Philippine President Benigno Aquino III delivered the annual State of the Nation Address, or SONA, at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City, Philippines on Monday July 23rd. In the span of two years as president, he has yet to fulfill his promises and has continuously been faced with widespread criticism from a broad spectrum of people across the nation. In the streets outside the President’s air-conditioned venue, the SONA met with one of the largest protests of the year organized by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) with participants from all walks of life ranging from youth and students, workers, peasants and women’s organizations. The People’s State of the Nation Address exposes the true state of the Philippine nation, which has not changed from the time of Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Aquino has followed in her footsteps with the continuation of human rights violations, an increasingly worse economic crisis, and compromising national sovereignty in exchange for money.
Actions all across the United States also held People’s SONA Actions, as Filipinos in the United States also share their plight by exposing the negative effects of the economic crisis through forced migration upheld in old labor export policies that have resulted in numerous overseas workers grievances. Filipino Americans join the Philippines SONA ng Bayan with People’s SONAs held in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle to oppose Aquino’s inadequate and oppressive regime. They showed the stark difference between what the Aquino administration reports of progress and the dark reality that shows the true nature of the regime and its anti-people policies.
CONTINUING ECONOMIC CRISIS
Since the beginning of his campaign for presidency, Aquino has promised the Filipino people that they are his “boss,” and that he will implement policies and programs that will alleviate poverty and improve the overall condition of the people. However, in the two years Aquino has been in office the country has suffered an even worse economic situation. Poverty levels have skyrocketed with more than 11.1 million families experiencing poverty and hunger.
“He can no longer fool the people with his empty promises. We know where his interests lie,” said Jessica Antonio, Secretary General of BAYAN-USA. “It is past the time to be asking for change. We must now demand and fight for the basic rights of the Filipino people.” Despite these facts, Aquino asserted that the Philippine economy has improved after he came into office. Aquino’s support of neoliberal economic policies and programs, such as the Public-Private Partnership (PPP), in fact dramatically worsen the conditions of the Filipino people, and the so-called improvement of the economy only reflects the economic growth of foreign investors, U.S. imperialists, and the ruling local class.
The worsening crisis has led to massive unemployment totalling to 24% of the population, or 9.7 million people. Instead of facing this challenge by creating jobs at home through national industrialization and infrastructure, Aquino has continued to promote the exploitative Labor Export Policy launched by the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s. This policy proliferates the idea that the export of human labor is a viable option to alleviate poverty and lessen the country’s foreign debt. In the two years Aquino has been in office the number of Overseas Filipinos has increased to an estimated 1.4 million OFWs leaving annually. This is a direct result of the true economic state of the Philippines. Historically, the number of OFWs seeking work abroad to avoid the rampant joblessness in the Philippines has amounted to much more than the rate of each previous president, including Corazon Aquino, his mother. The people are demanding that jobs be created in the Philippines to end the Philippine government’s dependence on foreign remittances from OFWs.
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
On the eve of Aquino’s SONA, Marilou Valle, an urban poor leader, was found shot dead in Tondo marking the 100th extrajudicial killing in his first two years in office. Despite the name change to Oplan Bayanihan, the results are the same as its predecessors, Oplan Bantay Laya I & II, in targeting civilians through enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings. The recent killing of Dutch missionary worker, Willem Geertman, on July 3rd has drawn international attention to the ongoing impunity of the Philippines government on human rights violations. Articles released by New York’s Human Rights Watch urges Aquino to stop the killing of environmental advocates who stand against foreign mining investments in the Philippines. The Aquino administration, in line with previous regimes, claim that legal pro-people organizations fighting for national democracy are recruiters for the New People’s Army (NPA), when in actuality the government itself is the biggest recruiter to the rebel army through its direct attacks on everyday citizens.
INCREASED US MILITARIZATION AND NEOLIBERALISM
With the U.S. announcement of redirecting its military might towards the rebalancing of the Asia Pacific combined with the promotion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the people of the Philippines and neighboring countries must be vigilant in exposing the extremely detrimental effects of U.S. military occupation of our land and the incursion upon the sovereignty of our countries. Aquino has bent over backwards to comply with the demands of the U.S. at the expense of the Filipino people. This includes the everlasting Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that protect U.S. military personnel from prosecution of crimes committed in the Philippines such as collateral damage-or the accidental killings of innocent citizens, displacement of thousands of communities and the rape and abuse of Filipina women and children. Filipino politicians are once again pushing for Charter change, known as Cha-Cha, that would remove the protectionist provision in the Philippine Constitution in order to open up Philippine land and resources to wholesale plunder by foreign corporations. “It doesn’t make any sense!” declares Chera Almag, Finance Officer of BAYAN USA, “How can the Philippine government believe that by allowing foreign corporations to own 100% of land, utilities, and other services will benefit the country and its people? The only ones who will benefit from these types of agreements are the foreign corporations and the 1% of the population who own the land and big businesses!”
PHILIPPINES FOR FILIPINOS
Aquino’s empty promises to the people of the Philippines and revealed his true colors of corruption and deceit in order to maintain the status quo and cater to his U.S. imperialist masters. BAYAN USA joins Filipinos all over the world in the fight for true independence from foreign domination and for national democracy in the Philippines! We urge Filipinos to take a firm stance against the anti-people policies of the Aquino regime and its positioning to liberalize the Philippine economy. We demand that the culprits of more than 1,000 politically motivated killings such as Jovito Palparan and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo be prosecuted and jailed in order for justice to be upheld for all the victims of human rights violations over the years and justice and freedom to extend to the more than 200+ political prisoners who were placed in jail on trumped up charges or whom have been sitting in jail awaiting trial without being convicted. Their only crime was providing communities of people with basic needs that the government has chosen to ignore. We declare that the Philippines is not for sale and belongs to the Filipino people and until there is genuine land reform, national industrialization free from foreign rule, and policies that benefit the majority of the country, we will continue to struggle together for a Philippines that is truly for Filipinos!
THE PHILIPPINES IS NOT FOR SALE! NO TO THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT!
US OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES AND ASIA PACIFIC! JUNK THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT!
JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS! JUSTICE FOR MELISSA ROXAS!
MABUHAY ANG NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT!
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 15 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org