“Aquino repeated the general outline of his previous SONAs. It goes like this: first, blame the previous administration, cite parents, then give out some cherry-picked data. Blame anyone else…for other shortcomings.” – Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – While allies of President Benigno Aquino III applauded the State of the Nation Address (SONA), people’s organizations branded the two-hour speech as “full of recycled rhetoric.”
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon noted that Aquino repeated the general outline of his previous SONAs. “It goes like this: first, blame the previous administration, cite parents, then give out some cherry-picked data. Blame anyone else, even the private sector, for other shortcomings. To cap it off, blame critics and thank allies profusely.”
Aquino claimed the Philippines is now being called “Asia’s Rising Tiger,” “Asia’s Rising Star,” and “Asia’s Bright Spot.” He said businessmen find it more attractive to invest in the country.
Aquino further claimed of “inclusive growth” through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). He said that 4.4 million households are now benefiting from the program.
Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) countered that 4Ps has not even put a dent in addressing poverty in the country.
Gloria Arellano, Kadamay national chairperson, said widespread poverty and hunger among the urban poor and other marginalized sectors have characterized the last five years of the Aquino administration.
Arellano cited the second quarter poll of the Social Weather Stations revealing that some 11.2 million families or 51 percent of Filipino families considered themselves poor. The SWS survey also found that 8.1 million families or 37 percent considered themselves food-poor.
Ridon said the government still uses the deceitful methodology that sets a low P52 (US$1.14) poverty threshold. When Ibon Foundation adjusted the threshold to P100 ($2.20) to P125 ($2.75) per day, the poverty statistics reaches up to 66 million Filipinos.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan pointed out the allegations of corruption and irregularities on 4Ps, ranging from fund misuse to having multiple entries and ghost beneficiaries, have not been resolved.”
Ilagan cited the Asian Development Bank findings earlier this year revealing that almost P19 billion ($418 million) of 4P’s P62 billion ($1.36 billion) budget did not go to the poor. In December 2014, the Commission on Audit report revealed that Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman failed to account for P1.08 billion ($24 million) in grants.
Aquino boasted that the 6.8 percent unemployment rate last year has been the lowest in a decade. He added that his administration created permanent jobs.
Kilusang Mayo Uno pointed out the government’s unemployment figure does not include discouraged job seekers or those who do not have work but are not actively looking for work.
KMU also said that a huge part of employment is comprised of part-time and low-income jobs in the informal sector.?Citing a 2014 data from independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, KMU said that 90 percent of the 1.2 million additional work comprised of part-time jobs that take less than 40 hours a week.
The labor center also criticized Aquino’s claim of “good relationship of labor and management throughout the country.” Aquino said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) recorded only 15 labor strikes in the last five years of his administration.
Elmer Labog, KMU chairperson, said the reduction in the number of strikes is due to the union busting and contractualization drives of the government and capitalists. “The reduction highlights the rampant violation of workers’ rights. Workers who form unions are immediately removed from work and contractuals, who now comprise the majority of workers in the country, can be removed from work easily by capitalists,” he said.
Aquino also took pride in the decreasing number of OFWs. Ridon said Aquino did not mention that the economy remains largely dependent on OFW remittances, with OFWs sending an estimated P1.2 trillion ($26 billion) in remittances in 2014 alone.
Aquino mentioned there are 50 Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects under his administration. He added that the private sector partners shelled out P64.1 billion ($1.4 bilion) for these projects.
Aquino did not say, however, that the 2015 national budget allocated P57.4 billion ($1.24 billion )for PPP projects.
According to Ibon Foundation, the largest PPP project, Laguna Lakeshore Development project will displace more than three million fisherfolk and residents. Kadamay said 14 of these projects would evict some 1.2 informal settlers from their communities and sources of livelihood.
Ibon Foundation noted that a small group of corporations has cornered awarded projects costing P189 billion ($4.1 billion) including Sy’s, Pangilinan’s and Cojuangco’s.
Criminalization of political dissent
In the political arena, human rights alliance Karapatan lambasted what it called “criminalization of the arrested peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”
Aquino lumped detained NDFP consultants such as the Tiamzon couple with criminal syndicates, alleged terrorists and notorious human rights violator retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palaparan Jr.
Karapatan said there are now 18 detained NDFP in violation of the GPH-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said, “The BS Aquino regime has been double-dealing with the NDFP, dangling the peace talks while hunting down peace consultants and arresting them through trumped-up criminal charges using false witnesses and ‘planted’ evidence.”
Ridon noted that while Aquino mentioned the scandals of the previous administration, he was silent on the very scandals his administration went through. Among these are the pork barrel scam and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Ridon added that Aquino also mentioned the bloody Maguindanao massacre of 2009, where the victims of which have yet to attain justice, but not the Mamasapano fiasco this year.
Meanwhile, environmentalist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment lambasted Aquino’s silence on environmental issues such as large-scale mining.
The group noted the 100-percent increase of commercially approved foreign large-scale mining projects under the Aquino administration.
“Aquino and his cohorts clearly intend to perpetuate his regime’s legacy of mining pollution and plunder in refusing to listen to the growing clamor to protect the people’s lands, livelihood, and environment,” Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan said.