Postscript to SONA

PRESS STATEMENT                                               27 July 2013

We have heard the President present his version of the country’s plight in his longest State-of the-Nation Address ever.  For almost two torturous hours, we have to bear the litany of supposed successes in his Daang Matuwid which he wanted us to believe have uplifted us from dire straits.

But then, the suffering majority knows better. Each of those successes finds no resonance in the people’s concrete conditions shackled by housing insecurity, unemployment, low wages, high cost of electricity, water, and fuel.    The hyped “inclusive growth” is lost to many who are wallowing in the widening gap between the rich and poor.

Fact is the 40 richest families on the Forbes list of the wealthiest Filipinos accounted for 76% of GDP.  The poverty incidence of 27.9%, the highest among “emerging nations” in Asia, has remained virtually unchanged since 2009.   Joblessness is still at an all-time high, with 2.83 million unemployed and 7.16 million underemployed.

Even Aquino’s pet program Conditional Cash Transfer has not made a “dent on poverty” since first introduced in 2008 by then Pres. Arroyo. The study shows that the program is a virtual waste of resources as the condition of the beneficiaries remain just as the same as those of the non-beneficiaries six years and P260B-funds later.

Curiously, while Aquino rambled about cleaning up the bureaucracy, he was quiet on the burning issues of the pork barrel scam, and other recent exposes.

But his worst failure is to leave out again the worsening human rights abuses under his reign.  He just could not confront the reality that in just three years in power, he had brought upon the country 142 more cases of documented extrajudicial killing and 164 frustrated killings; 16 cases of enforced disappearances; 76 cases of torture; and 293 of illegal arrest and detention.

He could have denounced these atrocities as a matter of pretense; but, to the chagrin of the international human rights community, he instead lavished praises upon the AFP-PNP while keeping mute on their atrocities.   No wonder his security forces would be so embolden to attack unprovoked the unarmed protesters just outside the legislative building where he spoke.

Aquino could rail on and on in lengthening SONAs the imagined benefit his programs reap for the poor.  But as his term in office comes close to finale, time is running thin to be wasted on hype and band-aid solutions.

To address the roots of poverty and conflict in our country, Aquino should institute now fundamental reforms in economic policies.  For one, he should abandon subscribing to the bankrupt neo-liberal dogma.  Instead, he should cultivate a genuinely equitable growth strategy in wealth redistribution through genuine land reform and national industrialization.###

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