Aquino's SONA: A grand failure at deception

Communist Party of the Philippines
July 24, 2012

Aquino's otherworldly State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday was a grand failure at deceiving the Filipino people. In rapid-fire fashion, Aquino enumerated the "achievements" of his regime using the old US-designed "good government" template, the same one used by Gloria Arroyo in her nine SONAs. This template is comprised of the selective projection of statistics and half-truths manufactured within MalacaƱang Palace while completely ignoring the reality on the ground.

Aquino made grandiose claims of achievement, to rousing applause from reactionary politicians packed inside the congressional hall. In doing so, however, Aquino only made himself a bigger target of exposition, denunciation and opposition. Soon after his hour and a half speech, both radio and television anchors and ordinary people who were interviewed questioned the veracity of the statistics churned out by Aquino. 

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins the Filipino people in rejecting the Aquino regime's claims of change and progress. To the workers, peasants, the unemployed, the urban poor, youth, women, health groups and other sectors who daily face worsening social and economic conditions, Aquino's claims do not reflect the daily reality of poverty, hunger, unemployment, rising costs of living, low wages and landlessness. 

The working-class Filipinos challenge claims of reduced unemployment in the face of the fact that the annual overseas deployment of Filipino workers has already breached the one million mark, indicating the grave lack of local employment opportunities. They challenge the quality of employment opportunities that Aquino speaks of--a million call center agents, baristas, taxi drivers, sarisari store and carinderia owners--indicative of the complete lack of a progressive and modern economic program that will ensure sustained and expanding employment opportunities.

They are sure to challenge claims of increasing budgetary allocations to tertiary education in the face of the government's thrust to undercut the importance of colleges and universities in pushing the K-12 Program which calls for extended technical training in secondary schools to churn out cheaper youth workers ready for overseas deployment or employment in foreign-owned export-processing factories. They can expose the Aquino regime's policy to give priority funding to TESDA-type programs that emphasize technical training for overseas employment. They can also put to question the increasing role of private companies in classroom construction projects in exchange for government and other favors.

They are sure to challenge claims of success in fighting the dengue epidemic since just a few days had passed since health officials revealed increasing incidences in several areas. And they will certainly question Aquino's thrust of addressing the epidemic through so-called "mosquito traps" while ignoring the fact that millions of Filipinos live in subhuman conditions that make them vulnerable to such diseases. They can also put to question claims of increased coverage of health insurance while government has been pushing for the privatization of health services and expose the fact the such efforts provide greater benefits to capitalist operators of private hospitals and pass the burden of health insurance to ordinary income earners.

They are sure to challenge Aquino's claims of economic progress. Aquino's humbug that the Philippines is now a creditor country after having pledged $1 billion to the IMF. They can cite the fact that the Philippines continues to be weighed down by a $62.9-billion foreign debt--75% of which is public debt--and that Aquino's government intends to borrow more than P100 billion by October. They can challenge Aquino's claims that public funds no longer leak from the public coffers when it continues to refuse to plug the giant debt service leak which costs the economy as much as P350-380 billion a year for payments of both domestic and foreign debt. 

They are sure to challenge Aquino's claims of increased agricultural productivity and boastful targets of achieving the status of a rice-exporting country in a number of years in the face of the fact that the price of rice continues to go up and that the majority of Filipinos cannot afford to buy high- or medium-quality rice and that the NFA has failed to play a significant role in breaking the rice monopoly that controls the supply and price of rice in the domestic market.

The Filipino people are sure to challenge claims made by Aquino in reducing poverty through the CCT by citing how the program has failed to make even a slight dent on the oppressive socio-economic conditions of the Filipino people, especially in the countryside where the masses suffer from poverty and hunger as a result of landlessness and landgrabbing, feudal and semifeudal exploitation and environmental destruction. They must expose how Aquino's CCT funds have been pocketed by rich peasants and ward leaders of local politicos in connivance with officials of the DSWD. They should also show how the CCT program has been used by Aquino as a counter-insurgency tool.

The Filipino people are sure to challenge the truth behind Aquino's patriotic chest-beating in denouncing China and declaring that the Philippines will stand its ground on its claims over the Spratly Islands and other land features in the South China Sea, when Aquino, in fact, welcomes with wide open arms American foreign military troops which have been using the Philippines as a platform for US power projection operations, setting up military facilities, operating surveillance drones, erecting radar stations in strategic points of the Philippine coastline, directing counter-guerrilla military operations of the AFP and coordinating the dropping of American-supplied "smart bombs," among others. They can expose Aquino's anti-China rhetoric as nothing but a smokescreen for heightened US military intervention in the Philippines. 

Aquino's SONA failed to address outstanding issues of the day. He began by citing his family's oppression under the martial law regime to dress himself up as a defender of democracy, but significantly ignored the pressing issues of human rights under his own regime. He cited his father's incarceration as a political prisoner but ignored the fact that around 370 political prisoners continue to languish in jail under his own rule. He denounces the Marcos dictatorship but conceals the fact that in his two years in power, there has been at least one case of extrajudicial killing a week where the victims are peasants fighting for land, workers fighting for higher wages, urban poor defending their homes, activists defending the environment, and people opposing mining operating and rising up against the government's subservience to foreign economic and military interests.

Aquino turns a blind eye to the grave abuses of human rights being committed by armed soldiers when they conduct their so-called "peace and development" operations, forcing themselves into the homes of peasants, setting up camp in schools and school grounds, burdening the people with their presence, robbing them of their crops and farm animals, preventing them from tending to their fields, beating up people who raise their voices and oppose the military's presence, forcing children to serve as guides for their military operations, seducing and raping young women and perpetrating innumerable other abuses and violations of civil, political, economic and cultural rights.

Aquino significantly failed to mention the matter of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), exposing his regime's low priority for efforts to address the roots of the armed conflict through political negotiations. He ignores the appeal of church people and other sectors to release the NDFP's consultants in peace negotiations in order to jumpstart the stalled negotiations. His conspicuous silence on this matter betrays Aquino's militarist mindset and jingoist style, and is a pointed reminder of how he and the Cojuangco clan have historically dealt with the struggle of the Hacienda Luisita farm workers with violence and armed suppression.

Aquino's SONA was a belabored attempt to deceive the people into believing that change is forthcoming even as his government has in fact not made any changes, especially with regard to economic policy. Aquino simply perpetuates the foreign investment-led and debt-dependent economic program which has caused the grave destruction of productive forces, pulled down wages, displaced millions of peasants, ravaged the environment and condemned the Philippines to backwardness for more than half a century. 

Aquino's policy direction, set forth in the IMF-WB designed medium term development programs of the past, is to continue liberalizing trade and investment in order to allow foreign big capitalists to exploit cheap Filipino labor and extract cheap raw materials. 

Officially, Aquino refuses to endorse efforts at charter change, obviously in an ill-concealed attempt to hide his hand. Unofficially, however, the Aquino regime clearly wishes to realize the amendment of the 1987 constitution in order to engrave in the constitution the policy of liberalization in compliance with US requirement for joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Aquino's political stooges are united in pushing for "chacha," which has been catapulted to the forefront of the Senate and House of Representatives' agenda in their next session.

For the Filipino people, Aquino's selective use of statistics and employing half-truths is already a worn-out tactic. They have grown tired of looking at the rosy picture being painted by the government only to be confronted daily with grave socio-economic problems. 

Even now, people are rising up in defense of their homes, of their land and basic human rights. They demand greater social spending for health, education and housing. They demand a stop to land grabbing, the militarization of the countryside, foreign intervention and foreign plunder of the environment. They are rising up and struggling in pursuit of nationalist economic policies for land reform and national industrialization. 

The revolutionary movement led by the CPP will continue to wage armed resistance and mass struggles to pursue the Filipino people's national and democratic interests. The Aquino regime's pro-imperialist, antipeople and anti-democratic policies succeed only in providing the people with greater reason to wage revolutionary mass resistance. The people's war will continue to advance and achieve big strides in the remaining years of the Aquino regime.