Fewer Children in School, Anomalous and Glitch-ridden Poll Automation Among Arroyo ‘Feats’

Special Release
June 11, 2010

This is the second of a three-part series of special releases on de facto President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s supposed legacy.

The government has allocated P10 million for the celebration of Arroyo’s supposed achievements in her 10-point agenda on Saturday. To serve as the program’s highlight is a parade of 10 floats representing the supposed accomplishments in Arroyo’s 10-point agenda. There will be a float each for budget reform, education for all, automation of elections, transportation and digital infrastructure, termination of hostilities with the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), healing the wounds of the three EDSA uprisings, electricity and water for all, opportunities for livelihood and the creation of 10 million jobs, decongestion of Metro Manila, and the development of Subic and Clark.

Mrs. Arroyo first unveiled her 10-point agenda during her inaugural speech in 2004. She had just clinched a six-year term in what was considered the most fraudulent presidential elections in Philippine history.

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But according to a study by the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), there is nothing to celebrate insofar as education for all, automation of elections, budget reform, and electricity and water for all are concerned.

Education for all

“Everyone of school age will be in school in an uncrowded classroom, in surroundings conducive to learning,” Arroyo said in her 2004 inaugural address. “Hangad kong makapasok sa eskuwela ang bawat bata. Mayroong sapat na lugar sa silid-aralan at may computer sa bawat aralan.”

Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. noted that free primary and secondary education is a right guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution and thus every administration is mandated to carry out this task. To ensure this, Reyes further noted, sufficient resources are needed (at least 5 percent of the gross domestic product or GDP, based on international standards) to fund the growing needs of public education in the country.

“Public spending for education under Arroyo averaged only 2.7 percent of the GDP as compared with 3.7 percent under Erap; Ramos, 3.1 percent; and Cory, 2.7 percent,” Reyes said. “In the 2010 national budget, per capita allocation for education was pegged at P2,502 while debt servicing was at P7,944. Due to lack of government support amid worsening joblessness and poverty, net enrollment rate for elementary schools declined from 87.11 percent in School Year (SY) 2004-05 to 85.12 percent in SY 2008-09. The environment conducive to learning remains elusive including overcrowded classrooms. The teacher-student ratio for public elementary school remains unchanged at 1:36 (SY 2004-05 and 2008-09); for public high school, there was no significant improvement, i. e. from 1:41 to 1:39.”

Bayan also cited data from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) showing that for the incoming school year 2010-2011, there will be a shortage of 54,060 teachers, 4,538 principals, and 6,473 head teachers; 61,343 classrooms, 816,291 seats, and 113,051 water and sanitation facilities.

Automation of elections

“Elections will no longer raise a single doubt about their integrity,” Arroyo promised. “The electoral process will be completely computerized. Tama na ang manu-manong pagsusuma ng boto.”

The first attempt of the Arroyo administration to implement the automation of the elections in the country was marred by a multibillion-peso corruption scandal, Bayan noted. In 2004, the Supreme Court (SC) voided the anomalous P1.2-billion deal between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Mega Pacific citing “reckless disregard of bidding rules and procedure” among other reasons.

“Poll automation finally pushed through in the May 2010 national elections but with major problems ranging from serious technical glitches and major vulnerabilities and loopholes in the system that cast doubt on the accuracy and integrity of the results,” Reyes said. “Traditional forms of fraud (vote-buying, harassment) also persisted despite the automated system.”

Budget reform

“I shall have balanced the budget by collecting the right revenues and spending on the right things,” Arroyo also said.

Bayan noted, however, that the full-year budget deficit in 2009 reached P298.5 billion, an all-time high in absolute terms. From 2001 to 2009, the average national budget deficit was pegged at P148.37 billion while the average deficit as a percentage of the GDP was 2.93 percent, both historic highs. “Far from collecting the right revenues, the Arroyo administration milked the people dry through onerous taxes such as the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT), including on items as basic as oil, power, water, food, and medicine among others,” Reyes said.

“Meanwhile, big companies including transnational corporations (TNCs) were spared from paying taxes through liberalization,” Reyes added. “Total collections from tariffs on imported goods and services under Arroyo accounted for only about 2.8 percent of total revenues and GDP, compared to around 4.5 percent for most of the 1990s. Mrs. Arroyo was the biggest spender on debt servicing but had the lowest spending for social services among all Philippine presidents. Every year since 2001, the amount of debt servicing has been equivalent to 42.7 percent of annual government expenditures and 67.4 percent of annual revenues. Meanwhile, combined government spending for education, social security, health, land distribution, and housing did not even account for half of what the Arroyo administration was spending for interest and principal payments on foreign debt, not to mention spending for the armed forces and the police.”

Electricity and water for all

“Power and water will be regularly provided to all barangays,” Arroyo said. “Kuryente at tubig para sa lahat ng barangay.”

Citing the 2007 Annual Poverty Indicator Survey (APIS) of the National Statistics Office (NSO), Bayan noted that 17.1 percent of all families in the country do not have access to safe drinking water and are forced to get water from unsafe sources such as unprotected wells (5.7 percent); developed springs (4.8 percent); undeveloped springs (1.9 percent); rivers, streams, ponds, lakes or dams (1.1 percent); rainwater (0.4 percent); tanker trucks or peddlers (2.3 percent); and other sources (0.8 percent). Access to water is expectedly lower for poor families as the same NSO survey show that 30 percent of the poorest 30 percent of Filipino families do not have access to safe water supply, Bayan further noted. The group also pointed out that continued implementation of privatization has further made access to water a privilege for the affluent – water rates in Metro Manila, for instance, increased by 314 to 643 percent between 2001 and 2009.

Meanwhile, Bayan also noted, the government claims that it has already energized 100 percent of all municipalities/cities and 99 percent of all barangays, yet there are still 30,181 sitios or around 30 percent of the total that do not have electricity. Overall, 27 percent of the country’s potential connections remain unconnected. In the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the country’s poorest region, a huge 62 percent of the total sitios are not energized while 74 percent are unconnected. “Power rates increased astronomically due to privatization and deregulation of the power sector under Arroyo’s pet program, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, or EPIRA, of 2001,” Reyes said.

June 12 protest

On June 12, Bayan will be leading a multi-sectoral protest to dispute the so-called achievements and legacy of the Arroyo government. It will parade makeshift “floats” depicting the many problems that the Arroyo government will leave behind and that the incoming Aquino administration will have to face. (Bulatlat.com)

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