By BENJIE OLIVEROS
As the country approaches the first 100 days of the second Aquino administration, unfulfilled campaign promises seem to be piling up.
During his campaign for the presidency, the Hacienda Luisita issue haunted Benigno Simeon Aquino III. He first tried to dismiss the issue by mouthing the line of the management of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) that there were no tenants when the land was supposed to be distributed in 1989 and that those who went on strike in 2004, including the seven farm workers killed during the ensuing massacre when soldiers and HLI security guards fired at the strikers, were oustiders. Then he tried to dodge the issue by saying that his stocks in Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) were minimal and that he had nothing to do with the management of HLI. When that did not hold water and his cousin and HLI chief operating officer Fernando Cojuangco was quoted by the New York Times saying that the Cojuangco clan had no intention of distributing the land, he promised that the land would be distributed in 2014 after the problem regarding the loans and liabilities of HLI have been ironed out. Now that the HLI management was able to intimidate and hoodwink the farm workers into signing a ‘compromise agreement’ and opting for the retention of the SDO scheme in a supposed referendum, President Aquino declared a “hands off” policy on the agrarian dispute. With these recent developments, and unless the Supreme Court stops the HLI management from pushing through with the ‘compromise agreement,’ there would be no distribution of land in 2014. Instead, the Cojuangco family would retain their vast landholdings and most probably convert the land to other uses to prevent it from being covered by any agrarian reform program in the future.
When visited by representatives from the European Union (EU) when he was still a president-in-waiting, Aquino was told by EU representatives about their concern regarding the numerous cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances during the Arroyo administration. Aquino was quoted by newspapers saying that he would work to “put a closure” to the issue of extrajudicial killings. When extrajudicial killings were committed during the early days of his administration, Aquino declared that the commission of extrajudicial killings is not part of his government’s policy and vowed to have the cases investigated. Subsequently, he declared that almost all of the cases of extrajudicial killings committed during his administration were solved. Recently, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Lt. General Ricardo David Jr. declared the extension of the infamous counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya. Human rights advocates have been pointing to Oplan Bantay Laya as the reason behind the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances targeting political activists because it blurred the line between legal activists and combatants, legal and underground organizations. UN special rapporteur Philip Alston likewise recommended the rescinding of Oplan Bantay Laya for the same reason. President Aquino could not claim that he has nothing to do with the extension of Oplan Bantay Laya. After all, he is the commander-in-chief, as he so emphatically asserted when Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue was griping about his removal from the National Capital Region command. Now, with the extension of Oplan Bantay Laya, it appears that the AFP has no intention of changing its counterinsurgency approach despite pronouncements that it would purportedly respect human rights and therefore, people could expect more extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances now and in the future.
“There can be no reconciliation without justice.” This was the declaration of President Aquino during his inaugural speech. During his state of the nation address, President Aquino announced that he has signed the executive order forming the Truth Commission that would investigate corruption cases involving the previous Arroyo administration. Up to now, there has been no development regarding the said truth commission.
When the labor dispute at Philippine Airlines (PAL) was brought to his attention during a delegation by PAL employees at his Times st. residence, President Aquino promised to look into and address the labor problem. When PAL pilots resigned one after the other, the Aquino administration warned that it would file cases against the pilots. And when it was revealed that the resignation of the pilots and the labor dispute in the country’s flagship carrier were connected, the Aquino administration brought the PAL employees and management together in a meeting. Then it distanced itself from the labor dispute and kept a “hands of policy.” Now that a strike is imminent with a deadlock in the negotiations between the PAL management and the unions of the flight stewards and stewardesses (FASAP) and employees (PALEA), the Aquino administration declared its intention of instituting an “open skies policy,” meaning it would allow foreign carriers to ply PAL domestic routes. This policy is consistent with the privatization, deregulation and privatization policies of the previous administrations – which the Aquino administration appears to be bent on pursuing – and would definitely affect the viability of the country’s flagship carrier and would cost the pilots, flight stewards and stewardesses, and PAL employees their jobs.
The problem with the Aquino administration’s response to these issues is not only that it appears to be turning its back on its promises through its “hands off” policy or his silence, its recent policies and actions run counter to the interests of those who mattered, his supposed “boss”, the Filipino masses. (Bulatlat.com)