Pictures

August 4, 2008

Metro Manila, Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Bikol – People’s SONA, July 28, 2008
Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto – People’s SONA, July 27-28, 2008
Los Angeles, New York – People’s SONA, July 28, 2008
mula sa ARKIBONG BAYAN

‘Lumad’ leaders deliver own Sona

August 4, 2008

By Ryan Rosauro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:20:00 08/02/2008

WE ARE HUNGRIER NOW. WE ARE POORER.” This, according to leaders of “lumad” communities, is the state of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

In a “State of the Indigenous Peoples’ Address” (Sipa) on Monday, they assailed President Macapagal-Arroyo and the government for turning a blind eye on the concerns of the country’s indigenous peoples. Her State of the Nation Address (Sona), while not missing mention of the “lumad”, treats them “passively,” they said.

The annual Sona spells out the Arroyo administration’s priority concerns for the coming year.

“We listened and watched with disbelief as the images we saw and the statements made by (Ms) Arroyo were a far cry from our reality—that of increased poverty, worsened hunger and further marginalization,” the Sipa stated. “Instead, she has only exaggerated the benefits of one, which obviously does not represent the true circumstances of all.”

Some 140 “lumad” leaders from all over Mindanao gathered in Davao City for three days to discuss their common plight and craft strategies on how to advance their struggle for recognition of indigenous rights.

CADT issuance

The last time Ms Arroyo spoke about the “lumad” people was in 2001, when she vowed to distribute 100 certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADTs) every year. A CADT signifies the grant by the government of a secure tenure to indigenous groups over specific land areas proven to relate to their ancestry.

But data from a nongovernment group, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK), revealed that for the past seven years, only 71 CADTs had been issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Of these, eight are ancestral domain claims in Mindanao.

This means that the CADT issuance performance is short by 29 for a year’s target alone.

Judith Pamela Pasimio, LRC-KsK executive director, said that since the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (Ipra) was enacted in 1997, only 25 percent of the total CADT applications had resulted in awards.

Tenement rights

The “lumad” leaders were worried that the government could be disfavoring the fast-tracked tenurial security grant over their ancestral domain claims to favor the tenements applications of foreign mining companies.

Since assuming power in 2001, Ms Arroyo has advocated the entry of foreign capital into the minerals production sector as a principal strategy for pushing economic growth.

The LRC-KsK noted that as of December 2007, the government granted a total of 240 tenement rights to various mining companies, 60 percent of which were within ancestral domains.

Timuay Noval Lambo, a Subanen leader in the Zamboanga Peninsula, criticized the Arroyo administration for hyping about environmentally sound and “lumad”-friendly mining operations. “I cannot believe that’s happening with the current crop of miners we have,” he said.

Last month, in a series of consultations among “lumad” leaders throughout the country, the Irish Center for Human Rights found at least 40 cases of violations of the United Nations protocols against discrimination against indigenous peoples.

Cathal Boyle, who represented the center in the meetings, noted acts of racial discrimination by way of government policies that disfavored the indigenous peoples.

Of the 40 documented cases, the bulk were related to large-scale corporate mining projects within ancestral domains. A serious violation related to “short-circuiting” the process of seeking consent for mining projects.

Displacement

“Lumad” people also feared being displaced as a result of expanding crop plantations and increasing projects within their land, the Sipa said. It took issue of the declaration of portions of their lands into environmentally protected areas which limited their use of natural resource for their survival.

“The small lands we till for vegetables, corn and other root crops for our food are threatened with conversion to dams, mine sites and energy plants. The entry of plantations, timber license agreements and mining mean the loss of our sustainable livelihood practices,” the Sipa read.

“Our rights to self-determination and to self-governance are continuously violated. The government and private corporations interested in our lands have connived to employ tactics to undermine our traditional processes and customary laws,” it added.

The government’s intensified campaign against communist insurgents in the countryside is hampering the lives of many “lumad” people, the document said. It pointed out that a number of “lumad” leaders had become victims of summary killings, while others were forced to join paramilitary forces.

Many families have to evacuate to avoid getting caught in the crossfire of armed clashes, it said.

Given their plight, the “lumad” leaders pushed for the speedy issuance of CADTs as a cornerstone step to secure tenure over indigenous peoples’ lands. They also urged reforms in the country’s political administration.

“The governance of the nation should be more decentralized, inclusive and cognizant of the different systems of governance particularly in indigenous communities and territories,” the Sipa said.

Most corrupt government, most impoverished year

August 3, 2008

By TONGTONGAN TI UMILI – CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE

Social unrest is rapidly deepening, triggered by unhampered and striking increases in oil prices and basic commodities. The rice problem is still burdening the people and social services have become inaccessible. While the people grumble in economic distress, the GMA regime takes comfort in conscious blindness. GMA escapes the crisis with impunity like what she has always done with her grave cases of corruption and human rights violations.


E-VAT ROBS. With 12% on top of the cost of prime commodities, the poor are in the losing end because they have to share most of their hard-earned income to the government coffers that is often emptied into the pockets of grafters in the name of pro-poor projects. Photo by Myko Franco Chiong/NORDIS

Oil prices have increased 20 times, from January to July 2008. Oil companies implemented weekly increases of P1.50 per liter of diesel in June; P2 in July 5 and in July 19 the highest at P3 increase per liter.

This scenario does not stop as oil companies invoke their under-recovery excuse despite accumulation of billions of profits last year as tabulated (see table).

Striking oil price increases brought about by global speculations of oil cartels demonstrated the extreme vulnerability of the nation due to deregulation. Due to this globalization policy, oil companies are implementing these increases – like vultures brazenly attacking the already impoverished motorists and consumers.

The Expanded Value Added Tax (E-VAT) on oil products also adds up to the burden. As oil prices continue to rise and so does the VAT in oil products. Removing the VAT on petroleum could immediately bring down the pump prices of diesel by more than P6 a liter and gasoline by more than P7 a liter, yet GMA still ignores this valid proposition. Even the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has directly questioned the E-VAT.

Access denied

The Filipino people are feeling the ‘domino effect’ of oil price hikes. Everything is going up – fare, food, goods and services. Even the double-digit inflation rate is evident of the sharp increases in prices. As prices soar, these basic commodities and services are becoming too inaccessible.


Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Education and health services fall down in the rank of priorities of the impoverished Filipinos. At the start of the school year, tuition fee increases have become too expensive robbing the youth of the right to education.

Similarly, the unresolved rice problem continues to rob the Filipino people of access to this staple food. In interior Mindanao, the price of commercial rice even reached P50 – P100 per kilo – a big irony for an agricultural country. This crisis has resulted in intense hunger for the poor Filipinos.


Photo by Myko Franco Chiong/NORDIS

In particular, indigenous peoples suffer twice from the political and economic crisis due to the systematic violations of their collective human rights. Corporate interests in connivance with the State increasingly drive indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands as they plunder the country’s resources.

Imperialist plunder

GMA has virtually offered the Cordillera for imperialist plunder while calling it “development”—66% of the total Cordillera land of 1.8 million hectares is applied for with various mining applications, and five of government’s 23 priority mining areas are located in the Cordillera, with flashpoint areas in the provinces of Kalinga, Abra, Benguet and Apayao.

The government, the military and the mining companies involved violate the indigenous communities’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Government has responded to community opposition to destructive projects by heavily militarizing indigenous territories resulting to massive violations of individual and collective rights and even extra-judicial killings, such as in Baay-Licuan and Tubo in Abra. GMA’s 2007 SONA further defined the Cordillera for extractive industries and a resource base with her Northern Luzon Growth Quadrangle.

A year after, with more ancestral territories opened to large mines and collective rights of IPs blatantly violated, ethnocide has only worsened further marginalizing indigenous peoples.

However, the GMA regime is too numb and consciously blind to see the real state of the nation. She may have dole-out subsidies like the one-time electricity subsidy, oil subsidy, jeepney conversion to LPG, fertilizer subsidy and educational loans, but the funding for such also came from the E-VAT, paid by the end-consumers.

These subsidies are also temporary, aimed at appeasing the people to avert another uprising but not in resolving the root of the crisis. She is not also scrapping the E-VAT on oil and power and still deaf in the calls to reverse the globalization policy.

Impunity

While the people withstand the worst of hunger and poverty, the GMA regime escapes corruption with impunity. This year, Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy survey ranked the Philippines, as the most corrupt economy among thirteen (13) countries and territories across Asia. In October last year, Pulse Asia Survey ranked GMA as the most corrupt president in the Philippines.

Who will forget the NBN-ZTE, the PIATCO-NAIA Terminal 3, Fertilizer Scam, Jose Pedal, Poll Automation, Diosdado Macapagal Highway and other grand corruption cases? Who will forget the cases that the people directly filed against the president, the first family and their allies?


Police disperses the protest of students at Manision House during GMA’s visit last March in Baguio City. Photo by Noel Godinez/NORDIS (click here for more photos of the dispersal)

Impunity also describes the human rights situation in the country. The campaign of this fascist regime to cripple progressive organizations and her critiques has resulted to more than 1,000 victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances from 2001-2008. Anti-GMA protesters face harassments and violent dispersals while leaders of progressive organizations are facing trumped-up charges.

Corrupt and fascist

Indeed, what we have is a corrupt and fascist regime, distant and consciously blind of the people’s misery.

The state of the nation serves as a fertile ground for the people’s legitimate uprising. In times of crisis, political maturity and participation should happen. In times of crisis, the call for immediate economic relief and meaningful social change shall reverberate.

Hunger should not be limited to the physical aspect. The people shall transform this towards the hunger for change. GMA’s stay in power means more economic hardship, more corruption and violations of people’s rights. Her ouster is evidently necessary! #(NorDis)

Teachers’ group gives Arroyo failing mark

August 1, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Jerry E. Esplanada

MANILA, Philippines — For failing to tackle the worsening education crisis and their job concerns in her State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was given a failing grade by the country’s public school teachers.

The President “has chosen to turn a blind eye to the worsening education crisis and a deaf ear to the teachers’ clamor for better pay in the face of dire economic conditions,” the militant Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said on Thursday.

“Mrs. Arroyo confirmed once again that the SONA is indeed the magic portal to an enchanted kingdom. Listening to (last Monday’s) speech will leave you with the impression that it’s all business as usual in the education sector,” ACT chair Antonio Tinio told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.

The President failed to mention “the huge decline in participation rates among school-age children,” said Tinio, adding over three million children from six to 15 years old have been out of school.

Last week, the National Statistical Coordination Board said that one in six school-age children have been deprived of education and the number was rising steadily.

In a study, the NSCB also disclosed that the percentage of children enrolled in primary schools was down to 83 percent in the 2006-2007 school year from 90 percent five years earlier.

The numbers were even worse for secondary education at 59 percent, though they have been steady over five years, said the same study.

According to the NSCB, the number of Filipino children who did not have access to primary education worsened to 16.8 percent of the school-age population in the schoolyear ending 2007 from 15.6 percent the previous year because of the rising cost of living.

The NSCB said the failure of the country to send more of its school-age children to school kept it offtrack of the government’s targets under the Millennium Development Goal that all Filipino kids would have access to basic education by 2015.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said they have been “squarely addressing the situation.”

But Lapus also said that the latest Department of Education survey for school year 2007-2008 showed an improvement with a participation rate of 85 percent.

“This has, in fact, prodded us to intensify our Oplan Balik Eskwela (Operation Back to School) and Brigada Eskwela (School Brigade) program to encourage parents to send their kids to school at no cost…We’ve also asked local government units to come up with anti-truancy ordinance so parents will ensure their children’s constant presence in school,” he said.

Lapus expressed hope the DepEd “can count on the support of organizations such as ACT in educating the public on key education issues.”

On Thursday, Tinio said Arroyo had yet to do anything to improve school participation rates beyond giving out a few scholarships.

He referred to “numerous flaws and limitations in the government’s system of vouchers and subsidies, which Mrs. Arroyo mentioned in her speech.”

“But they are only available for high school. There’s no equivalent for elementary. They are also limited in scale,” Tinio said.

The ACT leader said that while millions needed assistance, only about 200,000 students have been benefitting from aid.

“And lower middle class students of private high schools are the main beneficiaries, not the poor who are dropping out,” Tinio pointed out, referring to the subsidies given to some students who enroll in private schools with low tuition rates to ease the pressure on public schools.

Tinio also scoffed at the President’s “expression of caring for the plight of public school teachers in her SONA.”

“If she truly cares, then why has she totally ignored our demand for a P9,000 increase that will give teachers decent salaries and restore the status of the teaching profession? It seems that she cares more for military and police personnel to whom her administration has granted substantial hikes in pay and benefits over the years,” the ACT head added.

There’s the Rub: Lying in state

August 1, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Conrado de Quiros

The state of the nation wasn’t to be found in the words, it was to be found in the images.

The opening of the ceremonies set the tone for it: same scene, slight change of characters. There was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo flanked by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, except that last year it was Manuel Villar and Jose de Venecia while this year it was Villar and Prospero Nograles. What a difference a year makes! Which is why, despite De Venecia’s carping against government and threats to expose Arroyo today, I have little love for him. Only last year, he was the one inveigling the audience to clap loudly while introducing the speaker, “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the Republic of the Philippines.” This time around it was Nograles who did the honors, or dishonors.

Villar, now as then, remained stolid, refusing to applaud. I don’t know whether that was because he objected to Arroyo being called president or to the kiss of death that being seen applauding her threatened. But it was, and is, a brilliant pre-election campaign tack, one that could win him tons of votes in 2010—assuming there would be elections then. The image drove home the point of a house divided, which reminded the nation again of something the person about to speak predicted would happen if she ran for president in 2004, which was to cause never-ending divisiveness to befall the land.

The image also gave me insights into the Zen riddle, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” But that’s another story.

The true state of the nation was to be found as well in the interminableness of the speech. Malacañang had earlier told the press that Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) would be brief this time, only around 15 pages, full of humility and chastisement. After last year’s deadening enumeration of government’s presumed accomplishments—a roll-on, roll-off speech full of rah-rah for Number One—I thought Arroyo had finally discovered that the best way to appease an enraged public was to give it some respite.

I should have known better than to believe any of Malacañang’s promises, political or oratorical. The speech turned out to be longer than last year’s, as Arroyo trotted out more Exhibit A’s to convince the nation that “ramdam na ramdam na ang kaunlaran” [the prosperity is really felt], this time pointing to ordinary citizens in lieu of extraordinary local officials. The only break in the interminability was the introduction of Nagtipuan town’s Mayor Rosario Camma, who attended the SONA in formal tribal wear, which gave whole new dimensions into the meanings of transparency and (semi-)naked truth. Alas for him, with the naked truth about him being known, which is that he is a Arroyo protégé, he might not be mayor for long.

It was close to an hour when Arroyo finished, reminding the nation of two things. One is how long she has been there. This was her eighth SONA, the most number by any ruler of this country, and the only unelected one, since Ferdinand Marcos. One is tempted to say that at the rate she’s going, one dreads to think what her swan song next year would be. But that presumes it will be her swan song, which is a monumental presumption. What particularly scared me was the part where she said she was doing everything to make life easier for her successor, “the next president whoever it might be.” She said exactly the same thing before: “If we achieve these [reforms], my successor as president will be in a good position to lead the Philippines through the next decisive steps for the strong and modern society.” That was in the speech where she said she would not run in 2004. As it turned out, by successor, she meant herself.

Two is how unrelentingly oppressive her being there has been. During her speech, the cameras caught people yawning, snoring and fuming silently you could almost see the smoke rising from their heads. The only thing that comforted me was the thought that finally the congressmen were being given a taste, if only for an hour, of what the citizenry has had to endure all these years. But I felt badly for everybody else, including those who were sent to hospitals for various ailments from the sight (and shriek) of the modern-day Medusa. For one brief moment, I wished I didn’t have to write a column and wasn’t forced to watch that spectacle. But I realized almost immediately that if I didn’t have a column, I would count among the bedraggled horde bursting our hospitals at the seams.

In the end, the SONA brought back an image from not so long ago, which gave me the sensation of being caught in a time warp. That was the twilight of martial law, when Marcos, buffeted by lupus, and Cory Aquino went to the Batasan legislative building to try to persuade the nation to know an entirely different state. There are differences between then and now. Congress then was unicameral (today there’s the House and Senate), there were no surveys and a free press to show Marcos’ horrendous unpopularity (he could continue to claim he spoke for the silent majority), and there were no protest rallies and alternative SONAs to apprise the nation of its true state.

But the same aura was there, the aura of death and decay. It evoked a world or state so far removed from this one, never mind from this nation, it might as well have been located in the darker corners of the afterlife. The same air of remoteness was there, the same air of isolation was there, the same air of a phantasmagoric reality was there. Even the faces were the same, faces ravaged by physical and spiritual disease, by the lupus of moral bankruptcy and corruption, by the cancer of greed and selfishness, by the miasma of a living death or a dead life like the grotesquely beatific masks worn by the embalmed.

That was what the SONA was last Monday, a lot of lying in state—in more ways than one.

Photo Essay sa SONA 2008

July 31, 2008

Kontra-Sona

July 31, 2008

PW Reportorial Team

Pagsusunog ng effigy ni Pangulong Arroyo sa People's State of the Nation Address sa Commonwealth Ave., Quezon City (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

DATOS at argumento ang ginamit ni Pangulong Arroyo para ihambog ang mabubuting ginawa raw ng kanyang gobyerno nitong nakaraang taon. Pero nakalapat ba sa reyalidad ang kanyang ipiniprisenta? Kinuha ng Pinoy Weekly ang palagay ng ilang senador, progresibong mambabatas at lider-militante para sagutin ang walong bungkos ng isyu na inungkat ni Arroyo sa kanyang Sona (State of the Nation Address).


1. Pandaigdigang krisis ang dahilan ng mataas na mga bilihin at pagsirit ng presyo ng langis

Papaunlad na sana ang ekonomiya ng bansa nang tamaan ito ng pandaigdigang krisis sa langis at pagkain – ang pinakamalalang krisis sa mundo magmula noong Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig at Great Depression. Lahat ay biktima ng pandaigdigang krisis na ito, mayaman man o mahirap na bansa. Handa ang bansa sa krisis na ito. Ipinaghanda ng gobyerno ang bansa sa pamamagitan ng mga polisiyang tulad ng pangongolekta ng VAT (Value-Added Tax). Ito ang nakasalba sa bayan.

Rep. Teddy Casiño ng Bayan Muna: Di naman mapagkakaila na may pagbagal sa ekonomiya ng mundo pero napapalala lang ang impact sa mga mamamayan dahil sa maling pang-ekonomiyang mga polisiya ng gobyerno at dahil sa malawakan at sistemikong korupsiyon. ’Yun ang pananagutan ng gobyerno which makes the developments in the world market more intensely felt. Tinali na niya ’yung kamay niya para protektahan ang mga mamamayan natin, at pinagkakitaan pa.

2. Hindi puwedeng umatras ang gobyerno sa pangongolekta ng VAT at pagpapatupad ng Oil Deregulation Law

Napakahalaga ng VAT sa pagharap sa mga problemang namana ng administrasyong ito. Sa pamamagitan nito mababawasan ang utang ng bansa, higit na mabibigyang puhunan ang imprastraktura ng bansa at may sapat na pondo ang gobyerno para sa programang pangmasa. Masyado nang maraming sakripisyo ang ginawa natin para umatras pa. Nagpunyagi ang gobyerno para itaguyod ang VAT sa langis at polisiya ng deregulasyon sa langis. Nagpatupad ang gobyerno ng P12-Bilyong pagbabawas sa buwis ng mga maralita at panggitnang uri.

Sen. Mar Roxas: Naiinis ako na inaksaya ng Pangulo ang pagkakataong ito. I’m very disappointed and a bit confused. The President wanted to project herself as a caring leader but clearly what she deeply cares about the most is keeping the oil VAT.

“Wala pa ring malinaw na plano kung papaano tayo makakatawid sa panahon ng krisis.
Obviously, patuloy pa rin ang mantra ng Palasyo: ‘squeeze the people then spend the VAT.’ Walang debate, walang konsultasyon.

Oras na para malaman ng taumbayan ang totoo tungkol sa hinaharap ng bansa.

Renato Reyes Jr., pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan): Ang SONA ni Ginang Arroyo ay mukhang galing sa isang tao na mula sa ibang planeta at tiwalag sa reyalidad. Nakapagngangalit na tinitingnan ng pangulo ang VAT bilang solusyon sa lumalalang kahirapan sa mayorya ng mga mamamayan, gayong ito’y malinaw na anti-mamamayan.

3. Para maibsan ang kahirapan ng taumbayan, nagpapatupad ang gobyerno ng matagumpay na programang pang-birth control

Bumaba nang 2.4% ang tantos ng pagdami ng populasyon magmula nang itulak ng gobyerno ang programa para sa natural birth control. Noong mga nakaraang administrasyon ay aktibong itinulak ang contraceptives ngunit hindi ito naging kasing-epektibo.

Rep. Liza Maza ng Gabriela: Hindi totoo na natural birth control lamang ang itinutulak ng gobyernong Arroyo. Katunayan, humihingi pa ang Department of Health ng grants at funding sa iba’t ibang dayuhang ahensiya para sa programang birth control dito, kasama na siyempre ang paggamit ng artificial contraceptives.

Malinaw na layunin ni Arroyo na sakyan ang usapin ng pagtutulak sa reproductive rights ng kababaihan, samantalang pinaaamo ang Simbahang Katoliko na nagtutulak ng natural birth control program.

Schizophrenic ang nagdaang mga gobyerno sa usapin ng family planning (minsan itinutulak ang artipisyal na family planning, minsan tumitiklop sa presyur ng Simbahang Katoliko). Pero ang administrasyong Arroyo, malinaw na hindi iiwan ang pagtulak ng artificial birth control.

Rep. Luz Ilagan ng Gabriela: Hindi siya tumutugon sa pangangailangan ng kababaihan. Kasi ang importante sa amin ay choice at ang availability ng contraceptives. Kasi nakatutok tayo dapat sa karapatan ng kababaihan na mamili sa pamamaraan ng contraception na angkop sa kanya, at sa kanyang katawan. ’Yung family planning, isa lang sa mga mapagpipilian…

4. Nagsasagawa ang gobyerno ng batayang mga reporma para mapaunlad ang produktibidad ng agrikultura sa harap ng krisis sa bigas

Taong 1978 hanggang 1981 lamang nakapag-eksport nang maramihan ang bansa. Pero hindi dapat ipagtaka na tumigil ito – panahon pa ng kolonyalismong Espanyol ay nag-aangkat na tayo ng bigas. Naglaan ang gobyerno ng P4-B para sa programang rice self-sufficiency. Samantala, pangunahing prayoridad ng gobyerno ang ekstensiyon ng Carp (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program). Kaalinsabay nito, susugpuin ng gobyerno ang mga nandadaya sa repormang agraryo – ang nagpapalaki o nagpapaliit sa aktuwal na halaga ng mga lupa.

Rep. Rafael Mariano ng Anakpawis: Matagal nang napatunayang nabigo ang Carp sa pagpapatupad ng tunay na repormang agraryo para sa mga magsasaka. Kaya nga itinutulak natin ang House Bill 3059, o ang Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, na naglalayong buwagin ang mga monopolyo sa lupa at ipamahagi ito sa mga magsasakang walang lupa. Sa pamamagitan lamang ng tunay na repormang agraryo mapapalaya ang magsasaka para mapaunlad ang produksiyon ng agrikultura ng bansa.

Sa pagpayag ni Pangulong Arroyo na iprayoritisa ng Kongreso ang Carp Extension, malamang na nakipagkasundo na siya sa mga panginoong maylupa at korporasyong multinasyunal na hindi masasagasaan ang malalaking lupain nila kung sakaling mapatupad ang ekstensiyon ng Carp.

Rep. Casiño: ’Yung medyo nag-iba lang yung tono niya ’yung sa rice self-sufficiency. Pero that remains to be seen kasi matagal nang sinasabi ’yang rice self-sufficiency but the policies are not really there. Di naman niya sinabi yung pagbabago sa papel ng NFA at usapin ng rice importation.

5. Patuloy ang pagtatayo ng mga imprastraktura para sa lalong pag-unlad ng ekonomiya

Nandiyan ang pagpapaunlad ng mga hayway, pagtaguyod ng praktika ng Roro (Roll On, Roll Off), pagsasaayos ng mga paliparan at kalsada, at iba pa. Marami ring ipinagpapatuloy na mga proyektong imprastraktura tulad ng proyektong San Roque Agno River Dam at iba pang proyekto, tulad ng ginagawa ng malalaking mga kompanya ng mina.

Rep. Casiño: Marami naman talagang proyekto ang gobyerno (pero) hindi mawawalan si Arroyo ng magagamit to project a positive image. Kasi government is government. Nasa kanya ang lahat ng paraan para gumawa ng maraming bagay pero hindi sapat ’yung ganoong klaseng mga ehemplo para pagtakpan ang mapangwasak na polisiya sa ekonomiya na ipinapatupad ni Arroyo, kasabay pa ng korupsiyon at paglabag sa karapatang pantao.

Rep. Ilagan: Kung ibabatay mo ito sa track record ng kung ano ang ginagawa at nagawa ng mining companies? Sinira nila yung mga lupain, wala nang mga sakahan, ancestral domains, napalikas ang indigenous peoples kasi ayaw nilang bumalik ang mga ito sa mga sakahan. Tapos anong feasible relationship sa mga komunidad? Ayaw nga nila magbayad ng buwis para sa quarrying, tulad ng nangyari sa Nueva Vizcaya.

6. Patuloy ang pagpopondo at subsidyo sa mga mahihirap para makaalwan sa kahirapan

Naglaan ang gobyerno ng P102-B para sa mga proyektong microfinance ara sa maliliit na mga negosyante.

Samantala, nangunguna naman ang iba’t ibang ahensiya ng pamahalaan ang pagpapatupad ng National Social Welfare Program para maisaayos ang mga programang pang-livelihood, microfinance, skills & technology training, food aid, child nutrition, health care, insurance, education, at cheaper medicine.

Rep. Maza: Nakakasuka na (itong) kasinungalingan at hungkag na pangako. Batbat ng pekeng tagumpay sa ekonomiya at solusyong band-aid sa lumalalang kahirapan ang Sona ng Pangulo…Pabagsak ang sitwasyon ng kababaihang Pilipino at mga kaanak nito mula nang maupo sa poder si Arroyo noong 2001. Lumala ang krisis (at) hindi nagbibigay ng pag-asa para sa reporma o pansamantalang ginhawa ang mga subsidyo at cash transfer.

Sen. Pia Cayetano: Ang national social welfare program ay isa lamang na institusyonalisasyon ng sistemang doleout ng gobyerno. Erratic ito at pangmadaliang ginhawa sa limitadong bilang ng tao, hindi talaga sa pinakamahihirap.

7. Itinataguyod ng gobyerno ang mga programang nakatuon sa self-sufficiency sa pangangailangan sa kuryente at langis sa kabila ng pagtaas ng presyo sa mga ito

Ipinapaunlad ng pamahalaan ang eksplorasyon para sa natural gas, biofuels (tulad ng jathropa), windmills, solar cells, gayundin ang ekplorasyon sa ilang lugar na sagana sa langis, tulad ng Daloc Oil Field. Ipinagmamalaki rin ng administrasyon ang pagpapatupad ng ilang patakaran para sa konserbasyon ng kuryente sa mga tanggapan ng pamahalaan.

Ferdinand Gaite ng Courage (Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees): Matagal nang ipinapatupad ang konserbasyon ng kuryente sa mga tanggapan ng pamahalaan. Kabilang dito ang pagpatay ng aircon at ilaw isang oras sa simula at dulo ng panahon ng trabaho, at tuwing tanghali. Ang masama rito, pinagpapahirap ang mga empleyado, samantala hindi naman ipinagpapatipid ang matataas na mga opisyal ng gobyerno, na may mga SUV, halimbawa.

8. Sinusugpo ng pamahalaang Arroyo ang korupsiyon

Nakamit ng tanggapan ng Ombudsman ang 500 porsiyentong conviction rate. Habang hindi sineseryoso ng nakaraang mga administrasyon ang lifestyle checks sa hanay ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan, naging matatag na praktika ito sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo. Nagdulot ito ng pagtanggal o paghabla sa dose-dosenang kurakot na opisyal.

Nanawagan ang Pangulo sa mga kawani ng pamahalaan na maging responsable at matapat sa taumbayan. Kailangang tulungan ng mga kawani ang pamahalaan na makamit ang mga hangarin nito.

Gaite: Pinapayuhan natin siya na tingnan ang sarili sa salamin – tingnan ang sariling rekord ng pangungurakot niya at ng mga alipores niya. Tingnan niya kung paano siya magsinungaling at paglingkuran ang altar ng mga panginoong maylupa, malalaking komprador at kompanyang multinasyunal. Isa na lamang sa sampung tao sa bansa ang naniniwala sa kanya.

Arroyo, Ginagago ang mga Texters?

July 30, 2008

Heto pa ang isang nanggagago.

In her State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo boasted that text messaging in the Philippines now costs only 50 centavos each message sent. She said this was her government’s response to the clamor by poor Filipinos to reduce prices — and text messaging being popular among the poor, the lowered price should be welcomed.

Ang hindi binanggit ni Arroyo sa speech niya is that itong 50 sentimos per text message ay promo lang nga mga telecom companies, hindi permanent o talagang rate from now on. Ayon sa report ng TV Pastol kanina, makaka-avail lang ng 50 centavos rate sa text sa kanila kung ang gagamitin ay ang 20 load at only at a certain period. Tapos, mag-a-apply lang ito sa prepaid, di kasama ng post-paid.

May ibang hirit naman ang grupong TXTPower tungkol dito. Sa isang press statement, sinabi ng grupo:

The economist Mrs. Arroyo is trying to cheat the public over the so-called 50 percent reduction in texting rates which she pompously announced in her eighth State of the Nation Address yesterday, according to consumer group TXTPower.

“The truth is, text messages may already cost less than 50 centavos. The forward march of mobile technology and the gigantic profit rates for the past years have lowered the cost of sending text messages to absurdly low levels, far lower than P0.50,” said TXTPower president Anthony Ian Cruz.

So uso pala talaga ngayon ang gagohan.

Arroyo Fails to Meet Own Targets — Study

July 30, 2008

As Arroyo prepares her state of the nation address on Monday, social analysts have given her poor marks for missing development goals set by the government itself in 2004, with only two years left until the 2010 target.

New studies by the University of the Philippines – Center for Labor Justice (UP CLJ) and the Bangkok and Manila-based policy think tank Focus on the Global South revealed
Arroyo’s slow progress towards achieving key targets on economic growth, poverty reduction, and job generation.

The Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), crafted in 2004, expressly aims to generate ten million jobs by 2010, or roughly 1.6 million jobs each year, reduce poverty incidence to below 20%, and accelerate GDP growth to 7-8%.

However, “the job creation performance of the country is dismal and even declining”, said Dr. Rene Ofreneo, former undersecretary of the Department
of Labor and Employment and professor at the UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations. Ofreneo headed the research team of the UP Center for Labor Justice and Fair Trade Alliance.

Citing official data, he said that instead of 1.6 million, only 700,000 new jobs were created in 2005 or less than half (43.7 per cent) of target. In 2006, it went down to 648,000 (40.5 percent of target) and even further down to 599,000 (37.4 percent) in 2007. It is only in the deployment of OFWs that government is on track, meeting the target of one million a year.

Other key economic indicators also betray a far from solid economy. Aya Fabros, research associate of Focus on the Global South, explained that the boost of 2007 is short-lived and unsustainable, with the 7.3% growth in 2007 sliding to 5.2% in the first quarter of 2008. Worse, “the cost of living continues to go up, real incomes are dwindling, at a time when Filipinos are struggling and barely getting by, with poverty-level wages, precarious livelihood or joblessness,” she said.

Filipinos are burdened by a crushing combination of 11.4% inflation, 8% unemployment rate, and 19.8% underemployment rate. “A peso in 2000 is only worth 63 centavos today,” Fabros added.

The Focus on the Global South research Uncovering the State of the Nation: Jobs, Prices, Incomes, Poverty also noted the increasing income disparity in the country. The poorest 10% families received only 2.16% of the total growth in family incomes between 2003 to 2006, compared to 34.23% share captured by the richest 10% families.

“The poor get a smaller share of growth in an economy where distribution of assets, resources and access to income opportunities are skewed… worse… these families…feel the harshest blows of the crunch…(I)t is not only the distribution of gains that are unequal, but also the distribution of risks,” the report concludes.
The Focus and UP-CLJ/FTA studies form part of the Development Roundtable Series (DRTS), a platform for the discussion of and debate on key development issues in the country.

For more information, please contact: Aya Fabros at aya@focusweb.org or 4333387 / 09287497039, or Dr. Rene Ofreneo at reneofreneo@yahoo.com or 09178350682.

The research papers can be directly downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/uncoversona and http://tinyurl.com/reportcard. For more information on the DRTS, please visit http://www.focusweb.org/drts.(PinoyPress)

‘Festival of Lies’: Thousands Protest SONA

July 30, 2008

Various anti-Arroyo groups today marched along Commonwealth Avenue to denounce what they call “a festival of lies” and to demand “immediate economic relief”.

Pulling a 21-foot effigy of a sinking ship, members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan marched from Tandang Sora Avenue to just beyond EVER Commonwealth to join other anti-Arroyo groups in a “People’s SONA”. The counter-SONA described the state of the nation as “a sinking ship with the captain even robbing its passengers”.

The giant effigy made by the artist group Ugat Lahi showed the hull of a sinking ship while President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo flies away aboard a plane. The protest action along Commonwealth Avenue was joined by representatives of the United Opposition, Concerned Citizens Movement, Be not Afraid Movement, Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya, UP Aware, Youth ACT Now, Philippine Nurses Association, Gloria Step Down Movement, Kubol Pag-Asa and other anti-Arroyo personalities such as former Vice President Teofisto Guingona.

Across the nation, protests were also held in various cities as part of the nationally-coordinated day of action. Provinces in the Bicol region are also set to launch a transport strike.

An international contingent of Filipino-Americans and foreign observers also attended the protest action.

“This is Arroyo’ s eighth SONA and the country’s situation is worse than ever. The grand promises of the past seven years have all been met with failure. The plight of the poor is the best proof of the failures of this government. Any claim of economic growth right now will be perceived as a big lie,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

And despite of the avowed focus of the SONA on pro-poor “social welfare programs”, Bayan remained unconvinced of their sincerity and viability.

“Mrs. Arroyo is responsible for plunging millions of Filipinos deeper into poverty through such policies as depressed wages, high taxes and the deregulation of vital industries such as oil and power. Mrs. Arroyo is responsible for aggravating rural poverty by her failure to implement genuine land reform. From the government’s own reckoning, about a third of the population live below the poverty line,” Reyes said.

Reyes said that the subsidy scheme for the poor derived from the Value Added Tax, one of the features of Arroyo’s social welfare program, is nothing more than “a grand deception aimed at deodorizing the Arroyo regime.”

“The subsidy scheme called Katas ng VAT does not provide any long-term solution because it is a dole out program. Second, the VAT itself is part of the problem because it continues to be a burden on the people, especially the poor. The VAT can never be a benign source of funds for the people,” Reyes said.

Bayan vowed to continue pressing for the scrapping of the VAT on oil and power and appealed to lawmakers gathered at the Batasang Pambansa to act swiftly for the interest of the consumers.(PinoyPress)

‘PGMA’s SONA epitaph for a dying country’

July 30, 2008

BACOLOD City – Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan- Negros called the 8th State of Nation Address (SONA) of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the epitaph for a dying country.

Reacting to the SONA the other day, BAYAN Secretary General Felipe Gelle said the president is “the tsunami of the storm that brings the country into an abyss of crises.”

“Her blind obedience imperialist globalization that includes Liberalization, Privatization and Deregulation short for “LAPIDA” contributes to the fast sinking of the economy,” he added.

The economic situation is fast deteriorating and with the people’s backs against the wall, there will surely be thousands on the streets again because the president had given the people no other course but to air their demands through massive demonstrations, Gelle said.

“The real SONA would be that of poverty, hunger and injustice,” Gelle said.

“In no time during the past SONA has the economic crisis been this severe. Those statistics are meaningless to millions of poor Filipinos,” the Bayan leader said.

He also hit the government subsidies saying they are merely short-term remedies to quell unrest, not really to help the poor.

The Arroyo government has rejected medium to long-term relief measures like the removal of the VAT on oil and power, Gelle added.

Members from different militant organizations numbering around two thousand marched down the streets of the city and converged at the city public plaza where they torched an effigy of an octopus with the face of Arroyo to express their disgust over the present administration.

Gelle said if indeed the president cares for the ordinary people, she must resign and stop robbing the coffer of the nation./PN

Editorial Cartoon: Vatman is GMA’s Hero

July 29, 2008

Who’s the villain?

SONA 2008: No relief for the poor

July 29, 2008

Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 08:02
var sburl9334 = window.location.href; var sbtitle9334 = document.title;var sbtitle9334=encodeURIComponent(“SONA 2008: No relief for the poor”); var sburl9334=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4824”); sburl9334=sburl9334.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl9334=encodeURIComponent(sburl9334);GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 July) — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo failed to bring any relief to the suffering populace and instead painted a more uncertain scenario in her State of the Nation Address this afternoon, a Catholic Church leader here said. Fr. Romeo Catedral, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel, said they had expected the President to present ways or alternative means on how the people can overcome the crisis but they eventually got nothing. “The President’s speech did not bring any message of hope to our suffering people,” he said.

Instead of providing solutions to the problem, he said the President seemed content on continuing with the expanded value-added tax as solution to the current crisis, which saw prices of fuel products and food soaring to all-time highs.

“As she admitted, we’re footing the bill and she seemed pleased with it,” he said.

Catedral also scored the success stories cited by the President saying majority of the people cannot relate to it.

Jun Tingson, an ice cream vendor in Koronadal City, echoed the priest’s observation saying the difficulties he’s been facing is the more realistic scenario.

“Last year, I could still earn P100 to P200 a day but now, because of the high prices of inputs, I can barely pay for my ingredients,” he said in an interview over radio station Bombo Radyo.

Tingson said he would be very happy to see the President just admit her failures and relinquish her post to other people with good intentions.

Eduard Flores, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) for Southwestern Mindanao, said they expected the President to deliver “lies and overstatements.”

He said it was clear that majority of the people no longer believes in the President and her government as shown by her declining popularity rating.

“The economic growth and progress that she’s been saying are clearly not felt by the people. The crisis has gotten worse and there seems no way out for us under this government, that’s the real state of the nation,” he said.

Flores said the President “even had the gall” to cite the gains of the expanded value added tax, which he claimed were actually hated by the people.

He said the President’s “lies” were apparently meant to impress potential investors and make them believe that the country is in good shape despite the crisis that it is experiencing.

“She’s just fooling us just like her advertisement that the government is supposedly fighting poverty when it fact it is not,” he said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

SONA 2008: Mindanao peace process mentioned in passing

July 29, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 08:06
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In seconds, however, President Arroyo shifted to another topic, as if the initialing Sunday night of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, was not significant.

The President also said nothing about the postponement of the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which she endorsed to Congress on July 22.

“Wala akong narinig” (I heard nothing), Guiamel Alim, head of the council of elders of the Cotabato City-based Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, told MindaNews. Guiamel was referring to the very quick mention of the Mindanao peace process in the President’s SONA.

Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said,

“either she has nothing or doesn’t know what to say or that is how she views Mindanao – on the margins – as is our sad wont from leaders from imperial Manila. Why is this not surprising?”

Amirah Lidasan, president of Suara Bangsamoro party list, told MindaNews the President may be “weighing reactions re postponement of ARMM elections.”

“Either way, it is favorable to her most favored political ally because the term of (ARMM Governor Zaldy) Ampatuan will be extended (if the election is postponed),” she said.

Lidasan also said the President mentioned talked about the economic agenda in her SONA but from Zamboanga to North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao are all plantations.”

She said the President mentioned “nothing about the plight of the Moro masses, especially the halaw (those deported from Sabah).”

In her speech, the President said, she named in her 2006 SONA, North Luzon and Mindanao as the country’s food baskets but “the sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.”

”The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office,” she said.

The President did not specify the “legislative” and “political” reforms she wanted, although she specified she wanted this done during “our term of office.”

“The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world. This was the message of the recent World Conference in Madrid organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the universal message of the Pope in Sydney,” she said.

Zainudin Malang, executive director of the Bangsamoro Center for Law and Policy noted the “very short reference to peace process” in the President’s speech. “General marching order to Congress. Vague as to election postponement. Good thing she emphasized she wants changes in legal framework to implement peace pact during her term.”

Fr. Jonathan Domingo, publisher of the Mindanao Cross, said “I guess she just said on the peace process, appropriate legislative acts.”

The President is “focused on short-term, palliative solutions. The SONA lacks vision of hope that can inspire people.”

“Kailan ba naging totoo si Madame?” (Since when has she been genuinely concerned) asked Fatmawati Salapuddin of the Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum.

Fr. Bert Layson, former parish priest of Pikit, North Cotabato, a town visited by war four times from 1997 to 2003, said the President issued a “very general statement.”

”She could have elaborated it further for the public to understand and support it,” Layson said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

SONA 2008: Full Text

July 28, 2008

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS OF PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO DURING THE 2ND REGULAR SESSION OF THE 14TH CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, 28 July 2008

Thank you, Speaker Nograles. Senate President Villar. Senators and Representatives. Vice President de Castro, President Ramos, Chief Justice Puno, members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen:

I address you today at a crucial moment in world history.

Just a few months ago, we ended 2007 with the strongest economic growth in a generation. Inflation was low, the peso strong and a million new jobs were created. We were all looking to a better, brighter future.

Because tough choices were made, kumikilos na ang bayan sa wakas. Malapit na sana tayo sa pagbalanse ng budget. We were retiring debts in great amounts, reducing the drag on our country’s development, habang namumuhunan sa taong bayan.

Biglang-bigla, nabaligtad ang ekonomiya ng mundo. Ang pagtalon ng presyo ng langis at pagkain ay nagbunsod ng pandaigdigan krisis, the worst since the Great Depression and the end of World War II. Some blame speculators moving billions of dollars from subprime mortgages to commodities like fuel and food. Others point of the very real surge in demand as millions of Chinese and Indians move up to the middle class.

Whatever the reasons, we are on a roller coaster ride of oil price hikes, high food prices and looming economic recession in the US and other markets. Uncertainty has moved like a terrible tsunami around the globe, wiping away gains, erasing progress.

This is a complex time that defies simple and easy solutions. For starters, it is hard to identify villains, unlike in the 1997 financial crisis. Everyone seems to be a victim, rich countries and poor, though certainly some can take more punishment than others.

To address these global challenges, we must go on building and buttressing bridges to allies around the world: to bring in the rice to feed our people, investments to create jobs; and to keep the peace and maintain stability in our country and the rest of the world. Yet even as we reach out to those who need, and who may need us, we strive for greater self-reliance.

Because tough choices were made, the global crisis did not catch us helpless and unprepared. Through foresight, grit and political will, we built a shield around our country that has slowed down and somewhat softened the worst effects of the global crisis. We have the money to care for our people and pay for food when there are shortages; for fuel despite price spikes.

Neither we nor anyone else in the world expected this day to come so soon but we prepared for it. For the guts not to flinch in the face of tough choices, I thank God. For the wisdom to recognize how needed you are, I thank, you Congress. For footing the bill, I thank the taxpayers.

The result has been, on the one hand, ito ang nakasalba sa bayan; and, on the other, more unpopularity for myself in the opinion polls. Yet, even unfriendly polls show self-rated poverty down to its 20-year low in 2007.

My responsibility as President is to take care to solve the problems we are facing now and to provide a vision and direction for how our nation should advance in the future.

Many in this great hall live privileged lives and exert great influence in public affairs. I am accessible to you, but I spend time every day with the underprivileged and under represented who cannot get a grip on their lives in the daily, all-consuming struggle to make ends meet.

Nag-aalala ako para sa naka-aawang maybahay na pasan ang pananagutan para sa buong pamilya. Nag-aalala ako para sa magsasakang nasa unang hanay ng pambansang produksyon ng pagkain ngunit nagsisikap pakanin ang pamilya. I care for hardworking students soon to graduate and wanting to see hope of good job and a career prospect here at home.

Nag-aalala ako para sa 41-year old na padre de pamilya na di araw-araw ang trabaho, at nag-aabala sa asawa at tatlong anak, at dapat bigyan ng higit pang pagkakakitaan at dangal. I care for our teachers who gave the greatest gift we ever received – a good education – still trying to pass on the same gift to succeeding generations. I care for our OFWs, famed for their skill, integrity and untiring labor, who send home their pay as the only way to touch loved ones so far away. Nagpupugay ako ngayon sa kanilang mga karaniwang Pilipino.

My critics say this is fiction, along with other facts and figures I cite today. I call it heroism though they don’t need our praise. Each is already a hero to those who matter most, their families.

I said this is a global crisis where everyone is a victim. But only few can afford to avoid, or pay to delay, the worst effects.

Many more have nothing to protect them from the immediate blunt force trauma of the global crisis. Tulad ninyo, nag-aalala ako para sa kanila. Ito ang mga taong bayan na dapat samahan natin. Not only because of their sacrifices for our country but because they are our countrymen.

How do we solve these many complex challenges?

Sa kanilang kalagayan, the answer must be special care and attention in this great hour of need.

First, we must have a targeted strategy with set of precise prescriptions to ease the price challenges we are facing.

Second, food self-sufficiency; less energy dependence; greater self-reliance in our attitude as a people and in our posture as a nation.

Third, short-term relief cannot be at the expense of long term reforms. These reforms will benefit not just the next generation of Filipinos, but the next President as well.

Napakahalaga ang Value Added Tax sa pagharap sa mga hamong ito.

Itong programa ang sagot sa mga problemang namana natin.

Una, mabawasan ang ating mga utang and shore up our fiscal independence.

Pangalawa, higit na pamumuhunan para mamamayan at imprastraktura.

Pangatlo, sapat na pondo para sa mga programang pangmasa.

Thus, the infrastructure links programmed for the our poorest provinces like Northern Samar: Lao-ang-Lapinig-Arteche, right now ay maputik, San Isidro-Lope de Vega; the rehabilitation of Maharlika in Samar.

Take VAT away and you and I abdicate our responsibility as leaders and pull the rug from under our present and future progress, which may be compromised by the global crisis.

Lalong lumakas ang tiwala ng mga investor dahil sa VAT. Mula P56.50 kada dolyar, lumakas ang piso hanggang P40.20 bago bumalik sa P44 dahil sa mga pabigat ng pangdaigdigang ekonomiya. Kung alisin ang VAT, hihina ang kumpiyansa ng negosyo, lalong tataas ang interes, lalong bababa ang piso, lalong mamahal ang bilihin.

Kapag ibinasura ang VAT sa langis at kuryente, ang mas makikinabang ay ang mga may kaya na kumukonsumo ng 84% ng langis at 90% ng kuryente habang mas masasaktan ang mahihirap na mawawalan ng P80 billion para sa mga programang pinopondohan ngayon ng VAT. Take away VAT and we strip our people of the means to ride out the world food and energy crisis.

We have come too far and made too many sacrifices to turn back now on fiscal reforms. Leadership is not about doing the first easy thing that comes to mind; it is about doing what is necessary, however hard.

The government has persevered, without flip-flops, in its much-criticized but irreplaceable policies, including oil and power VAT and oil deregulation.

Patuloy na gagamitin ng pamahalaan ang lumalago nating yaman upang tulungan ang mga pamilyang naghihirap sa taas ng bilihin at hampas ng bagyo, habang nagpupundar upang sanggahan ang bayan sa mga krisis sa hinaharap.

Para sa mga namamasada at namamasahe sa dyip, sinusugpo natin ang kotong at colorum upang mapataas ang kita ng mga tsuper. Si Federico Alvarez kumikita ng P200 a day sa kaniyang rutang Cubao-Rosario. Tinaas ito ng anti-kotong, anti-colorum ngayon P500 na ang kita niya. Iyan ang paraan kung paano napananatili ang dagdag-pasahe sa piso lamang. Halaga lang ng isang text.

Texting is a way of life. I asked the telecoms to cut the cost of messages between networks. They responded. It is now down to 50 centavos.

Noong Hunyo, nagpalabas tayo ng apat na bilyong piso mula sa VAT sa langis-dalawang bilyong pambayad ng koryente ng apat na milyong mahihirap, isang bilyon para college scholarship o pautang sa 70,000 na estudyanteng maralita; kalahating bilyong pautang upang palitan ng mas matipid na LPG, CNG o biofuel ang motor ng libu-libong jeepney; at kalahating bilyong pampalit sa fluorescent sa mga pampublikong lugar.

Kung mapapalitan ng fluorescent ang lahat ng bumbilya, makatitipid tayo ng lampas P2 billion.

Sa sunod na katas ng VAT, may P1 billion na pambayad ng kuryente ng mahihirap; kalahating bilyon para sa matatandang di sakop ng SSS o GSIS; kalahating bilyong kapital para sa pamilya ng mga namamasada; kalahating bilyon upang mapataas ang kakayahan at equipment ng mga munting ospital sa mga lalawigan. At para sa mga kalamidad, angkop na halaga.

We released P1 billion for the victims of typhoon Frank. We support a supplemental Western Visayas calamity budget from VAT proceeds, as a tribute to the likes of Rodney Berdin, age 13, of Barangay Rombang, Belison, Antique, who saved his mother, brother and sister from the raging waters of Sibalom River.

Mula sa buwang ito, wala nang income tax ang sumusweldo ng P200,000 o mas mababa sa isang taon – P12 billion na bawas-buwis para sa maralita at middle class. Maraming salamat, Congress.

Ngayong may P32 na commercial rice, natugunan na natin ang problema sa pagkain sa kasalukuyan. Nagtagumpay tayo dahil sa pagtutulungan ng buong bayan sa pagsasaka, bantay-presyo at paghihigpit sa price manipulation, sa masipag na pamumuno ni Artie Yap.

Sa mga LGU at religious groups na tumutulong dalhin ang NFA rice sa mahihirap, maraming salamat sa inyo.

Dahil sa subsidy, NFA rice is among the region’s cheapest. While we can take some comfort that our situation is better than many other nations, there is no substitute for solving the problem of rice and fuel here at home. In doing so, let us be honest and clear eyed – there has been a fundamental shift in global economics. The price of food and fuel will likely remain high. Nothing will be easy; the government cannot solve these problems over night. But, we can work to ease the near-term pain while investing in long-term solutions.

Since 2001, new irrigation systems for 146,000 hectares, including Malmar in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, Lower Agusan, Casecnan and Aulo in Nueva Ecija, Abulog-Apayao in Cagayan and Apayao, Addalam in Quirino and Isabela, among others, and the restoration of old systems on another 980,000 hectares have increased our nation’s irrigated land to a historic 1.5 million hectares.

Edwin Bandila, 48 years old, of Ugalingan, Carmen, North Cotabato, cultivated one hectare and harvested 35 cavans. Thirteen years na ginawa iyong Malmar. In my first State of the Nation Address, sabi ko kung hindi matapos iyon sa Setyembre ay kakanselahin ko ang kontrata, papapasukin ko ang engineering brigade, natapos nila. With Malamar, now he cultivates five hectares and produces 97 cavans per hectare. Mabuhay, Edwin! VAT will complete the San Roque-Agno River project.

The Land Bank has quadrupled loans for farmers and fisherfolk. That is fact not fiction. Check it. For more effective credit utilization, I instructed DA to revitalize farmers cooperatives.

We are providing seeds at subsidized prices to help our farmers.

Incremental Malampaya national revenues of P4 billion will go to our rice self-sufficiency program.

Rice production since 2000 increased an average of 4.07% a year, twice the population growth rate. By promoting natural planning and female education, we have curbed population growth to 2.04% during our administration, down from the 2.36 in the 1990’s, when artificial birth control was pushed. Our campaign spreads awareness of responsible parenthood regarding birth spacing. Long years of pushing contraceptives made it synonymous to family planning. Therefore informed choice should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.

From 1978 to 1981, nag-export tayo ng bigas. Hindi tumagal. But let’s not be too hard on ourselves. Panahon pa ng Kastila bumibili na tayo ng bigas sa labas. While we may know how to grow rice well, topography doesn’t always cooperate.

Nature did not gift us with a mighty Mekong like Thailand and Vietnam, with their vast and naturally fertile plains. Nature instead put our islands ahead of our neighbours in the path of typhoons from the Pacific. So, we import 10% of the rice we consume.

To meet the challenge of today, we will feed our people now, not later, and help them get through these hard times. To meet the challenges of tomorrow, we must become more self-reliant, self-sufficient and independent, relying on ourselves more than on the world.

Now we come to the future of agrarian reform.

There are those who say it is a failure, that our rice importations prove it. There are those who say it is a success-if only because anything is better than nothing. Indeed, people are happier owning the land they work, no matter what the difficulties.

Sa SONA noong 2001, sinabi ko, bawat taon, mamamahagi tayo ng dalawang daang libong ektarya sa reporma sa lupa: 100,000 hectares of private farmland and 100,000 of public farmland, including ancestral domains. Di hamak mahigit sa target ang naipamahagi natin sa nakaraang pitong taon: 854,000 hectares of private farmland, 797,000 of public farmland, and Certificates of Ancestral Domain for 525,000 hectares. Including, over a 100,000 hectares for Bugkalots in Quirino, Aurora, and Nueva Vizcaya. After the release of their CADT, Rosario Camma, Bugkalot chieftain, and now mayor of Nagtipunan, helped his 15,000-member tribe develop irrigation, plant vegetables and corn and achieve food sufficiency. Mabuhay, Chief!

Agrarian reform should not merely subdivide misery, it must raise living standards. Ownership raises the farmer from his but productivity will keep him on his feet.

Sinimula ng aking ama ang land reform noong 1963. Upang mabuo ito, the extension of CARP with reforms is top priority. I will continue to do all I can for the rural as well as urban poor. Ayaw natin na paglaya ng tenant sa landlord, mapapasa-ilalim naman sa usurero. Former tenants must be empowered to become agribusinessmen by allowing their land to be used as collateral.

Dapat mapalaya ng reporma sa lupa ang magsasaka sa pagiging alipin sa iba. Dapat bigyan ang magsasaka ng dangal bilang taong malaya at di hawak ninuman. We must curb the recklessness that gives land without the means to make it productive and bites off more than beneficiaries can chew.

At the same time, I want the rackets out of agrarian reform: the threats to take and therefore undervalue land, the conspiracies to overvalue it.

Be with me on this. There must be a path where justice and progress converge. Let us find it before Christmas. Dapat nating linisin ang landas para sa mga ibig magpursige sa pagsasaka, taglay ang pananalig na ang lupa ay sasagip sa atin sa huli kung gamitin natin ito nang maayos.

Along with massive rice production, we are cutting costs through more efficient transport. For our farm-to-market roads, we released P6 billion in 2007.

On our nautical highways. RORO boats carried 33 million metric tons of cargo and 31 million passengers in 2007. We have built 39 RORO ports during our administration, 12 more are slated to start within the next two years. In 2003, we inaugurated the Western Nautical Highway from Batangas through Mindoro, Panay and Negros to Mindanao. This year we launched the Central Nautical Highway from Bicol mainland, through Masbate, Cebu, Bohol and Camiguin to Mindanao mainland. These developments strengthen our competitiveness.

Leading multinational company Nestle cut transport costs and offset higher milk prices abroad. Salamat, RORO. Transport costs have become so reasonable for bakeries like Gardenia, a loaf of its bread in Iloilo is priced the same as in Laguna and Manila. Salamat muli sa RORO.

To the many LGUs who have stopped collecting fees from cargo vehicles, maraming, maraming salamat.

We are repaving airports that are useful for agriculture, like Zamboanga City Airport.

Producing rice and moving it cheaper addresses the supply side of our rice needs. On the demand side, we are boosting the people’s buying power.

Ginagawa nating labor-intensive ang paggawa at pag-ayos ng kalsada at patubig. Noong SONA ng 2001, naglunsad tayo sa NCR ng patrabaho para sa 20,000 na out of school youth, na tinawag OYSTER. Ngayon, mahigit 20,000 ang ineempleyo ng OYSTER sa buong bansa. In disaster-stricken areas, we have a cash-for-work program.

In training, 7.74 million took technical and vocational courses over the last seven years, double the number in the previous 14 years. In 2007 alone, 1.7 million graduated. Among them are Jessica Barlomento now in Hanjin as supply officer, Shenve Catana, Marie Grace Comendador, and Marlyn Tusi, lady welders, congratulations.

In microfinance, loans have reached P102 billion or 30 times more than the P3 billion we started with in 2001, with a 98% repayment record, congratulations! Major lenders include the Land Bank with P69 billion, the Peoples’ Credit and Finance Corporation P8 billion, the National Livelihood Support Fund P3 billion, DBP P1 billion and the DSWD’s SEA-K P800 million. For partnering with us to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit, thank you, Go Negosyo and Joey Concepcion.

Upland development benefits farmers through agro-forestry initiatives. Rubber is especially strong in Zamboanga Sibugay and North Cotabato. Victoria Mindoro, 56 years old, used to earn P5,000 a month as farmer and factory worker. Now she owns 10 hectares in the Goodyear Agrarian Reform Community in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, she earns P10,000 a week. With one hectare, Pedro and Concordia Faviolas of Makilala, North Cotabato, they sent their six children to college, bought two more hectares, and earn P15,000 a month. Congratulations!

Jatropha estates are starting in 900 hectares in and around Tamlang Valley in Negros Oriental; 200 in CamSur; 300 in GenSan, 500 in Fort Magsaysay near the Cordero Dam and 700 in Samar, among others.

In our 2006 SONA, our food baskets were identified as North Luzon and Mindanao.

The sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.

The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office.

The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world. This was the message of the recent World Conference in Madrid organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the universal message of the Pope in Sydney.

Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est reminds us: “There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love for neighbour is indispensable.”

Pinagsasama-sama natin ang mga programa ng DSWD, DOH, GSIS, SSS at iba pang lumalaban sa kahirapan sa isang National Social Welfare Program para proteksyonan ang pinaka-mahihirap mula sa pandaigdigang krisis, and to help those whose earnings are limited by illness, disability, loss of job, age and so on-through livelihood projects, microfinance, skills and technology transfer, emergency and temporary employment, pension funds, food aid and cash subsidies, child nutrition and adult health care, medical missions, salary loans, insurance, housing programs, educational and other savings schemes, and now cheaper medicine-Thanks to Congress.

The World Bank says that in Brazil, the income of the poorest 10% has grown 9% per year versus the 3% for the higher income levels due in large part to their family stipend program linking welfare checks to school attendance. We have introduced a similar program, Pantawid Pamilya.

Employers have funded the two increases in SSS benefits since 2005. Thank you, employers for paying the premiums.

GSIS pensions have been indexed to inflation and have increased every year since 2001. Its salary loan availments have increased from two months equivalent to 10 months, the highest of any system public or private-while repayments have been stretched out.

Pag-Ibig housing loans increased from P3.82 billion in 2001 to P22.6 billion in 2007. This year it experienced an 84% increase in the first four months alone. Super heating na. Dapat dagdagan ng GSIS at buksan muli ng SSS ang pautang sa pabahay. I ask Congress to pass a bill allowing SSS to do housing loans beyond the present 10% limitation.

Bago ako naging Pangulo, isa’t kalahating milyong maralita lamang ang may health insurance. Noong 2001, sabi natin, dadagdagan pa ng kalahating milyon. Sa taong iyon, mahigit isang milyon ang nabigyan natin. Ngayon, 65 milyong Pilipino na ang may health insurance, mahigit doble ng 2000, kasama ang labinlimang milyong maralita. Philhealth has paid P100 billion for hospitalization. The indigent beneficiaries largely come from West and Central Visayas, Central Luzon, and Ilocos. Patuloy nating palalawakin itong napaka-importanted programa, lalo na sa Tawi-Tawi, Zambo Norte, Maguindanao, Apayao, Dinagat, Lanao Sur, Northern Samar, Masbate, Abra and Misamis Occidental. Lalo na sa kanilang mga magsasaka at mangingisda.

In these provinces and in Agusan Sur, Kalinga, Surigao Sur and calamity-stricken areas, we will launch a massive school feeding program at P10 per child every school day.

Bukod sa libreng edukasyon sa elementarya at high school, nadoble ang pondo para sa mga college scholarships, while private high school scholarship funds from the government have quadrupled.

I have started reforming and clustering the programs of the DepEd, CHED and TESDA.

As with fiscal and food challenges, the global energy crunch demands better and more focused resource mobilization, conservation and management.

Government agencies are reducing their energy and fuel bills by 10%, emulating Texas Instruments and Philippine Stock Exchange who did it last year. Congratulations, Justice Vitug and Francis Lim.

To reduce power system losses, we count on government regulators and also on EPIRA amendments.

We are successful in increasing energy self-sufficiency-56%, the highest in our history. We promote natural gas and biofuel; geothermal fields, among the world’s largest; windmills like those in Ilocos and Batanes; and the solar cells lighting many communities in Mindanao. The new Galoc oil field can produce 17,000-22,000 barrels per day, 1/12 of our crude consumption.

The Renewable Energy Bill has passed the House. Thank you, Congressmen.

Our costly commodity imports like oil and rice should be offset by hard commodities exports like primary products, and soft ones like tourism and cyberservices, at which only India beats us.

Our P 350 million training partnership with the private sector should qualify 60,000 for call centers, medical transcription, animation and software development, which have a projected demand of one million workers generating $13 billion by 2010.

International finance agrees with our progress. Credit rating agencies have kept their positive or stable outlook on the country. Our world competitiveness ranking rose five notches. Congratulations to us.

We are sticking to, and widening, the fiscal reforms that have earned us their respect.

To our investors, thank you for your valuable role in our development. I invite you to invest not only in factories and services, but in profitable infrastructure, following the formula for the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway.

I ask business and civil society to continue to work for a socially equitable, economically viable balance of interests. Mining companies should ensure that host communities benefit substantively from their investments, and with no environmental damage from operations.

Our administration enacted the Solid Waste Management Act, Wildlife Act, Protection of Plant Varieties, Clean Water Act, Biofuels Act and various laws declaring protected areas.

For reforestation, for next year we have budgeted P2 billion. Not only do forests enhance the beauty of the land, they mitigate climate change, a key factor in increasing the frequency and intensity of typhoons and costing the country 0.5% of the GDP.

We have set up over 100 marine and fish sanctuaries since 2001. In the whaleshark sanctuary of Donsol, Sorsogon, Alan Amanse, 40-year-old college undergraduate and father of two, was earning P100 a day from fishing and driving a tricycle. Now as whaleshark-watching officer, he is earns P1,000 a day, ten times his former income.

For clean water, so important to health, there is P500 million this year and P1.5 billion for next year.

From just one sanitary landfill in 2001, we now have 21, with another 18 in the works.

We launched the Zero Basura Olympics to clear our communities of trash. Rather than more money, all that is needed is for each citizen to keep home and workplace clean, and for garbage officials to stop squabbling.

Our investments also include essential ways to strengthen our institutions of governance in order to fight the decades-old scourge of corruption. I will continue to fight this battle every single day. While others are happy with headlines through accusation without evidence and privilege speeches without accountability, we have allocated more than P3 billion – the largest anti-graft fund in our history – for real evidence gathering and vigorous prosecution.

From its dismal past record, the Ombudsman’s conviction rate has increased 500%. Lifestyle checks, never seriously implemented before our time, have led to the dismissal and/or criminal prosecution of dozens of corrupt officials.

I recently met with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US agency that provides grants to countries based on governance. They have commended our gains, contributed P1 billion to our fight against graft, and declared us eligible for more grants. Thank you!

Last September, we created the Procurement Transparency Group in the DBM and linked it with business, academe, and the Church, to deter or catch anomalies in government contracts.

On my instruction, the BIR and Customs established similar government-civil society tie-ups for information gathering and tax evasion and smuggling monitoring.

More advanced corruption practices require a commensurate advances in legislative responses. Colleagues in Congress, we need a more stringent Anti-Graft Act.

Sa pagmahal ng bilihin, hirap na ang mamimili – tapos, dadayain pa. Dapat itong mahinto. Hinihiling ko sa Kongreso na magpasa ng Consumer Bill of Rights laban sa price gouging, false advertising at iba pang gawain kontra sa mamimili.

I call on all our government workers at the national and local levels to be more responsive and accountable to the people. Panahon ito ng pagsubok. Kung saan kayang tumulong at dapat tumulong ang pamahalaan, we must be there with a helping hand. Where government can contribute nothing useful, stay away. Let’s be more helpful, more courteous, more quick.

Kaakibat ng ating mga adhikain ang tuloy na pagkalinga sa kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino. Iisa ang ating pangarap – maunlad at mapayapang lipunan, kung saan ang magandang kinabukasan ay hindi pangarap lamang, bagkus natutupad.

Sama-sama tayo sa tungkuling ito. May papel na gagampanan ang bawat mamamayan, negosyante, pinunong bayan at simbahan, sampu ng mga nasa lalawigan.

We are three branches but one government. We have our disagreements; we each have hopes, and ambitions that drive and divide us, be they personal, ethnic, religious and cultural. But we are one nation with one fate.

As your President, I care too much about this nation to let anyone stand in the way of our people’s wellbeing. Hindi ko papayagang humadlang ang sinuman sa pag-unlad at pagsagana ng taong bayan. I will let no one – and no one’s political plans – threaten our nation’s survival.

Our country and our people have never failed to be there for us. We must be there for them now.

Maraming salamat. Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat.

Editorial Cartoon: SONA 2008

July 28, 2008

Nothing said.

Arroyo: ‘I will let no one threaten our nation’s survival’

July 28, 2008

3 strategies bared to solve ‘complex changes’

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:01:00 07/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The global food and oil crisis notwithstanding, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has assured Filipinos that the nation would survive, as she spelled out her administration’s programs and how revenues from the expanded value added tax would help tide the country over.

This year’s State of the Nation’s Address was Arroyo’s eighth since she assumed post in 2001.

Arroyo rallied the public, Congress, and the judiciary to work with her for the people, stressing that she will not let the political ambitions of some to get in the way of her desire for the nation.

“As your President, I will let no one — and no one’s political plans — get in the way of the well-being of the people. I will let no one hinder our people’s progress and prosperity. I will let no one threaten our nation’s survival. This is my commitment,” she said in her speech.

“Our country and our people have never failed to be there for us. Let us be there for them. Now,” she added.

Arroyo said global challenges confronted the country with the surge in oil and food prices. But she added that “because tough choices were made, the global crisis did not catch us helpless and unprepared.”

She laid down three strategies to solve “many complex challenges.”

“First, we must have a targeted strategy and set of precise
prescriptions to ease the price challenge we are facing; second, food self-sufficiency, less energy dependence, greater self-reliance in our attitude as a people and in our posturing as a nation; and third, short-term relief cannot be at the expense of long-term efforts. These reforms will benefit not just the next generation of Filipinos, but the next President as well,” she said.

She said that the 12-percent VAT, which many sectors want scrapped, has a very crucial role to play in meeting these strategies.

“Itong programa ay sagot sa mga problemang namana natin [This program is the answer to the problems we have inherited],” she said.

“Una, mababawasan ang ating mga utang [First, our debts will be reduced] and shore up our fiscal independence; pangalawa, higit na pamumuhunan para sa imprastraktura
at taong bayan [second, more investments for infrastructure and our people]; panghuli, sapat na pondo sa mga programang pang-masa [and last, enough funds for pro-poor programs],”she said.

“Take VAT away and you and will abdicate our responsibility as leaders and pull the rug from under our present and future progress, which may be compromised by the global crisis,” she said.

She said her administration has persevered and has been “without flip-flops” despite the “much criticized but necessary policies” on oil and VAT and oil deregulation.

Editorial Cartoon: SONA 2008: Lubog!

July 28, 2008

Palubog na!

Activists move toward QC church after agreement with cops

July 28, 2008

By Abigail Kwok, Katherine Evangelista
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 09:25:00 07/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3) Thousands of left-wing activists began moving toward St. Peter’s church on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City early Monday afternoon following negotiations with police who had earlier blocked them from the previously agreed rally site.

Earlier, the protesters accused police of not honoring their word after the activists were prevented from the designated rally site 100 meters from the church to deliver what they call the “people’s state of the nation address” to counter the report President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be giving before the joint session of Congress later Monday afternoon.

The protesters had been stopped in front of the Ever Gotesco Mall, just before the church.

But after negotiations between protest leaders and authorities, the police backed away and set up another barricade in front of the church, which is near the Batasang Pambansa, where Arroyo will deliver her speech.

“Hindi sila [police] tumutupad sa usapan [They are not complying with the agreement],” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan, New Patriotic Alliance) secretary general
Renato Reyes said earlier.

He said they were thinking of filing charges against Director Geary Barias, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office.

Reyes said they expect around 10,000 people to join the protest demanding for a wage increase, oil price rollbacks, and the ouster of Arroyo but police estimated the crowd at 7,000.

Earlier on Monday, the protesters asked Arroyo to stop lying.

Aside from calling for the President’s ouster, groups want Arroyo to tell the truth. And the truth, said Bayan, is that the Arroyo government is “fooling” the people.

Militant groups marched to the rally area carrying a 21-foot effigy of Arroyo “abandoning” the country, symbolized by a sinking ship, inspired by the capsizing of the MV Princess of the Stars last June.

Militant groups called on Arroyo to stop the “festival of lies,” and to bring “immediate economic relief to the country.”

Youth groups also staged classroom walkouts and headed to Tandang Sora before heading to Commonwealth Avenue. Participating schools include University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, Adamson University, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College, and Arellano University, among others.

Cities across the country have also vowed to participate in the protest.

Reyes said mass actions have already started in Baguio City, Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Caraga regions, and the cities of Cebu, Davao and Bacolod.

In Cebu, members of Bayan are expected to gather at Fuente Osmeña Circle before marching towards the Gaisano Mall. In Davao, protesters will march towards Rizal Park and will a hold a protest action followed by a concert.

Protest actions in US, Canada, and Australia have also been set, said Reyes.

Regional transport strikes are set on Tuesday in the Bicol provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon.

PUP suspends classes in college level

July 28, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Polytechnic University of the Philippines early Monday announced the suspension of classes in the collegiate level, a radio report said.

School officials said the class suspension was announced in order for students to hear the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a dzMM report said.

On Sunday, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said in a text message that due to “enhanced monsoon rains,” elementary and high school classes for Monday have been suspended in 13 provinces in Luzon, including Metro Manila.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council ordered the suspension of classes for both the elementary and high school levels in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Benguet, Mountain Province, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Metro Manila.

The NDCC made it clear that the suspension of classes in these regions was not related in any way to the President’s SONA, the dzMM said in another report. With a report from Katherine Evangelista, INQUIRER.net

================================

My Take:

Wow!  This government is so desperate they will do anything just to have an audience to their SONA.

Theres The Rub: State of the nation

July 28, 2008

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:07:00 07/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines – Pulse Asia says only one out of 10 Filipinos still believes GMA’s Sonas are truthful. That is because since January 2001, she has told the following truths in her Sonas:
Well, maybe this, on Dec. 30, 2002:

“If I were to run, it will require a major political effort on my part. But since I’m among the principal figures in the divisive national events for the last two or three years, my political efforts can only result in never-ending divisiveness.

“In view of (this), I have decided not to run for President during the election of 2004.”

But that wasn’t a Sona, that was a sana.

How Arroyo fared in previous SONAs

July 28, 2008

By Inquirer Research
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:41:00 07/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has made a number of promises in her State of the Nation Addresses (SONAs). How did some of the promises fare?

• Increased investments in physical, intellectual, legal and security infrastructure to increase business confidence

The 2008 budget allocated nearly P200 billion for public sector infrastructure, up from P185.67 billion in 2007.

According to Presidential Management Staff Secretary Cerge Remonde, 20 of the 149 priority infrastructure projects mentioned in the 2006 and 2007 SONAs have been completed.

The launch of the Central Nautical Highway in April brought to 17 the total number of ports interconnected to the Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll-off) Highway System.

Still, business confidence was down to its lowest level in more than two years by May, according to a survey by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, due to skyrocketing food and fuel prices.

• One million jobs

National Economic and Development Authority data show that from the 978,000 jobs created in 2004, the figure dropped to 699,000 in 2005 and to 486,000 in 2006.

In 2007, the number of jobs created likely reached at least one million. In January to October 2007, at least 767,000 jobs were generated.

But figures from the National Statistics Office released in June show that employment went down from 33.7 million in April 2007 to 33.5 million in April this year.

The unemployment rate was likewise up between April 2007 and April 2008—from 7.4 percent to 8 percent.

• More funding for investments in a stronger and wider social safety net, including cheap medicine, affordable housing and quality education, among others.

Last month, Ms Arroyo signed Republic Act No. 9502, or the “Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008.”

In April, she inaugurated the 11,000th Botika ng Barangay. BnBs have reportedly served 25 million Filipinos through half-priced medicine.

The Department of Education has reported the construction of some 15,000 classrooms, the creation of some 4,000 principal and head teacher items, and the creation of more than 16,000 new teacher items in 2007.

But school buildings in typhoon-ravaged areas still needed repair: Over 600 destroyed and over 1,000 damaged classrooms in Pangasinan by Typhoon “Cosme” and at least 100 school buildings in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao damaged by Typhoon “Frank.”

But a report by the National Statistical Coordination Board said primary school enrollment was only at 83 percent at the end of school year 2006-07.

While Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said that 2007-08 enrollment was at 85 percent, this was still lower than the 90 percent registered in 2002-03.

In fact, primary school enrollment has been decreasing since then—88.74 percent in 2003-04, 87.11 percent in 2004-05, and 84.44 percent in 2005-06.

In 2007, Pag-Ibig president Romero Quimbo said the housing provident fund had allotted P21 billion for housing loans. But it ended up lending an all-time high of P23.5 billion, up by 42.5 percent from the new loans released in 2006.

In April 2008, the Pag-Ibig Fund earmarked a record P30 billion for new low-cost housing loans to meet an expected boom in demand due to a low-interest-rate regime in 2008.

• A stop to human rights abuses

At the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in April, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s report on the Philippine situation was reportedly applauded by member-countries.

But while the number of rights abuses and extra-judicial killings has gone down, the government is still being criticized for not effectively prosecuting the perpetrators.

High-profile cases of disappearances (Jonas Burgos, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño) have yet to be resolved.

Police are also accused of summarily executing three men suspected of involvement in the massacre in May of 10 people in a Laguna branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

• Computerization of elections

In February, the Department of Budget and Management released more than P867 million for the computerization of the August elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

On July 22, a mock election was held to test the automated voting and counting systems that were installed. But on the same day, Ms Arroyo endorsed the postponement of the ARMM elections in deference to the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

• Investing in peace in Mindanao and in efforts to crush terrorism

Informal talks between the MILF and the government have bogged down on disagreements over an earlier “breakthrough” agreement to create an ancestral homeland for some three million Moros in Mindanao. The MILF blamed the government for the collapse of the talks.

Last year, powerful explosions ripped through passenger buses owned by Weena Bus Co. and Yellow Bus Lines in Mindanao, killing and wounding passengers.

The al-Khobar Gang, allegedly connected to the Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf, was reportedly behind the bombings. The same group was also tagged as the gang behind a deadly explosion earlier this year outside Philbest Canning Corp. in General Santos City.

Last month, ABS-CBN reporter Ces Drilon and her two cameramen were kidnapped in Sulu by gunmen believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf.

Surveys by Social Weather Stations show that hunger in Mindanao was at 17.7 percent in June 2008, and ranged from 17.7 percent to 22.7 percent in 2007.

Severe hunger—which refers to households who experienced involuntary hunger “often” or “always” in the three months preceding the survey—was at 4.3 percent in Mindanao in June 2008, and reached as high as 5.3 percent in December 2007.

As of March, the percentage of households in Mindanao considering themselves “mahirap” (poor) was at 59 percent. In 2007, self-rated poverty in Mindanao ranged from 49 percent to 68 percent, according to SWS.

Arroyo’s SONA to focus on poor

July 28, 2008

Main thrust: Nat’l social welfare program

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:37:00 07/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Even as she faces the nation as the most unpopular Chief Executive since 1986, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will try to convey herself as a caring and confident leader when she delivers her penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

In her eighth SONA, the President will be mainly speaking about her national social welfare program that she has set up to help the poor cope with rising food and fuel costs.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Ms Arroyo would like to show that as President, “she is undertaking programs for the poor. That as a mother of the nation, she cares.”

Ermita, who joined Ms Arroyo in going over her SONA speech on Saturday, said the President was determined to follow the course she had plotted for herself until 2010 when her term ends.

“And even if there are surveys against her popularity, she is confident she’ll be able to push the programs for the poor,” the executive secretary said.

Ms Arroyo will also be talking about the promises she has kept and will be reporting achievements that she has “personally verified,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said.

Dureza noted the inspections made by the President on infrastructure and other projects the past months. “That’s why she has been here, there and everywhere,” he said in a phone interview.

On the eve of her SONA, Ms Arroyo went to Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija to inspect one of the biggest nurseries for jatropha (tuba-tuba) that the Philippine National Oil Co. had set up. The oil from the jatropha plant is a biofuel.

This was in keeping with her call in her SONA last year for jatropha production as an energy source to reduce the country’s dependence on imported crude oil.

After going through over 20 drafts in the last three weeks, Ms Arroyo put the final touches to her speech in the early hours of Sunday after a 13-hour meeting that included at some point Vice President Noli de Castro and her senior Cabinet members.

‘Mami’ and ‘siopao’

Pleased with the outcome, the President “graciously” thanked Palace officials and staff members when they ended their last session at 1 a.m. Sunday with a meal of mami and siopao.

Cerge Remonde, Presidential Management Staff chief, said Ms Arroyo made it a point to limit her speech to 10 pages. “Long enough to cover the bare essentials but short enough to excite the imagination,” he said.

Remonde said the President would also talk about the energy and food crisis and tell the nation what her administration “has done” and plans to do to help alleviate the situation.

The main thrust will be her national social welfare program, which Ms Arroyo created last month to consolidate all pro-poor programs of government agencies. She entrusted to Romulo Neri, newly designated Social Security System administrator, the task of coordinating the programs.

Ermita and Remonde said the President would also speak about the relevance of the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT) in financing the pro-poor programs of her administration.

The executive secretary said Ms Arroyo would make reference to the P8-billion fund from the VAT windfall that she had either released or earmarked for pro-poor programs.

Catholic bishops want the VAT reviewed as it pushes up the cost of goods and services, adversely affecting the poor. The bishops claim that doles to the poor from the VAT proceeds are encouraging dependency.

“The President will also be talking about infrastructure projects that have helped enhanced our food production,” Ermita said.

He cited the roll-on, roll-off (Ro-Ro) program that facilitated the movement of food and goods across the country and helped keep food costs lower, and the construction of dams that in turn irrigate the country’s rice lands.

The President will also tell the nation about the following issues:

• What her administration intends to do as she tries to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which expires at the end of the year.

• Her unchanging position on population control. She plans to continue promoting natural family planning methods in keeping with the policy of the Catholic Church.

• Her efforts to continue pursuing peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

• The problem of corruption and her plan to ask Congress for tougher laws against it.

• Faces of some of the more successful programs in health, education, agriculture and microfinance.

• Heroes during Typhoon “Frank” (international codename: Fengshen) and other disasters.

Mobilizations start for ‘People’s SONA’

July 28, 2008

Stop lying to the public, militants urge Arroyo

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 09:25:00 07/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines – As militant groups prepare for the massive rally at Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Monday afternoon to counter President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s opening speech in Congress, groups want to send one message clear to Arroyo: stop lying.

Aside from calling for the President’s ouster, groups want Arroyo to tell the truth, and the truth, said the group Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, New Patriotic Alliance), was that the Arroyo government was “fooling” the people.

As of posting time, around 15,000 protesters from various militant groups led by Bayan have started marching from Tandang Sora toward Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. Groups were expected to arrive at the rally site at around 10 a.m., where they would hold a program until the President would deliver her address.

Groups marched to the rally area carrying the 21-foot effigy of Arroyo “abandoning” the country, symbolized by a sinking ship, inspired by the capsizing of the MV Princess of the Stars last June.

Militant groups called on Arroyo to stop the “festival of lies,” and to bring “immediate economic relief to the country.”

Youth groups also staged classroom walkouts and headed to Tandang Sora before heading to Commonwealth Avenue. Participating schools include University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, Adamson University, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College, and Arellano University, among others.

Cities across the country have also vowed to participate in the protest.

Reyes said mass actions have already started in Baguio City, Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Caraga regions, and the cities of Cebu, Davao and Bacolod.

In Cebu, members of Bayan are expected to gather at Fuente Osmena Circle before marching towards the Gaisano Mall. In Davao, protesters will march towards Rizal Park and will a hold a protest action followed by a concert.

Protest actions in US, Canada, and Australia have also been set, said Reyes.

Regional transport strikes are set on Tuesday in the Bicol provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon.

In a statement, Reyes said claims that the value-added tax (VAT) had benefited the poor was nothing but a “blatant lie.”

“Before Arroyo sings praises to the VAT during her SONA, we urge everyone to take a look at the hard facts that the government is not telling us. The Arroyo government is taking more from the poor than it is giving back,” Reyes said.

On Friday, Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde said the President would reiterate anew how the VAT had been essential in funding the government’s pro-poor projects during her address.

But in its recent study, Bayan said the VAT collections obtained from electricity have been bigger than what was being distributed through subsidies.

“Meralco has an estimated 1.7 million lifeline users. The government will spend P852 million for the one-time subsidies for Meralco lifeliners. But the national government may have collected as much as P1.8 billion in VAT from Meralco’s lifeline customers alone or one billion pesos more than the actual subsidy given,” Reyes said.

The group studied the monthly electric bills and rate schedules of Meralco lifeline consumers over a 32-month period. Findings from the group revealed that the subsidies came from the lifeline consumers themselves, with the government earning extra.

“Facts are stubborn things, and with these data, we can see that the government has been fooling the people into thinking that they benefited from the VAT. The bitter truth is that lifeline consumers have been paying more in terms of VAT than they are getting in terms of subsidies,” said Reyes.

The group also scoffed at the supposed “social welfare programs,” which Arroyo would focus on during her speech.

“Arroyo is responsible for plunging millions of Filipinos deeper into poverty through such policies as depressed wages, high taxes and the deregulation of vital industries such as oil and power. She is responsible for aggravating rural poverty by her failure to implement genuine land reform. From the government’s own reckoning, about a third of the population live below the poverty line,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, Akbayan partylist Representative Rissa Hontiveros has vowed to boycott the President’s speech, saying Arroyo will be delivering a speech likened to “instant noodles.”

“Instant noodles – flavorful, cheap, but nutrition-wise empty – have become the staple food for millions of Filipinos. This summarizes the economic achievement of the Arroyo administration. This also symbolizes the failure of the government’s anti-poverty programs,” Hontiveros said.

The lawmaker said she expected nothing but “empty boasts and promises” from Arroyo, because “as in the previous SONAs, it would be too much to expect anything substantial beyond the projects that she would commit to deliver for her allies in Congress.”

Hontiveros also called on Arroyo to tell the truth and to come up with practical solutions to the economic crisis.

“The solutions to the economic crisis requires political will. It entails hurting her own cronies, a matter that she is not willing to risk due to persistent questions on her legitimacy,” she added.

(PDI)

Wishlist for the SONA

July 28, 2008

By DAVAO TODAY

Davao Today asks people on the streets about what they expect from the President’s state of the nation address on Monday, and in return, got a wish list of what people think government should do to alleviate their plight.

What do you think the government should address in her state of the nation address on Monday?

“She should address urgently the skyrocketing prices of oil, which bring 23 million Filipinos going hungry for every P1 increase in prices. It will affect not only the poor (they have already suffered enough) but also the middle class. These subsidies that GMA is talking about – the lifeline subsidy, rice subsidy, etc. – are mere palliatives. We want GMA to suspend the ad valorem tax and the expanded value-added tax of 12 percent because these taxes have worsened the suffering of the poor.

We want GMA to be accountable for the P7.3 billion that government lost to corruption ($2M President Diosdad Macapagal Avenue, Free Port, Agri Fertilizer, Swine Scam, Telepono sa Barangay, among others). This amount does not include yet the P329 million ZTE deal.

We want the prosecution of personalities involved in questionable government deals, like Jocjoc Bolante, Nani Perez, among others. Millions of Filipinos are going hungry while GMA and her officials squander the people’s money.

We want GMA to prioritize urgent economic bills such as the 125-peso across-the-board wage increase bill, the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law and the implementation of Price Control Act of 1992.”
–Jeppie Ramada, regional secretary- general , Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

“GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) should be serious and decisive in resolving the crisis and not just give band-aid solutions. She should shift her priorities to agricultural development and should provide support to farmers to ensure affordable prices of rice.”
–Franchie Buhayan, secretary- general, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap

“GMA should address the people’s poor living conditions. She must answer first the rising prices of products including that of fuel. The cost of fare now is very high. My child couldn’t go to school anymore because I could no longer afford to send her to school. Our money is just enough to buy NFA rice. Every time we buy NFA rice at the store, we tell each other that we will not vote for Gloria again. If she runs in 2010, no one will believe her anymore.

We are worried that if she remains the President, we will start eating bran (tahup) instead of rice, because of the increasing prices.

If we get sick, we don’t have money for medicines. Living conditions were even better during Erap’s and Marcos’ time. She keeps ignoring the increase of prices. She’s just making herself rich. Poverty is not caused by God anymore but by the government. It’s the poor, not the businessmen, who suffer the most. Some can’t even eat thrice a day. Some would only drink coffee in the morning, while others combine their breakfast and lunch.”
– Gilda Sotero, 54, balut vendor in Sandawa

“She should tackle the increasing prices of commodities. Prices are already high. Fuel is only one of them. We hope she would pull down the prices of fuel because that is the reason the prices of goods and other products keep increasing. The food should be the most important. The prices of rice are very high and that is what people buy everyday. Then, there’s also the problem of the increasing cost of fare and school supplies for our students. Arroyo should address them. “
– Rommel Quiamco, barber in Ponciano street

“I do not know anything about SONA. I open my store at 7 am and I go home at 11 pm. Sorry, I
know nothing about that.”
–Edna Anghel, vendor in Ponciano street

“President Arroyo should focus on the economy. She should address the country’s crises, the salaries and wages of the employees and the workers; the fuel problem; the peace and order situation; and the rice problem. I hope that we will not import rice from other countries anymore, and start exporting rice, instead.”
–Myrna Dalodo-Ortiz, councilor, Davao City third district

“The President should address our problem on fuel because it has a domino effect. If the price of gasoline increases, the prices of basic commodities like rice and other staple goods will automatically increase.”
–Jose Louie Villafuerte, councilor, Davao City third district

“Sana lifting value added tax on fuel, increase taxes on tobacco products and liquor and subsidize rice for the poorest of the poor. All must be done immediately!”
–Tomas Monteverde IV, councilor, Davao City second district

“Since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has just approved the amendment on the tax exemptions to low earners, the President should ensure that it will be implemented. It is good news to our poor workers.”
– Edgar Ibuyan, councilor, Davao City first district

“Talk on corruption in government. What happened to the implementation of agriculture modernization law to increase production and food supply? We are now net importer of most commodities. No production increase due to Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Jobs and poverty reduction. She should step down after her term.”
– Angel Puentespina, president, Davao Tourism Association

“The crises on oil and rice must be addressed. Increase the salaries and calamity funds, more jobs for the Filipinos, housing projects for the poor, fight against corruption.”
– Jocelyn Gumpad-Joson, CPA-MBA; Accountancy Professor, Ateneo de Davao University and Holy Cross of Davao College

“Solutions to the high inflation and food prices, police impunity, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), energy crises, expanded Value Added Tax, oil, food security vis-à-vis CARP and agricultural support vis-à-vis renewable energy a.k.a. ethanol; and peace.”
– Valeriano Clamonte Jr, Social Science Professor, University of the Philippines in Mindanao

“First on the list for me should be finding a solution on the oil problem. I agree with what the church said that the P500 power subsidy could only make more people dependent. They should have used the money for a more concrete, long-term plan. Then the rice shortage pa talaga, dami na kasi lupa na dapat pwede sanang taniman ng palay which were converted to other use.”
– Linda Mae Bosquit, RN, professor/nurse licensure exam review lecturer, St. Louis Review Center

“A few weeks back in a published article, a World Bank report cited the Philippines as the most corrupt country in East Asia! This is a grave concern of every Filipino.

Biblically, the love of money is the root of all evils. But it is equally true that the lack of money produces more evil. If the money intended for government projects to alleviate the plight of the poor is drained down the corruption funnel into the private coffers of greedy politicians, we’ll certainly expect more crimes to happen. Corruption is a crime and the type of crime that begets more crimes.

This I believe should be one of the major concerns, if not the primary one, that must be addressed in the upcoming SONA. “
— Rev. Edwin P. Santos, Doctor of Ministry in Missions Founder, Voice of God Church (VOGC), Inc.

“I hope she will solve the ZTE issue, the political killings, the continuing poverty and the high prices of rice.”
– Rev. Ariel Baladjay, UCCP conference minister

“She should address poverty issues, because it has been a lingering problem in the Philippines. That should be the primary thing the government should tackle. There is rise in the prices of fuel and rice. We cannot control it. Everybody experiences it. We, in the police are lucky because the President check on us. We have a cheque, although it’s not so substantial. Maybe other government agencies should also have some kind of subsidies like what we are having. How can you cope with the rising prices of basic commodities if your salary remains the same? All of us clamor for an increase in salary so the government should address that. But where would the government get the money?”
– police chiefiInspector Alden Delvo, San Pedro police station

“Land for the landless. Landlessness is responsible for widespread poverty. If the middle class is already affected by the current food crisis, what must the poor be eating? Arroyo should address the people’s issue of landlessness and address people’s needs for food, shelter and education. Recent surveys showed more children are dropping out of school this year.”
– Sister Luz Mallo, Missionaries of the Assumption

“The current wages simply aren’t commensurate to the increasing prices of basic commodities, particularly rice and oil. Since the President claims to be an economist and the country’s problem are mostly economic-based, she should figure out a solution. “
– Atty. Faye Risonar

Bishops say SONA should focus on population policy too

July 28, 2008

MANILA, July 26, 2008— Reaffirming the government’s stand on the population control issue should be one of the focuses of President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, the Catholic bishops’ leadership said.

CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life chairman Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said Arroyo should uphold her stand on natural family planning.

“I hope the President reaffirm her stand that life is sacred and that the foundation of a strong republic is a strong family…which is also the foundation of the whole civilization,” he said.

Aniceto made the statement to reporters at the sidelines of the prayer rally for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Humanae Vitae at the University of Santo Tomas parade ground in Manila yesterday.

The Pampanga archbishop noted Arroyo assured the bishops many times that she will only be supporting the use of natural birth control methods to curb the country’s growing population.

He said the President also “promised” them that she will be pushing for natural for family planning method in her SONA.

Asked what they will do next in case she goes against her assurances, the prelate said they will just continue to remind her that “she is a Catholic.”

Arroyo had met recently with several bishops to hear their position on the reproductive health bills pending in Congress.

She said she has asked the leaders of the :Lower House to meet with the Catholic Church leaders to discuss the measure.

CBCP head Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the bishops are hopeful the lawmakers to “rethink” their position of supporting the “anti-life” bills.

“Ang amin lang sinasabi ay sana magkaroon sila ng paghuhunusdili at, tayo, bawat isa meron panahon at meron naman chance na magbago ng kanilang saloobin at magbago ng kanilang kaisipan at damdamin sa kalooban ng Panginoong Diyos,” Lagdameo said.

ECFL executive secretary Fr. Melvin Castro hopes the ongoing debate on the controversial bill will somehow give the public a chance to examine the measure.

“Nakakatuwa kasi maaring merong hindi naga-agree sa Church sa kanyang position pero the mere fact na napagde-debatihan ito ngayon ay magandang way para maging aware yung ating mamamayan sa ganitong partikular isyu,” Castro said.

The prayer rally gathered an estimated 12,000 pro-lifers coming from all walks of life, police officials said.

Aside from Lagdameo and Aniceto, other bishops present in the rally were Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, Tarlac Bishop Florentino Cinense, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, Gumaca Bishop Buenaventura Famadico, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arquelles, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, San Fernando auxiliary Bishop Roberto Mallari , Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, Manila auxiliary Bishop Bernardino Cortez, Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias and Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud.

Some politicians who also made their presence felt were Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, former Manila mayor Lito Atienza, former senator Francisco Tatad, Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Paranaque Representatives Roilo Golez and Eduardo Zialcita, Manila Representative Tricia Bonoan David and even boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.

Among the groups that participated in the gathering were the Couples for Christ, Buhay party-list, Human Life International–Asia, Pro-Life Philippines, Christ’s Family Mission Movement, Catholic Women’s League and the Knights of Columbus along with several other representatives of various dioceses. (Roy Lagarde)(CBCPNews)

Low Wages Shows the Sorry State of the Nation

July 27, 2008

In an era of double-digit inflation and weekly oil price increases, a yearly wage increase of measly amounts (that cannot even buy a kilo of NFA rice) will simply never do, said KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno or May 1st Movement). Year on year, the minimum wage rate hardly creeps near to touching distance with living wage levels.


BY MARYA SALAMAT
LABOR WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

If there is one thing that draws intense reactions from both employers and workers, it is a wage hike. Every time the regional wage boards releases its decisions regarding a wage hike, employers and workers would cry out loudly in bitter complaint, but for opposing reasons. “We’ll likely lose (our profits),” cry the employers. The labor organizations, meanwhile, would cry out in disgust, “a pittance!” or, an “insult!”

But considering that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) itself is admitting that the minimum wage is only half of the “living wage”, the workers’ disgust at the amount of wage hikes emanating from the wage boards is patently more understandable. A pittance won’t do when large companies such as San Miguel Corporation are reporting a 200 percent jump in profits this early in 2008.
In an era of double-digit inflation and weekly oil price increases, a yearly wage increase of measly amounts (that cannot even buy a kilo of NFA rice) will simply never do, said KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno or May 1st Movement). Year on year, the minimum wage rate hardly creeps near to touching distance with living wage levels.

Worse, according to Elmer Labog, chairman of KMU, data from the DOLE itself show that from the late eighties up to now, the real value of Filipino workers’ wage levels has been dropping precipitously and consistently. This, Labog explained, has prompted the KMU to reject the regional wage boards for being “inutile.” But of course Labog is representing a labor organization. The regional wage boards’ almost two-decade record of handing out paltry wage hikes despite runaway prices of goods and increased profit-taking by companies will likely be evaluated differently by employers.

Wage rationalization: lowering what’s already low, limiting what’s already limited

Exactly how many employed workers have benefited from the fourteen wage orders granted by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board over the years? The answer is as hard to determine as substantial wage hikes are hard to wrestle from the wage boards. But what is certain is that not all employees get to enjoy it in the end.

According to Attorney Remigio Saladero, lawyer from PLACE (Pro-Labor Assistance Center) and columnist of Pinoy Weekly, wage orders come down to expectant workers peppered with exemptions and loopholes. From his discussion of labor laws and regulations pertaining to wages, the paltry amounts of wage hikes being granted by regional wage boards is just one of the many problems barring ordinary workers from catching a trickle of the wage hikes.

First, most increases granted by wage boards benefit only minimum wage earners. This shuts out employees who are getting above minimum wage rates, even if they’re in establishments that are most likely in a position to grant wage increases, and even if they’re also in dire need of wage adjustments. The excuse given by DOLE (and the wage boards) is that unions can demand for increases via collective bargaining agreements (CBA). But only about 10 percent of the employed are unionized, said Elmer Labog, and of this, not all have managed to hammer out a good CBA with their employers. Intensified trade union repression plays a huge role in pushing back the number of organized and cutting back the organized workers’ gains, but that’s for another story.

According to Saladero, another reason that can explain why wage rates fail to take off meaningfully with wage orders is that there are numerous low minimum wage levels in the country. This means that the minimum you think of as the definitive lowest of all wages is actually being lowered further to another minimum level in different settings (say, regions or even municipalities) or in different job types (agricultural or non-agricultural).

Now, considering that the wage orders have shut out the non-minimum wage earners (who usually come from large, profitable companies), how do low-paying workers fare? Employers used to cry their hearts out for the small and medium establishments (SMEs) every time a wage hike is demanded.

In 2002, the Philippine government decided to forgo altogether the minimum wage law compliance among selected establishments, namely the SMEs. They exempted the establishments registered as barangay micro-businesses (BMBEs) from complying with the minimum wage law, thus allowing for the further free-fall of what’s supposed to be already the minimum.

Furthermore, the DOLE issued an order stating that if wage boards decide on a wage hike for SMEs, those registered as BMBE’s will not be obliged to implement it.

What constitute the BMBEs and SMEs? Reports said they comprise 99 percent of the registered establishments in the Philippines. Some of them may indeed be legitimate Filipino small business that rightly needs incentives, but unfortunately some are not. The National Federation of Labor Unions or NAFLU-KMU for instance had encountered an export-oriented enterprise in Rizal that is not paying its 300 employees the mandated minimum wages. They filed a case in behalf of the workers but lost because the enterprise was registered as a BMBE. How this exporting enterprise with a 300-strong workforce was able to register as a BMBE speaks a lot about how companies are able to circumvent labor and wage laws.

Militant labor unions whose members frequently receive higher than minimum wages (as a result of past collective actions and because their employers can easily afford it) usually press their employers to apply the increases granted by wage boards to their salaries. At times, it also means bargaining with their employers as the latter slice the paltry amount further to avoid wage distortions. (Wage distortion happens when a relatively new employee who is receiving the minimum wage suddenly gets an equivalent or even higher wage rate compared to co-employees who have been with the company for a longer period when wage increases granted by wage boards or through legislation are applied.)

Thus, for the paltry wage orders to take effect on non-minimum wage earners, workers have to fight for it first. Unorganized workers such as the increasing number of contractuals, agency-hired and other flexibly hired workers are at a disadvantage. Either they depend on their employers’ “social responsibility,” or risk their jobs by collectively demanding for the wage order’s implementation on them.
The simplest way to give workers some kind of relief from years of eroded wages and rising prices is to legislate a nationwide, across-the-board P125 ($2.826 at an exchange rate of $1-P44.23) wage increase, said Elmer Labog. This will cover everybody, he explained, and would not result in wage distortions.

But for a nationwide wage hike to be legislated, Labog says, hundreds of thousands of workers and employees from all unions regardless of affiliation should take part in campaigning for it. “Obviously, wage rationalization exists not for the workers’ benefit but for the employers. If we want to junk the regional wage boards once and for all and to compel the Arroyo administration to see the obvious that a substantial wage hike offers a slightly better relief than band-aid dole-outs, then we have to work together,” said Labog. He enjoins all employees to join or form Unions for P125 in their respective towns and barangays.

“For a fake president who is isolated and out-of-touch,” Labog says “we all need to shout together to be heard.” Bulatlat

Hunger and Poverty, Dissatisfaction, and Absence of Justice Reveal the True State of the Nation

July 27, 2008

Widespread hunger and poverty, broad dissatisfaction, and the absence of justice belie any claim of accomplishments that the Arroyo government is hard-selling on the people.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS
Vol. VIII, No. 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would be delivering the 7th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of her administration on July 28. (It is actually her eight but her 2001 SONA covered five and a half months of the Estrada administration.)  Expectedly, Arroyo would be gloating over the supposed 7.2 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2007; she would be highlighting the completion of infrastructure projects such as the opening of the NAIA 3 terminal; she would be blaming the global crisis for the intensifying sufferings of the Filipino people; and she would be defending her administration’s refusal to repeal or suspend the VAT by announcing a national social welfare program, with controversial former National Economic Development Board Director and Commission on Higher Education Chair Romulo Neri at the helm.

But the results of surveys of poll agencies namely, Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia show an increasing dissatisfaction over the government and a growing pessimism among the people.  The June 27-30 survey of the SWS saw the net rating of President Arroyo plunging to a historic low of -38, with 60 percent dissatisfied and only 22 percent satisfied with her performance.  Those dissatisfied were the overwhelming majority in all classes and in all regions. This is one area where Arroyo keeps on outdoing herself: she has topped her previous negative dissatisfaction rating of -33 registered in May 2005, at the height of the “Hello Garci” controversy. The IBON Foundation’s own survey in April 2008 revealed a worse result with a -74 net satisfaction rating and those wanting her removed at a high 72 percent.

Another survey, this time by Pulse Asia, conducted from July 1-14, 2008, revealed that only one out of ten believe President Arroyo’s state of the nation addresses are true.  A high 40 percent thinks that her SONAs are untruthful and 46 percent are undecided.  A significant drop in the number of the undecided – from 55 percent in July 2007 – translated into a big increase – an 11 percent increase – in those who find it untruthful.

The Arroyo government tried to dismiss the results of these surveys. But other surveys validate these and show the reasons why.

An earlier survey conducted by Pulse Asia from February 21 to March 8, 2008 revealed that 2 out of 3 Filipinos or 66 percent are of the opinion that the state of the economy has worsened during the last three years. This sentiment is shared by all socioeconomic classes all over the country.  An overwhelming majority, 71 percent, considered themselves as poor. A similar survey by IBON Foundation showed that 79.33 percent considered themselves as poor with 70 percent having difficulties in covering their basic needs.

According to the official 2006 poverty incidence statistics, 26.9 percent of families, or 27 million Filipinos, fall below the poverty line, an increase from the 24.4 percent or 20.1 million Filipinos registered in 2003. This is even based on a very low poverty threshold of P41.25 ($0.93 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.23) per person per day.  But the same Family Income and Expenditure Survey of the National Statistics Office also shows that 80 percent of Filipino families are struggling to survive on P284.33 ($6.428) a day, with the poorest 10 percent having incomes of only P90 ($2.03) a day. With an average family size of five, these figures translate to 68.2 million Filipinos subsisting on P56.87 ($1.285) a day.

Another SWS survey conducted during the same June 27-30, 2008 period revealed that 2.9 million Filipino families reported experiencing involuntary hunger. Even more telling is that those experiencing severe hunger increased to 4.2 percent, equivalent to 760,000 families in June.  This is above the 3.3 percent ten-year average in severe hunger and represented an increase from 3.2 percent or 570,000 families just this March.  It shows the worsening conditions of the Filipino people and the ineffectiveness of the government’s program of selling limited subsidized rice to the poor.

So much for the much-touted 7.2 percent GDP growth and the government’s illusions or false claims regarding the country moving towards “First World status”.  If there is real growth and the fundamentals of the economy are strong then how can GDP growth plunge from a high of 7.2 percent in 2007 to 5.18 percent in the first quarter of 2008? Manifesting the deteriorating condition of the economy, fixed capital formation slowed down to 6.55 percent during the first quarter of 2008 from 10.3 percent during the same period last year.  Exports even declined, registering a negative growth rate.

The GDP growth of 5.18 percent came mainly from the services sector; but the share of agriculture to GDP declined further from 17.89 percent to 17.17 percent and that of manufacturing from 21 to 20 percent. This is not surprising as the country could not even produce its own rice needs because of the backwardness of agricultural production where only 2 percent of rice farms are mechanized. In manufacturing, on the other hand, data from IBON foundation reveals that, because of globalization, an average of 553 enterprises are closing down and another 2,322 are retrenching workers every year since 2001. This amounts to 163 workers being displaced every day.

When the country’s economic growth was supposed to be at its highest in 2007, 10.829 million Filipinos were either unemployed or underemployed. There were actually 2.17 million more unemployed and underemployed Filipinos in 2007 compared to 2001. Most employed Filipinos, according to IBON Foundation, are in low quality, low-paying jobs.  In fact, 48 percent are in private households, unpaid family labor, and in self-employed odd jobs.

The widespread hunger and poverty, the deteriorating state of the economy, the unresolved issue of legitimacy of the presidency, and the numerous corruption scandals hounding the Arroyo family, have kept the government in a constant state of instability.  But instead of effectively addressing these issues, the Arroyo government, in its desperate efforts to cling to power, has corrupted almost all institutions where the Filipino people can seek redress and justice.  It has established full control over the House of Representatives with the maneuvering of the Arroyo sons to remove Jose de Venecia from the Speakership. To maintain its hold over the Lower House and the local government, it has dangled the pork barrel and bribed congressmen and local officials with cash gifts. It has neutralized the Senate by stonewalling the latter’s investigations.  It has bought the loyalty of the chain of command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and gave them a free hand in repressing the people and killing and forcibly abducting activists.

Despite having a proactive Chief Justice, the Arroyo government is able to use the loyalty of majority of Supreme Court justices in squeezing out decisions favorable to it when it matters most.  The Supreme Court has upheld the right of the Arroyo government to invoke “executive privilege” twice: in the case of the president’s conversations with Neri in the graft-ridden National Broadband Network deal with ZTE of China, and recently with the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement. The High Court came out with these decisions despite the eloquent dissenting opinion of Chief Justice Reynato Puno. The Court of Appeals, on the other hand, has already dismissed three cases of writs of amparo: on the abduction of Jonas Burgos, on the enforced disappearance of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, and the abduction of the Gumanoy sisters. Worse, the Arroyo government has virtually bribed the bishops with projects and recently the “Katas ng VAT” dole outs.

With no institution to turn to seek redress and justice, the Filipino people has only themselves to assert their rights, pursue their interests, and address the crisis enveloping the nation. And much of this pertains to holding the Arroyo government accountable for intensifying the sufferings of the Filipino people. But to be able to do this, the organized sectors must be able to mobilize the millions who are dissatisfied with and are suffering from the policies of the current dispensation.

First, it must be able to explain effectively the accountability of the Arroyo government on the worsening crisis enveloping the nation.  While it is true that the spike in oil and food prices are affecting the peoples of the world, it does not mean that the Arroyo government is not responsible for making the Filipino people suffer from it. It just means that the anti-people policies being implemented by the Arroyo government such as the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Law, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, among others, are in line with the policies being imposed by multilateral institutions such as the IMF-WB and the World Trade Organization, which are designed to enable big multinational corporations, such as the big oil companies of Exxon Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron Texaco, and the financial investment houses and banks, to extract super profits from the suffering peoples of the world through monopoly pricing and speculative attacks. The Arroyo government continues to burden the people with regressive taxes such as the VAT not to provide for social services – as the real budgets for education and health has been decreasing – but to ensure its foreign creditors that it would be able to pay its loans. Likewise, the country’s agricultural backwardness and its dependence on rice imports are not merely sins of omission of the Arroyo government but also part of the design to be able to flood the country with cheap agricultural produce from the heavily-subsidized farms of economically powerful nations. It was also designed as such to focus the country’s export production to the needs of industrialized countries.

Second, the organized sectors must be able to motivate people to act by explaining that we are worse off now not because of EDSA I and II or not because both people power uprisings were ineffective but because we were not able to push it further by demanding for substantial reforms.

Third, it must be able to provide different venues and different forms of protest where people can express their outrage.  These would eventually converge into bigger mobilizations, enough to encourage more of the unorganized to join mass actions.

Waiting for two years is such a long time considering the rapid pace by which the people’s quality of life is deteriorating.  In fact, every week counts as oil prices increase every week and food prices have already gone up by an average of 17.4 percent from its level last year.  And we have not seen the last of price increases for the year. According to IBON Foundation, the rate of increase in prices this year is the fastest in the last decade and a half.  Should we wait for hunger and poverty to worsen further?  And besides, if the people would not be able to demonstrate the strength of their collective action now, we cannot expect any change even after the 2010 national elections. Bulatlat

Editorial Cartoon: Pistok

July 27, 2008

Pis pis

Distrust hounds Arroyo on eve of SONA–Pulse Asia survey

July 27, 2008

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:13:00 07/27/2008

MANILA, Philippines–President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will deliver her State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday with around one in two Filipinos critical of her performance and distrusting her, according to an independent survey.

The Pulse Asia Inc. study, conducted from July 1 to 14, showed that 48 percent “disapprove” of her performance, while 53 percent had “small or no trust” in her.

The figures “do not differ significantly” from the 51-percent disapproval rating and the 57-percent distrust rating that the President scored in its March 2008 surey, Pulse Asia said.

Moreover, 35 percent said the pro-poor programs was part of “politicking” for the 2010 elections, it said.

The survey firm polled 1,200 respondents nationwide. At around that time, the administration announced subsidies for the poor which were sourced from Value Added Tax (VAT) revenues, continued to offer cheap rice from the National Food Authority (NFA), and pushed for lower electricity rates.

Asked to rate the President’s performance, 48 percent said they disapproved, 22 percent approved, while 30 percent were undecided, Pulse Asia said.

Disapproval was highest in Mindanao (62 percent), followed by Metro Manila (50 percent), Luzon (48 percent), and the Visayas (31 percent). The President registered the highest approval rating in the Visayas (35 percent), it said.

Asked if they trusted the President, 53 percent said they had “small or no trust” in her, 19 percent said they had big trust, while 28 percent were undecided. Distrust was highest in Mindanao (64 percent), followed by Metro Manila (56 percent), Luzon (53 percent), and the Visayas (37 percent). Her trust rating was highest in the Visayas (32 percent) it said.

“Disapproval for presidential performance and distrust in President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo remain the predominant public sentiment with almost one out of every two Filipinos (48%) being critical of President Arroyo’s performance and a small majority (53%) distrusting her,” Pulse Asia said in a statement.

While the over-all figures were “essentially unchanged,” Pulse Asia noted “marked movements” in the President’s performance and trust ratings across geographical regions and economic classes.

In Metro Manila, the President’s approval and trust ratings rose back to levels in October 2007, before the corruption controversy over the botched ZTE-NBN deal broke last January, Pulse Asia said.

Twenty percent of respondents in the capital said they approved of the President’s performance, up from 11 percent in March 2008, and close to the 21-percent approval rating in October, it said.

Another 17 percent said they trusted the President, up from six percent in March 2008, and close to the 18-percent trust rating in October, it said.

Arroyo’s disapproval rating in the ABC income brackets improved by 16 percentage points to 45 percent in July, from 61 percent in March. Her distrust rating also improved by 16 percentage points, to 49 percent from 65 percent during the same period, it said.

Asked which pro-poor program of the government they have availed of, 49 percent said NFA rice, 43 percent said they did not receive any, nine percent said they received the P500 one-time power bill subsidy, six percent said they benefited from the food for school program, two percent said they received the P1,500 fertilizer subsidy for farmers.

Asked why they thought administration was helping the poor, 35 percent said this was part of “politicking” for the 2010 elections, 30 percent said it was part of government’s responsibility, 24 percent said the government wanted to help the poor in difficult times, 10 percent said the government was preventing “possible conflict” that could arise from poverty.

The survey had an error margin of plus or minus three percent.(PDI)

Youth Groups Call for Class Walk-Out on PGMA’s SoNA

July 27, 2008

Militant youth organizations are set to call for class walk-out in various schools and universities and would mobilize students for the ‘People’s State of the Nation Address’ that will be held simultaneously with the president’s SONA scheduled on July 28.

By JEFFREY OCAMPO
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

Youth organizations, led by Youth for Truth and Accountability Now! (Youth ACT Now!), Anakbayan (Sons and Daughters of the People), League of Filipino Students (LFS) and Student Christian Movement (SCM), are calling for class walk-outs in various schools and universities and are urging students to join the protest action on July 28, the date of the president’s State of the Nation Address (SoNA).

They intend to reveal the “real state of the nation and the youth,” according to Ken Ramos of Anakbayan.

Youth ACT Now! had previously staged successful class walk-outs this July as a means of carrying out the youth’s fight for “meaningful change.” More than 2,000 students from different schools in Metro Manila walked out of their classes last July 18. The July 18 walk-out was the second.  The first was held on July 10, in which some 1,000 students participated.

According to Ramos, education is fast becoming inaccessible as tuition hikes and imposition of exorbitant fees bombard the students. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) recently suspended its Memorandum No. 14, which was supposed to provide a “tuition cap” for private higher education institutions (HEIs), while the supposed moratorium on tuition increases for public HEIs failed to take effect. “More and more students are forced to drop out of college because their parents, drowning in the worsening economic crisis, can no longer provide for their children’s needs in school,” he adds.

The youth groups also dispute the Arroyo administration’s claim that “progress is felt.” Oil prices, which now increase almost every week due to speculation in the world market and the deregulated environment in the Philippines, affect basic commodities and transport, thereby adding to the misery and economic devastation of Filipinos, according to the LFS.

Another reason for their call for a class walk-out is the “state terrorism” which victimizes youth. Of the 910 victims of extrajudicial killings documented by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) from January 2001 to June 2008, 23 belong to the youth sector. Ten cases of enforced disappearance, including that of University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, remain unresolved. According to the SCM, the Arroyo administration and its appendages in the military should be held liable for these “rampant human rights violations.”

Thus, these youth organizations call on their “fellow students to go out on the streets where the real state of the nation and of the youth shall be heard.” Contributed to Bulatlat

Teachers Demand for Decent Salary, Gear Up for ‘People’s SONA’

July 27, 2008

The plight of Filipino teachers has been at its worst since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001, according to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). Amid the recent surges in the prices of petroleum products and consequently of transport and basic commodities, it is but just to demand for a salary increase, said the group.

BY JEFFREY OCAMPO
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 25, july 27-August 2, 2008

As Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to deliver her State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 28, teachers in public elementary and high schools expressed dissatisfaction over her performance. Apparently, they are a part of the significant percentage of Filipinos, which according to the most recent survey of Pulse Asia, has become cynical of what Arroyo will have to say in her SONA.

Last July 23, a ten-percent increase in salary was given to public schools teachers. Starting this month, teachers categorized in the Teacher 1 position – constituting the majority – would be receiving a monthly salary of P11,933 ($269.79 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.23). A similar rate of increase was implemented last year after a six-year moratorium in pay hikes.

Their salary, however, even with the increases, falls short of the living wage. According to National Wages and Productivity Commission, the daily cost of living is P871 ($19.69) per day or P19,162 ($433.23) per month for a family of six.

Teachers comprise one-third of the 1.5 million government employees. They suffer from stress because of overloading, worsening working conditions and low salary, says ACT. Their disconcerting plight contributes largely to the deterioration of the state of Philippine education.

Grievances

A teacher at the Commonwealth Elementary School who prefers not to be named shared, “Teaching school children is tough enough but the distressing working condition and issues are too much too handle.”

The Department of Education (DepED) issued Memorandum No. 291 last June 13 instructing public school teachers “to fully utilize the six hour actual classroom teaching time.” This means that a teacher must spend six hours facilitating classes. This, however, according to ACT, prevents them from doing other things their job requires like writing lesson plans and preparing instructional materials.
According to the same memorandum, teachers are not exempted from the eight-hour working time. Thus, the remaining two hours should be spent for activities “within or outside school premises to comply with the eight-hour workday.” But based on the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, teachers are to spend “not more than six hours” for actual classroom teaching, says ACT.

Another issue confronting teachers is overloading that is an “inevitable consequence of the shortage of teachers.” Those with additional load should be given 25 percent of their monthly salary. But, according to ACT, the additional pay is not at all given. Aside from overloading, a teacher has to handle 60 to 70 students in a class while the international standard of class size is only 25.

The provisions of the Salary Standardization Law is also not being implemented thoroughly in public schools. As prescribed by the law, a P300-increase ($6.78) should be given to teachers after every 3 years of their service. This, says ACT, is not even enough. Worse, reports show that teachers have to apply and present to Department of Education (DepEd) their qualifications before they can get the supposed automatic salary increase.

They are also having problems with the Government Security and Insurance System’s (GSIS) service record, which has not been updated. There are reported cases wherein the salaries of teachers who have fully paid for their loans still reflect deductions for loan payments. Even retired teachers are not spared from the GSIS’s “flawed system.” In 2006, a retired teacher suffered a heart attack at the GSIS office in Lucena City upon learning that she would not be getting her pension because her E-Card had not been activated. She died afterwards.

Salary Increase

Among professionals, teachers receive the lowest monthly salary. Teachers are now “among the ranks of the poor”, relates Antonio Tinio, ACT chairperson.

Thus, ACT’s effort towards alleviating teachers from their dire state centers on the demand for a P9,000 ($203.48) salary increase. This means that their monthly salary should amount to P19,579 ($442.66), an amount “necessary to preserve the dignity of the teaching profession and bring it closer to the rising cost of living.” The current salary of teachers “barely keeps them above the poverty line,” adds Tinio. The demand aims to upgrade teachers from Salary Grade 10 to Salary Grade 20 of the Salary
Standardization Law.

Their campaign for a higher salary has gained support.

Last July 11, Senate Bill No. 2408 entitled “An Act Providing Additional Support and Compensation for Educators in Basic Education” was submitted to the Senate and was approved by Allan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Mar Roxas and other senators. According to the bill’s declaration of policy, the government shall “promote the welfare and economic well-being of public school teachers, locally-funded teachers and non-teaching personnel” who are its primary beneficiaries. Section 4 of the bill says that “an amount of P9,000 per month shall be granted” to the beneficiaries and “shall be paid in three equal tranches” (P3,000 every year for three years). Also, the teachers shall receive financial support, medical allowance and Magna Carta bonus. So far, SB 2408 has passed second reading in the Senate.

A similar bill was filed in the Lower House. House Bill 4734, which is entitled “The Public School Teachers’ Additional Compensation Act”, is being pushed by Gabriela Women’s Party representative, Luzviminda Ilagan who herself was a school teacher.

ACT has held mass actions in different areas like Muntinlupa, Quezon City and Manila to gain more support from their fellow teachers for their call for a salary increase.

Teachers to Join the ‘People’s SONA’

Teachers are also set to join the ‘People’s SONA’ along with the other sectors of society on July 28. “We also oppose the implementation of the oil deregulation law, R-VAT [Reformed Value-Added Tax] and other anti-Filipino government policies that worsen the lives of ordinary citizens and add to the misery of public school teachers. We are one with the majority of the Filipino people who vows to oust Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo from her position,” says Tinio.

ACT members from different elementary and secondary schools in Metro Manila will be gathering in front of Diliman Preparatory School before marching to Batasang Pambansa on July 28. Bulatlat

Editorial Cartoon: SONA 2008, Bagsak!

July 26, 2008

Oily Report

Charter change not part of no-frills SONA – Remonde

July 25, 2008

President Gloria Arroyo will not include Charter change in her State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde said Friday.

He added that the President and her entire Cabinet are working to come up with a good SONA, which will be delivered without frills and straight to the point.

Twenty out of the 149 priority infrastructure projects mentioned by President Arroyo in her 2006 and 2007 SONAs have already been completed, Malacañang reported Friday. The 20 projects have a total cost of P53.73 billion, while all 149 projects are to cost P800 billion.

The rest of the multi-year, big-ticket projects mentioned by the President under her “super regions” economic plan are under various stages of implementation. Thirty of the remaining 129 priority projects are scheduled to be finished this year, while the rest will be “substantially completed” by 2010, as Mrs. Arroyo leaves office.

Most big-ticket, economic development infrastructure projects are programmed for implementation over several years, thus their classification under “multi-year projects.”

Remonde said the Arroyo administration doesn’t deny the existence of the problems that the country has been facing, adding, “We face many problems, [and] the President is doing a well-crafted, well considered plan to address the crisis.”

Skeptical audience

Mrs. Arroyo will deliver her SONA amid a recent Pulse Asia survey that said there is “much skepticism . . . as regards the truthfulness” of the president’s SONAs.

Only 13 percent of 1,200 polled said they will believe Mrs. Arroyo’s SONA statements.

Among the most skeptical of what President Arroyo will say Monday are former Cabinet secretaries and ranking officials, who formed the group Former Senior Government Officials.

During a forum at De La Salle University on Friday, the group’s members credited Arroyo’s administration for seven “curses.”

These are, according to a statement, the “inability to feed its own people; worsening poverty and increasing disparity between the rich and the poor; deteriorating basic social services; corruption; abuse of presidential power; illegitimate presidency; and robbing the nation of its dignity, unity, and future.”

“Our 1987 Constitution states that there should be an equal distribution of wealth and social services so as to improve the quality of life of the people, but the President has violated this by not fulfilling the promises of her previous SONAs,” the statement added, stressing that the administration has failed to provide food because of lack support for agriculture and rural development.

Mrs. Arroyo had promised rice sufficiency and food for every table in her 2001 and 2003 SONAs.

Instead, the Philippines has become the largest rice-importing country in the world. The former government officials also claimed that the country’s trade deficit has ballooned to $1.5 billion in 2006 from $967 million in year 2000.

“The SONA is the President’s chance to report on the true state of its people, but it should be taken as an opportunity not only to detail the government’s achievements, but instead give us an update of the promises were fulfilled,” said Vicente Paterno, a Cabinet member during the Marcos government.

The group, however, recognized that the country’s 7.5 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth last year—the highest in 20 years—provided jobs but did not eradicate poverty since only one million jobs were generated in seven years. The former officials said the country needs one million jobs in agriculture and fisheries each year.

Former Civil Service Commission Chairperson Karina David, however, admitted that institutionalizing reforms in the government, of which all the former officials were once part of, cannot be achieved overnight.

SONA boycott

A spokesman for Estrada, Margaux Salcedo, said he will not attend Mrs. Arroyo’s SONA, amid calls of militant solons to boycott the activity.

“He simply believes that it would be a waste of time to go to Congress only to listen to the fairy tale story of the economy from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” according to a statement released also on Friday.

Salcedo added that rather than listen to Mrs. Arroyo’s “lies,” Estrada will just listen to the truths from the Filipino masses.

“The truth of severe hunger, the truth of worsening poverty, the truth of rising inflation, the truth of a worse economy, and the truth that no less than the World Bank has assessed the Philippines to be the most corrupt country in East Asia,” Salcedo said quoting the former president.

She added that Estrada believes that proclamations of “progress and sound economic fundamentals” would be like rubbing salt on the wounds of the hurting poor.

Perceived threats

The Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it does not see any threats during the SONA, aside from the possible commotion from the protesting militant groups.

No similar threat is forthcoming from rightist groups, said military intelligence chief Romeo Prestoza, adding they only expect commotion between militants and the police’s civil disturbance management teams.

But the national police in Metro Manila will put its forces on red alert on Sunday.

The police’s Special Action Force and police units in Central Luzon and Region 4-A (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) will also be on full alert, said police Director for Operations Silverio Alarcio.

He added other police units would be on heightened alert status. In other parts of the country, commanders will have the discretion to raise their respective alert levels.

At least 6,000 Metro Manila policemen will be deployed to secure major roads and sites where protesters are expected to converge on Monday.

The military in Metro Manila will also put on standby 2,000 troops to augment the police force. Some 600 civil disturbance management personnel will also support policemen.

Maj. Gen. Arsenio Arugay, the military chief in Metro Manila, had earlier said security forces were on the lookout for possible attacks by the New People’s Army units.

Classes cancelled

Classes have been suspended in 22 schools in Quezon City on Monday as a precaution against possible violence during the SONA. The Department of Education made that decision also in anticipation of heavy traffic around in the Batasan Complex, where the President will deliver her address.

An Education official said government will allow private schools administrators to decide whether they too will suspend classes Monday.
— Angelo S. Samonte, James Konstantin Galvez, Maricel V. Cruz and Llanesca T. Panti(ManilaTimes)

Protest vs Sona set

July 25, 2008

By Cong Corrales

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PIPIT, a 12-year-old boy, is vigorously dabbing the placards with calls for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s ouster.

Other activists — young and old — meanwhile, are busy prepping the giant cauldron and mock barrel of oil.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

With elaborate props and an amphitheater as the stage, this is no ordinary protest action-coinciding with the President’s July 28 State of the Nation Address (Sona), organizers say.

“This Monday’s rally will be the most dramatic and theatrical protest action in our city yet,” said Kristine Lim, deputy secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Northern Mindanao Region.

Aside from the usual protest slogans and streamers, the rally will feature a theatrical rendition dubbed as “Impyerno sa Yuta” (Hell on Earth).

In the presentation, the President will be portrayed as a witch “conjuring up all the evils that has ravaged the country in the last eight years that she has been the president,” Lim told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro Thursday.

The “Hell on Earth” theme will depict the worst economic crisis that has befallen the nation so far in the last 14 years which has made living conditions in our country hellish and almost unbearable,” he continued.

“Under PGMA’s watch, the country marked the highest inflation rate ever at 11.4 percent,” she said.

In Northern Mindanao, five percent or 93,000 of the 1.8 million labor force is unemployed and 26.7 percent or 472,000 is underemployed, Lim said.

The stage play cum protest action will open at the Divisoria Amphitheater in Cagayan de Oro at 12 noon.

It is expected to end at 4 p.m.

Bayan said they are expecting “almost a thousand delegates to attend the rally.”

Monday’s protest will kickoff with a press conference at the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) Friday.(SunStarCDO)

Arroyo’s Sona to highlight VAT, family planning

July 25, 2008

MANILA — The value-added tax (VAT), family planning, and the social welfare program would highlight President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s eighth State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.

Presidential Management Staff (PMS) director general Cerge Remonde said the Sona, which would run up to about 10 pages, would still have the usual technical details, figures, and powerpoint presentations that characterized the President’s previous Sona.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

He said the President has been practicing on its delivery every afternoon for the past four weeks.

Remonde however refused to say whether Arroyo would be changing her stance on VAT, but said the President would make a policy speech.

According to him, Arroyo would also reiterate her stand on the family planning issue, which has been the subject of a heated debate lately between the Catholic Church and proponents of the “free-choice” on family planning methods.

For those who are planning not to watch the Sona, he said: “It is their duty as citizens to listen to the President, inasmuch as it is the duty of the President to make a report to the nation.”

The Freedom from Debt Coalition and a youth group have called for an “electronic boycott” of the Sona by turning off any electronic item that would carry her annual speech. They said it is part of their “see and hear no evil” campaign.

Remonde said lawmakers, including the opposition, are obliged to listen to the President because not doing so is tantamount to “dereliction of duty.”

Meanwhile, 46 percent of Filipinos are not sure whether President Arroyo’s Sona would be truthful, while 40 percent expect it to be “untruthful,” the July 1-14 survey of Pulse Asia showed.

The survey, which polled 1,200 respondents aged 18 years old and above, said 60 percent or six out of 10 the respondents said they were aware of past editions of Arroyo’s Sona.

Of the 60 percent, 40 percent were expecting Monday’s Sona to be untruthful, 46 percent were undecided about the speech while only 14 percent said they expected it to be truthful.

Among those who said the 2008 Sona would not be truthful, 50 percent came from Mindanao, 38 percent each from Luzon and the Visayas, and 37 percent from Metro Manila.

The biggest number of those who are not sure whether the Sona would be truthful came from Luzon (52 percent) followed by the Visayas (47 percent), Metro Manila (45 percent), and Mindanao (35 percent).

The level of indecision showed mostly in Class ABC (49 percent) followed by Class D (47 percent), and Class E (43 percent). Most of those who said it would not be truthful came from Classes D and E (42 percent). (JMR/Sunnex)