“After almost six years, the cry of the people, particularly of women, for jobs and justice, food and freedom persists.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The progressive women’s group put Cordillera’s charming “Carrot Man” Jeyrick Sigmaton in contrast to President Aquino, whom they called “Garbage Man,” whose core had so rotten that they want to literally dump him in the garbage can.
In a press conference in Chino Roces bridge (formerly Mendiola bridge) on Thursday, March 3, women leaders lambasted Aquino for his “rubbish” record in poverty alleviation, job generation, and violence against women and children.
Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general said in Aquino’s six years in office, women’s lives had not improved.
“In fact our situation even worsened because of Aquino’s adherence to neo-liberal policies of privatization, liberalization and deregulation. For women, his whole stint in Malacanang is useless, plain trash. So goodbye and good riddance, garbage man.”
Women remained poor
Aquino’s electoral promise of “daang matuwid” (righteous path) was unfulfilled in his six years in office, said the women’s group.
Professor Marion Tan of the University of the Philippines and chairperson of the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) said that just like any traditional politician, President Aquino’s word turned out to be mere sugarcoated popcorn.
Tan said Aquino’s ‘daang matuwid’ unraveled itself to the people, with a nearly P1 trillion ($21 billion) pork barrel fund and the record-breaking income gap between the rich and poor. Add to that the impunity in human rights violations and sell-out of the country to foreign corporations and military powers.
“Thus, after almost six years, the cry of the people, particularly of women, for jobs and justice, food and freedom persists,” she said.
According to Ulat Lila 2016, the annual report by CWR, a training and research institution for women, majority of Filipinos are in dire straits. In 2012, one in every four Filipinos was considered poor. The poverty incidence among women reached an average of 25.6 percent, while the poverty incidence among children reached 35 percent.
Poverty is even higher in the regions, the report said. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), five in every 10 women and six in every 10 children lived below the poverty line.
The report also said that in Aquino’s six years of administration, the rich only became richer.
Only 50 families practically owned 25.7 percent or a quarter of the country’s wealth, and are the only ones who benefited from the country’s so-called economic growth, said CWR. Business tycoon and SM owner, Henry Sy topped the list of 50 richest families in the Philippines in 2015.
“The combined income of these 50 families in 2014 reached $72.4 billion, a 13 percent increase from their income of $65.8 billion in 2013. This represented the 51 percent growth of the country’s gross domestic product from 2013 to 2014,” the report read.
“The Aquino administration should refrain from glorifying the country’s growing economy and branding it as inclusive growth for the people… Poverty incidence among women remains high despite the implementation of 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), the government’s conditional cash transfer scheme,” Tan explained.
Who’s earning in 4Ps?
Aquino’s presidential bet, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas promises to continue the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). He said that many Filipinos benefited from the program and their lives are getting better because of it.
But Ulat Lila said it is the private sector who are actually earning in the government’s poverty alleviation program.
The implementing agency, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in partnership with BPI Globe Banko, started conducting financial literacy trainings as part of the sustainable livelihood program. The report said the beneficiaries were encouraged to open a bank account, for which they would need to shell out P100 ($2) and purchase a Globe sim card right after the trainings. Reportedly, around 50,000 beneficiaries availed of BanKo and would be followed by an additional 200,000.
BanKo also introduced a loan program, offering goods or products instead of cash under the program “PuhunanKO”. PuhunanKo, a micro-lending program, involved multinational companies like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Nestle. Beneficiaries could loan up to P2,000 ($42) worth of goods from one of the three companies as a start-up package for a “sari-sari”/small retail store.
In Davao City, beneficiaries who were already in their fifth year under the program were encouraged to apply for membership in the Social Security System (SSS). Apparently, being a member would assure the beneficiaries of a fund for emergencies. DSWD facilitated their membership, but the beneficiaries had to pay P312 ($6.62) monthly or P10 ($.21) daily as contribution.
“Large corporations greatly profited from this livelihood programs of CCT/4Ps. In the name of indigent women, the private sector earned as fiscal consultants of the program,” the report said.
The CWR said in its report that for the past six years, the women’s agenda remain unfulfilled. But women are not giving up. On March 8, international women’s day, women from different sectors will push forward the women’s agenda. The agenda, said Salvador, embodies the demands and also serves as criteria for women in choosing candidates vying for various national and local posts.
Tan said the women’s vote was significant in the 2013 elections. The women voter turnout was 77.9 percent compared to 77 percent of their male counterpart.
“As formidable voters, women could turn the tide to their advantage. They should present the women’s agenda and challenge the candidates to carry it out. Historically, women have proven that through their collective action, meaningful changes can happen. After all, women hold up half the sky,” said Tan.
Salvador, meanwhile said privatization of health services, the no home-birthing policy, the K to 12 programs, Public-Private Partnership, and the Oplan Bayanihan are but some of the Aquino government programs that should be thrown away.
“These programs are added burden to women and the people in general. These rotten programs are embodied in the garbage man’s daang matuwid and his successor must not be allowed to recycle these,” Salvador added.