Make Aquino pay for the massive unemployment and poverty

Editorial
Ang Bayan
February 22, 2014

The Filipino people were angered no end when Benigno Aquino III claimed last week that he was surprised at the rising unemployment and poverty in the country.

He feigned innocence before the people when he made a show of demanding that his cabinet officials explain to him why his much-vaunted economic growth has not led to more jobs and better lives for ordinary Filipinos.

Even more execrable was the response given by Aquino officials who said that the unemployment problem was due to recent natural calamities. In fact, Philippine unemployment rates have long been rising to unprecedented levels on a yearly basis. At the same time, hunger and poverty have been stalking Filipinos more and more.

Government agencies have bent over backwards to obscure the real extent of unemployment in the Philippines, claiming that only about three million Filipinos are without jobs. But a sharp look at the government's doctored statistics would reveal that there are actually 12-13 million unemployed Filipinos at present, representing 30% of the country's labor force.

This is the general economic trend under the rule of big landlords like Aquino and his big comprador bourgeois and bureaucrat capitalist cohorts. Aquino persists in blocking genuine land reform and has been implementing neoliberal policies that have been devastating the livelihoods of Filipinos and crippling the economy for more than three decades now.

In putting up obstacles to genuine land reform, Aquino allows landlord monopoly power to dominate in the countryside. Feudalists like Aquino are not interested in developing the economy and enchain the vast majority of the population to an agrarian and backward system of production.

On the other hand, in accordance with the dictates of foreign imperialist banks and big capitalists, Aquino has been enforcing the deregulation of the oil industry as well as power generation and distribution and the privatization of education, health and water services, roads and other critical social services. He has ceded the country's forests, mountains, rivers, seas and other elements of the national patrimony to foreign plunderers.

Daily wages are pegged at very low rates to attract foreign capital, to the detriment of the working class and nationalist industrialization. Minimum wages do not even represent half of what a typical family needs for its daily sustenance.

Foreign investments, including Aquino's much vaunted capital infusions into mining and construction, do not create growing and quality employment. Even the biggest infrastructure projects under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program have been able to provide only 1.3% at most of the number of jobs needed annually.

Worse, much of the employment available in the country is not permanent and do not afford workers any security. The usual five-month employment contracts are fraught with threats to workers who are vulnerable to extreme exploitation in the form of measly wages and overly oppressive working conditions. In the case of construction workers of condominium, mall and other large infrastructure projects, they find themselves jobless once the building projects are over in a year or two.

Exporting labor remains Aquino's only solution to the Philippines' growing unemployment problem. The fact that there are less jobs created in the country compared to the number of workers who go abroad every year shows just to what lows the local economy has fallen.

The Filipino people must call to account the US-Aquino regime for its perpetuation of neoliberal policies and its refusal to implement genuine land reform and nationalist economic policies. Aquino must pay for betraying the people because of his failure to put in force policies that would enable the economy to stand on its own two feet.

Aquino must likewise be held accountable for refusing to heed the people's cry for national industrialization. He perpetuates the current Philippine economic system which is incapable of generating growing employment. The local economy is tied to the importation of commodities. Local manufacturing has plummeted, confined as it is to semiprocessing imported spare parts and oriented to the needs of foreign capitalists and not to those of the people and local production.

In the same vein, the Filipino people must resist the scheme being hatched by Aquino's minions in Congress to amend the 1987 constitution. Aquino's factotums claim that the key to economic development is to give free rein to foreign big capitalists to own land in the country. This can only worsen further the unbridled plunder by foreign big companies of the country's resources.

The struggle for jobs, just wages, lower prices for rice and other food, and for oil, power and water rates, the demand for sufficient education and health budgets and a stop to demolitions are all interrelated. They are likewise intertwined with the struggle for genuine land reform and to dismantle the monopoly rule in the countryside of landlords and compradors and foreign capitalist plantation owners.

All these democratic demands are linked to the struggle to end the semifeudal and semicolonial social system that is managed and defended by the ruling classes currently embodied by the Aquino regime. Even as the Filipino people call Aquino to account and assert their demands, their strategic goal is to put an end to the existing system through revolutionary struggle.