On SONA 2013: Enough of Broken Promises! End Poverty and Inequality! Stop Extra Judicial Killings Now!

NAGKAISA! SONA Mobilization

Enough of Broken Promises!
End Poverty and Inequality!
Stop Extra Judicial Killings Now!

Today, at least a thousand workers belonging to APL and SENTRO will join the NAGKAISA mobilization along Commonwealth Avenue. This is where social movements and civil society groups will converge to express their dismay over the President Aquino’s failure to live up to his campaign promises of substantially reducing poverty, creating quality and secure jobs, and ending the reign of impunity, among others.

“Workers have had enough of these broken promises,” declared Edwin Bustillos, Deputy Secretary General of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and one of the spokespersons of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO).

Amid the lackluster US economy and worsening economic crisis in Europe, the country managed to post an impressive 6.8 percent hike in its gross domestic product (GDP) in the last quarter of 2012 and a full-year increase of 6.6 percent. The country’s fourth quarter GDP was one of the highest in the ASEAN. In fact, the country even bagged the distinction, even as momentarily only, of having the “fastest growth rate in Asia” when it attained a 7.8 percent GDP in the first quarter of this year compared to China’s 7.7 percent.

“This economic growth is meaningless for the people as all its supposed benefits are cornered by the economic and political elites”, Bustillos said.

Despite the boast of being Asia’s fastest growing economy and the stellar ratings given by the Big 3 rating firms (Fitch, S&P and Moody’s), the most recent Philippine poverty figures show that in June 2012, the destitution was ironically worsening or at least “had no statistical difference to the poverty incidence in 2006.” Official data on “poor” people, issued by NSCB last April 23, revealed that this was practically unchanged from 28.8 percent of the population in 2006 to 27.9 percent in 2012 (or 23.4 percent of total families to 22.3 percent in the same period).

This means that 3 out of 10 families nationwide continue to live below the poverty line.

Moreover, the United Nations (UN) reported last October that hardly three years into the deadline of completing the seven Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Philippines failed in four, including eradicating extreme poverty as well as achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and sustaining maternal health.

On the other hand, the collective wealth of the “Super 40”, which included Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, Ricky Razon, John Gokongwei, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Andrew Tan, Jon Ramon Aboitiz, Danding Cojuangco, David Consunji, and the Lopezes, among others, has literally skyrocketed from $22.8 billion in 2009 to $47.4 billion last year, or roughly P1.9 trillion ($1 = P41).

NAGKAISA, the broad trade union coalition, has placed the current wealth of the Super 40 at P2.4 trillion or “more than the combined annual income of 17 million wage earners.” It added that the GDP growth has “remained concentrated to the high income class… with the top 15 percent… getting more than 60 percent of the national income.”

In fact, the collective riches of 11 wealthiest Filipinos – the US dollar billionaires – listed this year (2013) by Forbes publication reached a mind-boggling $39.85 billion or roughly P1.63 trillion. This is equivalent to a staggering 15 percent of the Philippine GDP last year, which was $257.5 billion or P10.6 trillion.

“This highly skewed income distribution is a result of these: P-Noy’s active support of flawed economic policies that favor corporate greed; the lack of asset reforms; and, the inability of the economy to generate quality and secure jobs,” Bustillos explained.

“What we have is a jobs-shredding growth,” Bustillos added, citing statistics coming from the DOLE Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES), which reported that from October 2011 to October 2012, the number of employed Filipinos went down from 38.5 million to 37.7 million or more than 880,000 became jobless.

This is clearly a reflection of the dysfunctional economic strategy of the present and previous Philippine governments: export-oriented development based on “cheap labor policy”.

This economic paradigm is kept in place by systematically suppressing labor rights through a legalistic labor justice system and a climate of impunity that abets extra judicial killings. “Violence does have an economic function, to keep the poor in a condition of poverty,” Bustillos said.

Extra-judicial killings involving trade unionists have risen to 59 in the last five years. Of these, only 3 have been formally brought to court. This year alone, three transport leaders are once again added to this growing list of unresolved killings. Dodong Petalcorin, who was gunned down last July 2, was the 6th transport leader killed under the Aquino government.

SENTRO believes that to end poverty, government needs to redistribute wealth, shift its economic paradigm towards building the domestic economy and, heavily invest in social services such as education, health, housing and the like. More importantly, it has to stop extra judicial killings.

Unfortunately, many if not all these, particularly the redistribution of wealth, run counter to the class interests of the Aquino government.

“Can President Aquino rise above his class interests? We, the working people, sincerely doubt it,” Bustillos declared.