By BENJIE OLIVEROS
MANILA — It is the State of the Nation Address once again. The true state of the country is again the subject of debates. Surely, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would boast about the economic growth and its supposed success in shielding the economy from the impact of the world economic and financial crisis, the infrastructure projects the government was able to finish such as the Clark to Subic highway, and, probably, its peace overtures with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. And as of this writing, Malacañang has issued a statement saying that Arroyo’s state of the nation address would change the impression that she has “questionable designs or plans in office.”
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde also told the public to ignore Arroyo’s “Marxist critics.” Well, calling all of the Arroyo government’s critics as Marxist is quite absurd. The Makati Business Club gave the Arroyo government a failing grade in economics, and it is definitely not Marxist. Second, there is nothing wrong with being a Marxist in a democracy where the freedom of belief is upheld. But of course under the Arroyo government, being branded a Marxist makes one vulnerable to abduction, torture, and murder. Third, the problem with the Arroyo government is that it does not listen to criticisms — it dismisses criticisms as politicking, propaganda, or as a destabilization plot.
Economic growth may be relatively higher than in previous administrations, but so is unemployment and poverty. Jobs have been generated but most of it are low-quality jobs including vending and other odd jobs under the category of own account or self-employed, domestic household help, and unpaid family work. These type of jobs account for 1.3 million out of the 1.5 million jobs created last year. The number of part-time work has also been increasing.
The impact of the world economic crisis on the country is supposedly not as severe as in other countries. But the economy has been in a crisis long before the recent world economic turmoil. The country’s economic growth is one of the lowest in the region; the trade deficit is chronic; the country is always on the verge of a fiscal crisis; and, according to Ibon Foundation, the country has experienced the longest period of sustained high unemployment rate in the country’s history – an average of 11.2 percent; underemployment has also worsened averaging around 18.5 percent. The country could not even provide for the people’s staple, rice. By Ibon’s computations, rice import increased by an astonishing 280 percent under the Arroyo administration.
The country is supposedly under a democracy but extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture are being committed with impunity — victimizing more than a thousand activists — and the government’s critics are being harassed with trumped-up charges. The most recent case, which caught the public’s attention, is that of Filipino-American Melissa Roxas who was abducted and tortured with two other companions while undertaking preparations for a medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac, last May 19. The press is supposedly free but journalists are being killed and the government has time and again tried to impose restrictions on the media.
Elections are supposedly clean and honest, but charges of electoral fraud are being brushed aside.
The Arroyo government imposed the value-added tax to raise revenues to balance the budget and yet government contracts are marred by corruption, making the administration the most corrupt in the history of the country; it also earned the distinction of being one of the most corrupt in Southeast Asia. The Research Working Group of Pagbabago, a newly formed organization, estimates that for 16 corruption cases alone, the kickbacks and payoffs already amounted to P20.9 billion ($430 million).
At the rate the Arroyo government is going, it might outdo the Marcos dictatorship as the worse and most hated regime in Philippine history. It just has to keep itself in power for another 12 years and it would surpass the record of the Marcos dictatorship in all aspects: corruption, human rights violations, disregard for democratic processes and civil liberties, plunder, and in bringing the nation to greater depths of backwardness and poverty. That is, if the Filipino people would allow her. And one does not have to be a Marxist to see that. (Bulatlat.com)