Get real & concrete, candidates told at start of economic briefing, campaign season

“Aquino’s rhetoric of change and growth cannot hide the reality of worsening conditions, joblessness, poverty and hunger for the majority of our people.” – Kilusang Mayo Uno


MANILA — Multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) challenged this week the candidates to disclose and explain their specific and detailed platforms on addressing the worsening joblessness and poverty in the country. Bayan dared the candidates to “go beyond motherhood statements and catchy phrases” and instead, “present concrete plans that will attend to the peoples’ pressing economic concerns.”

Bayan issued the statement as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared the official start of the campaign period for senatorial and party-list candidates on Feb. 12.

In reality, though, there had been “premature” campaigning as even Comelec chairman Sixto Brilliantes noted in one of his recent early morning interviews with the media. Brilliantes did not name names, but some radio and TV news anchors have pointed out that the most visible of these premature campaigners are President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s anointed senatorial bets.

On TV and radio, with Noynoy’s voice-over praising his party’s senatorial bets, they regularly come out in ads, smiling to viewers to the tune of Noynoy’s past election catchphrase of “righteous path.” But without the specifics the multisectoral Bayan asks the candidates to provide.

Piercing Noynoy’s million-peso PR

As the economic managers of the Aquino administration were holding a briefing on the state of the national economy in 2012, Bayan and allied organizations mounted a protest rally also today near the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

The briefing of economic policy-makers, which has the theme “Good Governance is Good Economics: Achieving Investment Grade Status,” is to discuss policy measures that will enable the country to attain “investment grade status” for credit rating agencies, especially Standard & Poor’s.

Its objective spooks rather than impresses the peoples’ organizations. “We expect the Aquino government to refurbish the lie that the country is developing and push for more of the same policies that have worsened hunger and poverty in the country. Its objective is to intensify the liberalization, privatization and deregulation of the economy in order to please credit rating agencies and the big foreign capitalists who are behind them,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.

Credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s are “instruments of big foreign capitalists for keeping countries like the Philippines as sources of raw materials and cheap labor and dumping grounds for excess capital and goods,” the labor center Kilusang Mayo (KMU) said in a statement. Their members were also at the protest rally in front of the PICC where the economic planners were holding a briefing.

KMU secretary general Roger Soluta recalled how credit rating agencies only “make countries compete for higher ratings by implementing policies that are actually bad for those countries but good for big foreign capitalists.”

That the briefing is selling Mindanao’s “size, population base and… rich natural resources” to big foreign capitalists did not escape the labor center’s attention. Today, Mindanao is being wracked by militarization and war as both the Bangsamoro and the indigenous peoples respond with arms to centuries–old complaints of brutal dislocation from their own lands.

“Clearly, the Aquino government aims to entice more and more foreign investors to go to Mindanao and exploit the people and natural resources there. The government has been trying to attract foreign investors since time immemorial and the country has remained underdeveloped as a result,” Soluta explained.

Increasing horde of the hungry, poor Pinoy opposite of vaunted economic growth

Carrying placards that say “GDP – Gutom at Dukhang Pilipino” (Filipinos hungry, poor), the protesters underscored the deteriorating jobs situation, cases of hunger and poverty afflicting millions of Filipinos. They said it thoroughly disputes Aquino’s rosy claims of growth in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), improving credit rating, robust stock market and other supposedly positive economic indicators.

“No matter how they (Aquino administration) package the supposed growth, it could not be denied that the people are not feeling any improvement in their economic and social conditions. The 6.6-percent GDP growth is meaningless to a great majority of our people who are faced with the reality of grinding poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities,” said Renato Reyes, Bayan’s secretary-general.

The group said the 12-point drop in Aquino’s rating in the recent Pulse Asia survey, which followed a similar decline in the Social Weather Station (SWS) survey – amid the supposedly stellar economic performance – is “an unmistakable indicator that the much hyped growth is empty and not being felt on the ground.”

“Aquino’s rhetoric of change and growth cannot hide the reality of worsening conditions, joblessness, poverty and hunger for the majority of our people. More and more people are getting dissatisfied with his pro-US, pro-capitalist, pro-landlord and anti-people policies,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU.

According to protesters, Aquino’s inability to turn the hyped growth into reality for the average Filipino is his government’s inability, too, to stand for real alternative, nationalist policies.

Unionists from the KMU accused Aquino of “bringing the country farther from national industrialization and land reform, which,” they say, “are ways for the country to develop beyond the dictates of big foreign capitalists.”

Workers also mocked Aquino’s PR spin of the supposed economic growth as nothing but a rehash of former president Fidel V. Ramos’ packaging in 1990s, when he sold ‘Philippines 2000’ to the public.

“It’s already 2013 and the country’s experience with liberalization, privatization and deregulation has been disastrous. These policies have caused greater suffering among the majority of our population,” Soluta said.

Instead of these tired, worn-out economic “packaging”, Reyes of Bayan urged today’s candidates to treat the upcoming midterm elections as a chance to highlight the people’s issues, including legitimate concerns, on jobs and poverty.

“Politicians should put an end to their pathetic competition as to who truly represents those in the so-called ‘daang matuwid’, which in the first place is just empty rhetoric. The real question should be who stands for programs and policies that will protect and promote Filipino industries and implement genuine land reform in the countryside to create sustainable jobs and livelihood on a massive scale. Who will stand for a legislated substantial wage hike and the control of oil prices, electricity and water rates? Who will oppose the privatization of our public hospitals, mass transportation and other key services and infrastructure to ensure that these are affordable and still efficient?” Reyes said.

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