Violations of Economic, Social Rights Severe Under Arroyo Administration

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The Arroyo government’s human rights record is considered one of the worst in history, not just in violations of civil and political rights but also in the economic, social and cultural realm.

Thirty-five years after the Philippines ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), the rights of millions of Filipinos are increasingly undermined and unmet daily such as the right to food, decent work, health, education, adequate standard of living, protection and assistance of families, among others.

Right to food: Local food production has fallen drastically and the country is now more dependent on foreign sources of food. Rice imports increased 280 percent from 639,000 tons in 2001 to a record 2.4 million tons in 2008. There is widespread hunger with over 60 percent of Filipinos having difficulty buying food and around 9.3 million households failing to meet the 100 percent dietary energy requirement. Three million children aged 0-5 years are underweight, while three million more children aged 6-10 years old are malnourished.

Right to health: The Arroyo administration has the lowest record of health spending compared to the past three administrations. Since 2001, it allocated an average of only 1.8 percent for health, compared to 3.1 percent under the Aquino administration, 2.6 percent under Ramos, and 2.4 percent under Estrada. In the 2010 national budget, the allocation for health fell by 7.4% from 2009, or an average of only P1 per Filipino per day. Thousands of Filipinos are afflicted annually of pneumonia and tuberculosis while heart and vascular system diseases are on the rise. Some 180 Filipino children die everyday of what should be easily preventable or manageable diseases.

Right to education: For school year 2008-09, there were 4.7 million out-of-school youth in the country, consisting of 2 million elementary-age children and 2.7 million high school-age youth. Out of every 100 children who enter Grade 1, only 66 will finish elementary school, 43 high school and 14 college. This year, the government spent only P6 per Filipino per day on education while paying the equivalent of P21 on debt service.

Right to decent work: The period of 2001-2008 is the longest period of sustained high unemployment in the country’s history, with an average unemployment rate of 11.3 percent. A record 1.24 million Filipinos were deployed abroad in 2008 or almost 3,400 leaving per day. The quality of many jobs available is poor, with millions of Filipinos in insecure, unprotected, and poorly or non-earning work. In 2008 among those considered employed were 4.2 million unpaid family workers, 12.1 million own-account workers, 4.5 million non-regular wage and salary workers or those with casual, contractual, probationary, apprentice or seasonal status, and 11.9 million in part-time work. The NCR minimum wage of P382 in 2008 is less than half of what a family of five needs for a minimum level of decent living, which is estimated at P917.

Right of families to protection and assistance: Worsening poverty in the country has not only forced male and female heads to work abroad. Some three million children aged 5-17 are also working to augment family income, with over three-fourths employed as laborers in psychologically and physically hazardous conditions. There are also around 1.5 million street children across the country. Moreover, around 5.1 million families live in weak houses, 3.5 million families do not have electricity, 3.4 million families do not have access to safe drinking water, while 2.4 million families do not have sanitary toilets. With barely half of the employed in wage and salary work, this implies that millions of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable workers and their families do not have public social insurance or safety nets.

Right to adequate standard of living: Latest government data show that some 80 percent of Filipino families survived on daily incomes of P560 or less, with the poorest 10 percent of families having incomes of just some P88. Assuming an average family size of five, some 70 million Filipinos each are surviving on P112 per day. It is estimated that even using a low official poverty threshold of P41 per person per day, the number of poor Filipinos is at 27.6 million with at least 13 million urban poor residents in the country.

Violations of these rights have intensified because of government’s aggressive implementation of neoliberal globalization, which further liberalized the economy’s vital sectors and privatized public utilities and social services. These have destroyed the livelihood of many Filipinos and resulted in the unparalleled decline in the people’s condition.

International human rights law declares the principle of protecting the full range of human rights required for people to have a full, free, safe, secure and healthy life. It maintains that the right to live a dignified life can never be attained unless all basic necessities of life such as work, food, housing, health care, education and culture are adequately and equitably available to everyone. The 1987 Constitution also recognizes that the national economy exists to serve the needs of the people and that the State has the duty to intervene when needed.

It is the government’s duty to promote and protect these rights, and it should be made accountable for the increasing violations and greater numbers of Filipinos falling into poverty and deepening deprivation. The worsening state of human rights, whether civil and political or economic, social and cultural, only proves government’s lack of seriousness in ensuring the welfare of its people. (Ibon Features / Posted by Bulatlat)

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