By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The May 1 Labor Day rally this year is turning out to be a hot one, and it is not only because of the very hot days, which began this Holy Week. Barely a year in office, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is already being saddled by many issues: the incessant increases in the prices of oil products, food and basic commodities, and rates of basic services, the festering problems of unemployment and underemployment, the worsening poverty, the prevailing impunity in the commission of human rights violations, especially extrajudicial killings, and the deteriorating environmental situation being caused by large-scale logging and mining. Even corruption reared its ugly head once more during the August 23 hostage crisis and the jueteng scandal involving the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
In fact, the Filipino people feel that nothing much has changed, except for the absence, so far, of corruption scandals in the magnitude of those involving the previous Arroyo administration and her family.
Worse, the Aquino government refuses to do anything about these problems. When it was reported that a recent Social Weather Station survey showed that the approval rating of President Benigno Aquino III is going down, the administration pointed to “external shocks,” it’s as if it could not do anything about these “external shocks” in prices. In answering criticisms that the Department of Energy is not doing anything to control pump prices, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras was quoted as saying, “Why am I defending something which is not of my own doing?” He added that what he has been doing is ensuring the supply of oil. Because, he said, if the government starts to control pump prices, oil companies would back away. Well, that is not the whole truth. First, the Aquino government, by refusing to remove the VAT on oil, is as guilty as oil companies for the high pump prices. Second, so many recommendations have been put forward and there has been no instance where oil companies backed away even in countries that nationalized its oil industry. Just recently, even US President Barack Obama has threatened to remove the tax breaks and subsidies being given to oil companies. (Well, it is a revelation that oil companies are getting tax breaks and subsidies, while the US is pressing other governments to remove subsidies on its industries.)
The Aquino government has also done nothing to address the festering problems of unemployment and underemployment, and worsening poverty. In stead it has been protecting the interests of big foreign and local businesses, trying to intensify its labor export policy, and has been distributing dole outs to a few select poor families.
This May 1, Filipino workers and other people’s organizations would be confronting the Aquino government with demands for jobs, job security, and a substantial increase in wages, for a control in prices of oil and basic commodities, as well as the rates of basic utilities, and an end to attacks on the rights of workers, in particular, and the Filipino people, in general.
Protest actions of peoples in other countries, including the US, France, Britain, Greece, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, among others have been intensifying because of the worsening poverty and unemployment, and the attacks on workers’ and peoples’ rights. The Philippines may not be far behind if the Aquino government remains adamant in refusing to heed the people’s calls in order to satisfy the greed for profits of multinational companies. The only question is, up to when could the Filipino people tighten their belts and keep searching for overseas employment just to survive? How much more could the Filipino people take before the seething anger explodes?