Amplify the Filipino people's aspirations for nationalist and democratic economics

Communist Party of the Philippines
June 25, 2013

Under the direction of the US imperialists and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank (IMF-WB), the Aquino regime carries out policies that perpetuate the chronic crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal economy. Refusing to carry out basic reforms to build a self-reliant, modern and vibrant national economy, the Aquino regime is simply presiding over the further deterioration of the Philippine economy and the widespread destruction of productive forces.

Aquino's claims of so-called "rapid economic growth" are mere rhetoric that fail to strike a chord among the Filipino people. To the toiling masses of workers and peasants, the Philippine economy is incontrovertibly in deep crisis. This is marked by worsening landlessness and land concentration by big landlords and plantation owners, acute joblessness and massive labor migration.

The socio-economic conditions of the people

Majority of the Filipino people continue to live in dire socio-economic conditions. They suffer daily from hunger, poverty and disease. The income of the toiling people are grossly inadequate as costs of food, clothing, transportation, education, medicine, health services and other basic needs continue to shoot up. The official wage rate of P456/day in the National Capital Region is less than half of the daily cost of living of P1,000-P1,200 for a family of six. More than half of business firms in the NCR violate minimum wage laws, and up to more than 80% in the Southern Tagalog region. Violators include the much-vaunted call center companies.

The Aquino regime has adamantly refused to heed the longstanding demand for substantial wage increases. Instead, it has pushed for the implementation of the two-tier wage system which further dismantles the national minimum wage system by pegging workers' compensation to so-called floor wages which are set arbitrarily on the basis of supposed local conditions. Capitalists are further given the prerogative to grant productivity wages according to their whims and thus subject workers and rank-and-file and middle professionals to worse forms of exploitation and oppression employing one flexible labor arrangement or another.

Rural incomes continue to drop as a result of growing landlessness, extremely low wages of farm workers and falling farm-gate prices of palay, copra, abaca and other agricultural products. Peasant tillers suffer from excessive feudal land rent which runs as high as 70% of the total harvest after they shoulder the cost of production. There is widespread displacement of peasants and minority peoples due to the entry of mining companies, big agribusiness plantations and commercial and tourism projects. Poor fisherfolk are displaced from their fishing grounds by large foreign commercial fishing companies.

The problem of unemployment is acute. The number of unemployed workers continues to rise as a result of the absence of industrial development and widespread landlessness. Government deceitfully places the unemployment rate at 7.5% for April 2013 (up from 6.9% in April 2012). The Aquino regime manipulates unemployment data by making more restrictive definitions of the labor force in order to bring down its base number; and by making more liberal definitions of those considered to be unemployed and underemployed to bloat their figures. Recent independent surveys place unemployment at between 20-25%.

The actual extent of the extreme problem of unemployment is further masked by the continuing stream of labor export. The grave problem of labor migration is underscored by the fact that the total number of Filipinos working abroad is already 10% of the total population. Migrant contract workers experience the worst forms of oppression and exploitation. Wages are extremely cheap. They are confronted by the heightened racial and anti-migrant discrimination brought about by the domestic crisis in the host countries. The Aquino regime has proved itself to be completely inutile in defending and advancing the rights and welfare of the Filipino migrant workers. Unemployment in the Philippines is bound to worsen as migrant workers abroad are compelled to return home by crisis conditions in the host countries.

More and more Filipino middle class families are being pulled down by the pervasive socio-economic crisis. There are not enough employment opportunities for college graduates except low-quality temporary employment at call centers or abroad. There are no opportunities to build up capital except in import-dependent, small retail or service-oriented enterprises.

The living conditions of the broad masses of the Filipino toiling people are in a constant state of decay. In urban areas, they are concentrated in large poor colonies that lack public services and are prone to fire. An increasing number of people live in under bridges, pedestrian overpasses, public markets, push carts, plazas and parks. In the countryside, poor peasants live in rickety huts that are prone to the elements. Entire communities are situated in areas prone to flood and mudflows.

The public education infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly as the Aquino government cuts social spending. The Aquino regime's official estimates of teacher (46,000) and classroom (33,000) shortages are understated as public schools have resorted to double or triple shifting school hours to the detriment of the students well-being and the quality of teaching. The reactionary government continues to encourage the commercialization of education. Tuition continues to rise by as much as 10-15% annually. The government has failed to do anything to address the injustice against hundreds of thousands of families who have been victimized by so-called "pre-need" companies that have run away with millions of pesos belonging to people who were made to invest in their "education plans".

The Filipino people suffer from deteriorating public health services services. Private medical facilities are largely inaccessible except through state-supported private health insurances. Epidemics of dengue, leptospirosis, cholera, diarrhea, respiratory and other diseases regularly break out resulting from lack of clean water and public sanitation and general urban blight. Beyond providing public notices and warnings, poorly-funded government health services and public works are largely incapable of confronting and preventing such epidemics.

Yearly, tens of thousands become victims of one natural and man-made calamity after another brought about by the grave destruction of the environment. They suffer from increasingly severe and frequent floods, landslides and mudflows that not only directly endanger their lives, but also destroy or hamper their economic livelihood and bring about hunger and disease. They are ultimately victims of the distorted economic priorities of the reactionary government which actively endorses logging, mining and plantation operations as well as the wanton construction of malls and other commercial establishments in complete disregard of the impact on the environment and the people's welfare. Calamity victims further suffer from the reactionary government's inutility in providing substantial relief and rehabilitation. The Aquino regime has cut spending for disaster preparedness. The social welfare department is mired in bureaucratic corruption.

Aquino's PR economics

Over the past three years, Aquino and his IMF-trained technocrats have engaged in nothing but PR-economics involving media and publicity campaigns to misrepresent the grave socio-economic crisis as "rapid economic growth." His spinmeisters are busy hyping up selected and manipulated statistics to conjure up the illusion of economic growth. Aquino's PR economics aims to divert the people's attention from their dire economic situation to promises of so-called "inclusive growth," which is no different from the "trickle down" economics propaganda of the previous Arroyo regime.

With the support of the US, the ruling Aquino clique employs the yellow-media machinery that is managed by the Aquino sisters and close friends of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan and which include opinion writers, publishers, journalists, news websites, survey firms, the election IT network, blogs and social media account holders. They make false claims of high popularity ratings and support for Aquino. They daily manage and troubleshoot the Aquino regime's public standing.

They cover up bureaucrat capitalist corruption by perennially harping on Aquino's "good governance." They even take advantage of the pervasive public perception of Aquino's dimwittedness by circulating the line "di baleng tanga, hindi naman korap". They continue to hurl anti-corruption propaganda directed at the previous Arroyo regime. The calculated aim is to draw attention away from the big-scale corruption and anomalies of the Aquino regime which involve Aquino's use of bureaucratic prerogatives in awarding of big infrastructure contracts to Aquino's closest relatives, supporters and friends. The government bureaucracy continues to be plagued by widespread corruption, most significantly the Department of Education, the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Customs and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Aquino's PR managers boasts of the 7.9% growth in the first quarter of 2013 and claim that such is the result of his "good governance". The clear fact is that "Asia's fastest growth rate" was achieved only through an artificial and one-time large infusion of government spending in public construction (45.6% growth) after several years of slowdown. The growth in government spending was carried out as part of the election strategy of the Aquino regime and in partnership with private construction which grew by 30.7%. The so-called growth in the first quarter of 2013 was further fueled by massive election spending.

 Following the dogma of "repeating a lie big enough until people accept it as true", Aquino makes endless claims that poverty is being reduced through the so-called cash transfer program, ignoring the bigger problems of landlessnes, low wages, soaring prices, lack of jobs and so on. aquino's publicists are fixated at covering up the extent of poverty through an endless stream of press releases. This World Bank-funded program initiated under the Arroyo regime is widely projected as Aquino's solution to poverty. The cash dole-out program has been used as a counter-insurgency tool prohibiting its recipients from participating in organizations espousing progressive and democratic aspirations. Funds for the program has lined-up the pockets of corrupt government and military officials. The P30-40 billion program is set to terminate by 2015 coinciding with the end of the World Bank funding.

To cast doubt on the extent of joblessness in the Philippines, Aquino's spin doctors have taken a page from the media managers of the US government by hyping up the so-called "skills mismatch problem". This is a twisted attempt to blame the workers for the grave problem of unemployment and cover-up the fact that the Philippine economy continues to stagnate and deteriorate. Furthermore, this seeks to justify the implementation of the K-12 program that seek to transform the educational system into one big training camp to produce cheap and low-skilled workers required by foreign investors.

Aquino's officials regularly go to the press to announce the availability of tens of thousands of "job opportunities" in government-sponsored "job fairs" even though there is actually no hiring drive by companies. Of close to 9,000 who sought work in the "job fair" last June 12, only 500 found employment. If there were actually great demand for labor, these companies would have been scrambling and offering higher pay to a supposedly scarce labor pool. On the contrary, companies have been coming up with one flexible labor scheme after another to pull down wages while riding on the continually rising tide of the sea of unemployed workers.

Aquino is obsessed with earning positive credit ratings in order to project the Philippines as a haven for foreign investors. The Aquino regime went to the extent of cutting back on government spending from 2010 to early 2012 at the cost of an economic slowdown just to cut back the public deficit and portray the country as a credit-worthy client. In 2011, it went to the extent of propagating the lie that the Philippines is already a creditor country after falsely describing the obligatory $1 billion contribution to the IMF as a loan.

In reality, the Aquino government has been on a borrowing spree. It sold government 10- and 25-year bonds in September 2010 ($1 billion), January 2011 ($1.25 billion) and November 2012 ($500 million). It is set to borrow at least $1 billion this year to service debt requirements. By the end of 2013, total Philippine government debt is estimated to amount to P5.78 trillion.

Ruling class technocrats and politicians are making noise about attracting foreign direct investments to address the acute problem of unemployment. They seek greater liberalization policies, further pulling down workers' wages as an incentive. There is persistent talk about amending the 1987 constitution in order to remove the restrictions against foreign ownership of land and 100% ownership of domestic enterprises.

They describe the nationalist demand for national industrialization as "outmoded." In fact, it is Aquino's foreign investment- and foreign debt-dependent and export-oriented economic paradigm that is outmoded and flawed. It is basically the same economic framework of the past ten governments since the 1940s which has failed to develop a self-reliant and progressive economy. Export-oriented production (semiconductor and electronic parts, wiring sets, car parts assembly) of so-called foreign direct investments is completely divorced from the rest of the economy.

Still, a large part of foreign investments in the Philippines comes in the form of hot money or portfolio investments that seek quick profit. From early this year, Aquino and his PR-specialists made a big story of the record high trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange. In January 2013 alone, new foreign portfolio investments increased by 120%. However, after pushing the PSE to a new peak of nearly 7,400 pts last May, foreign capital managers went on a selling spree to withdraw their money and bring home profits, pulling down the PSE back to around 6,100 points by mid-June and causing the sharp devaluation of the peso due to increased demand by homebound hot money that needs to be converted back to dollars.

As expected, Aquino's spokesperson downplayed the massive withdrawal of foreign hot money and made claims that such are only temporary setbacks and that "the economic fundamentals remain strong."

The people's aspirations for nationalist and democratic economics

Amid the grave economic crisis, the Filipino people must amplify their demands for nationalist and democratic economic policies. They must vigorously expose and condemn the backward and counter-progressive dogma of the IMF-trained technocrats of the ruling reactionary state which serves as framework for the antipeople, antinational and anti-democratic economic policies. They have to wage democratic mass struggles and armed resistance in the countryside to oppose the Aquino regime's liberalization, privatization, deregulation and denationalization policies and measures.

The clamor for genuine land reform is the main democratic socio-economic demand of the Filipino people. The demand seeks to achieve the social liberation of the majority of the Filipino people comprised of landless peasants and farm workers from the worst forms of feudal and semifeudal exploitation. It involves primarily the breaking up of land monopolies and the democratic distribution of land to the tillers. It seeks to unleash rural productivity and economic energy by giving the mass of agricultural producers control over the means of production. Raising productivity will be further achieved through work cooperation, providing irrigation and other production infrastructure and the application of mechanization as initial steps towards socialist transformation of agriculture.

Under a genuine democratic regime, land reform in the Philippines can be basically completed within a year or two. Under the landlord-dominated state, bogus land reform programs in the Philippines have been carried out one after another since the 1930s up to the most recent Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (1988) and its extension since 2009. After more than half a century of bogus land reform programs, the big landlord class remains the dominant class together with the big bourgeois compradors and their foreign monopoly capitalist partners. Since assuming power in 2010, the landlord government of Benigno Aquino III has prevented land distribution of the 6,500-hectare Hacienda Luisita of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan.

Contrary to the demand for land reform, the Aquino regime as well as all the previous regimes have allowed big landlords, real estate companies, foreign mining companies, plantations and big agribusiness corporations and their local partners to dominate and take control of vast tracts of land. So-called farmer beneficiaries of agrarian reform ultimately lose control of their land either as a result of failure to maintain the burdensome amortization payments and widespread land-use conversion to real-estate and commercial projects. Big landlords and plantation owners continue to retain or seize monopoly control of vast tracts of land compelling peasants to join government-organized pseudo-cooperatives which are used to organize production of crops for exports.

The Filipino people demand an end to the undemocratic austerity measures and cutbacks implemented by the Aquino regime in accordance with IMF-WB dictates. They demand greater state subsidies for public education up to the tertiary level. They demand higher spending for public health and a stop to the policy of commercialization and privatization of public hospitals and the program of health tourism. They demand an end to the demolition of urban poor communities that aim to clear valuable real estate for the benefit of the Ayalas and other big business companies.

The demand for national industrialization is the main nationalist economic demand of the Filipino people. The Filipino people demand a self-reliant economy primarily geared towards the betterment of the material living conditions of the people. Agriculture and industry must be able to provide the Filipino people with affordable food, clothing and other basic consumer items. They clamor for an end to the policy of serving the demands of foreign companies for cheap labor, raw materials and semi-manufactures.

The sustained modernization of a self-reliant economy can be achieved by taking agriculture as the base with heavy industry as the leading factor and light industries as the bridge between the two. This is the key principle set forth in the socialist construction of China since the early 1950s which resulted in the two decades of rapid and well-balanced growth.

The Filipino people demand the building of a steel industry for the production of basic steel and steel alloys. They demand the building of chemical, petroleum, pharmaceutical, power, telecommunications and other basic industries. They aspire to build a powerful economy with machine-building, ship-building and other heavy industries. The Filipino people demand the nationalization of the oil industry which involves centralized state procurement of crude oil, setting up state refineries and retail outlets and government control of pricing.

They demand the building of such light industries for the production of food, textile and clothing, paper products, shoes and footwear, appliances, furniture, hand tools, agricultural machineries and other commodities for individual and productive consumption. They demand the modernization of agricultural production in consonance with land reform through large-scale mechanization.

For over six decades, the ruling reactionary classes have refused to develop even basic industries. Philippine manufacturing has failed to go beyond assembly plants dependent on imported components and which production is oriented towards the demands of the export market. Semi-manufacturing in the Philippines is largely divorced from the overall economy. Similarly, large-scale agricultural production and fishing are controlled by foreign big agribusiness and geared towards the export market. There is no processing of mineral resources beyond the extractive phase. Food processing is small-scale and very rudimentary.

Instead of heeding the people's demands for nationalist economic policies, the Aquino regime is going full-throttle in efforts to attract foreign monopoly capitalists and financiers by further liberalizing investment and trade policies and opening up more and more areas of the economy to foreign exploitation. Aquino is set to surpass all previous regimes in pushing down wages and further liberalizing trade and investment in the remaining areas of the economy. Over the past three decades, the successive puppet regimes have liberalized almost all aspects of the local economy, from banking to water and other public utilities, mining, financial markets, transportation, small retail, agriculture and so on.

Heightened liberalization policies of the past three decades have resulted in the near complete decimation of local business and the domination of foreign big capital in all aspects of the economy. Furthermore, more than two decades after the dismantling of the national minimum wage system, the difference between workers' daily wages and their daily cost of living has reached unprecedented levels. Agricultural production has virtually remained stagnant without significant mechanization since the 1970s.

The Filipino people demand an end to foreign economic domination that has stunted the local economy to semi-manufacturing and raw materials extraction. They demand support for local capital formation and an end to complete dependence on foreign debt and foreign investments. They demand equal footing with trade partners.

Victory of the people's war as condition for economic reform

The grave crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system has Aquino further sidling up to his imperialist masters for financial and military support. Aquino has terminated peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines which are supposed to enter the phase of discussing the crucial questions of socio-economic reforms. In doing so, he has avoided public debate and discourse over the IMF-designed policies being implemented by his regime.

Aquino has resorted to a ruthless campaign of suppression which is set to be more brutal in the face of worsening poverty, economic desperation and the rising tide of defiance. There have been increasing attacks and human rights violations against workers, peasants and other sectors who have been raising their nationalist and democratic demands.

Clearly, the Filipino people's demands for nationalist and democratic economic policies cannot be achieved under the reactionary puppet state of big landlords and big bourgeois compradors. The worse the crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system become, the more that the reactionaries defend it.

Only upon the complete nationwide victory of the people's democratic revolution will the conditions exist for carrying out nationalist and democratic economic reforms in the Philippines. Such sweeping fundamental socio-economic reforms can only be carried out by a people's democratic government. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the people's war has made big strides over the past few years and is setting sights on complete victory in the not so distant future.

In the course of waging people's war, the revolutionary land reform movement continues to advance nationwide. It has already benefitted hundreds of thousands of peasants. Before achieving nationwide victory, the revolutionary forces carry out the minimum land reform program comprised primarily of lowering land rent by collectively confronting the power of the landlords. Under the minimim land reform program, efforts are carried to raise farm-workers' wages, build work collectives and other forms of cooperation and increase income through side occupations.

By organizing the revolutionary Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM), other mass organizations of youth, women and children and cultural workers and revolutionary committees for land reform, security and self-defense, arbitration and others, the people are able to exercise political power in their villages and towns. The maximum program of land distribution can be carried out under certain advanced revolutionary conditions.

In the urban and town centers, workers are rising up despite all-out suppression of their rights to organize. In the past couple of years, workers have achieved more and more successes in building unions and other types of associations and waging strikes and other forms of collective action. They demand wage increases and oppose contractualization and other unfair labor practices. Urban poor communities have vigorously opposed government demolition of their homes. Mass struggles are being launched against increases in education costs, oil prices, electricity and water rates. In all these, revolutionary forces gain strength by carrying out propaganda and education, recruiting the advanced activists and building and expanding the CPP.

The toiling masses of workers and peasants and middle-class are increasingly aware that they are bound to be pulled down deeper into crisis over the remaining three years under the puppet Aquino regime. In view of the policies of the Aquino regime that serve the interests of foreign and local big business and big landlords, it is becoming crystal clear that the Filipino people have no other recourse but to wage democratic mass struggles and armed resistance in order to assert their nationalist and democratic demands.

The aspirations for national and democratic economic reforms to end the chronic economic crisis and social injustice are among the Filipino people's biggest motives for vigorously advancing the people's war.