By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Progressive groups were quite busy this June 12, the 116th anniversary of Philippine Independence, as well as in recent months. In the morning of June 12, there was a march toward the US embassy to protest the sell-out, nay giving away, of Philippine sovereignty through the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. The agreement is being deemed as worse than the US-RP Military Bases Agreement, which was junked in 1991, because it makes the whole country a US military base as compared to before when there were just two major US military installations: Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base; the soon-to-be identified sites of US military facilities are being given without rent and tax, with a free radio spectrum to boot, while the US used to pay rent for the two military bases; and the EDCA could be renewed automatically while the former military bases agreement had to be renegotiated each time it expired. The Aquino government was not even given a reassurance that the US would support the country’s claim to the contested islands against China, much less get the military support that it has been begging for in case the conflict erupts into a shooting war.
In the afternoon, there was a rally against what people suspect as a cover-up being cooked by the Aquino administration to protect itself and its allies from being dragged into the P10 billion pork barrel scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles. The corruption scandal is inching toward Malacañang, especially after more than a hundred lawmakers and senators, including members of the ruling Liberal Party and its allies, and at least two of Aquino’s most trusted Cabinet secretaries Budget Sec. Florencio “Butch” Abad and Agriculture Sec. Prospero Alcala’s, plus possibly Exec. Sec. Paquito Ochoa, were named in the scam.
During the early part of June, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas held a protest caravan to condemn the absence of a genuine agrarian reform program. Instead, the Aquino government declared that it would push for the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which has been in effect for 26 years already without making a dent in the problem of landlessness.
Also human rights and media groups have been protesting against the continuing impunity in human rights violations, especially extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, and killings of journalists. Meanwhile, justice remains elusive for the victims of human rights violations and their families. While the Aquino government claims to be for democracy, it has been ignoring the pleas of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances to surface or at least for an accounting of the status of their disappeared kin.
Early in the week, public school teachers have been threatening to launch a mass leave to push its bid for a salary increase. Workers and government employees are likewise pushing for salary increases.
Violations against national sovereignty and patrimony, large-scale and systemic corruption, landlessness, impunity in human rights violations and killings of journalists are incongruous to freedom and democracy. The fact that these problems and issues are worsening belies the Aquino government’s claim that it is democratic and that ours is a free nation. Nor could the Aquino government cite that since the people could hold protest actions demonstrates that democracy is at work. On the contrary, this shows that the government is undemocratic and that the people have taken up the struggle for genuine freedom and democracy.