The peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines seem to be on the verge of collapse with the recent announcement of Alexander Padilla head of the GPH panel. He was quoted saying that the Aquino government could no longer wait for the NDFP to sit down with them without ‘preconditions’, pointing to the demand of the NDFP to release its consultants who are currently in jail.
Padilla also said that the regular track has been stalled and the special track was killed by this ‘precondition’ being set by the NDFP. The GPH panel has always maintained that the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or Jasig is a side issue and that the more important things are contained in the substantive agenda.
Two recent poverty surveys – from the government’s National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) and the Social Weather Stations (SWS) – came up with similar results showing that the Aquino government is not making a dent in the poverty situation. According to the NSCB survey, the July 2012 poverty rate of 27.9 percent is statistically no different from the results of its 2006 and 2009 surveys. This despite the fact that the NSCB has a ridiculously low poverty threshold, which according to Ibon Foundation is a mere P51 per day ($1.24 if directly converted and not computed according to the PPP). This was extracted from the NSCB’s poverty threshold for a family of five of P7,821 ($190.75) a month.
So if a family has a combined monthly income of P7,821 ($190.75) or has a budget of P51 ($1.24) per family member, it is not poor and could afford a decent standard of living? Really? Out of this very low figure, the NSCB came up with a food threshold of P5,458 ($133) monthly for a family of five. If divided by the number of family members, this would amount to P36 ($0.88) per person per day. This amount is barely enough for a full meal at the neighborhood carinderia. No wonder most Filipino families could hardly afford to eat two meals a day.
The Aquino government has been riding high on the 6.6 percent GDP growth rate last year and the granting of investment grade to the Philippines recently. It has been gloating, declaring that its efforts at good governance are paying off. And much like the Ramos administration, which achieved an average growth rate of 5 percent annually, and the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, which got a high 7 percent (by Philippine standards) in 2007, the administration of Benigno Aquino III has been boldly projecting that the country could achieve the status of developed economy in the future.
However, much as I do not want to sound like a party pooper, recent data and reports show that a lot has been more of a hype rather than a reality. Here are some of the statistics mentioned by inquirer.net:
Local and congressional elections are just around the corner. The ruling coalition dubbed as Team Pnoy is aiming to win it big by bagging the clear majority, nay dominance, in the senatorial, lower house, and local elections. By the looks of it, by the sheer number of candidates contending political parties are able to field, it appears that the ruling coalition will achieve just that: dominance.
An Inquirer.net article ‘Outgunned,’ but UNA sure of Binay win in 2016 polls by Christian V. Esguerra revealed that the Liberal Party (LP) has 158 candidates for Lower House representatives while the UNA has only 58; the LP has 196 candidates for city mayor and vice mayor positions while UNA has 66; the LP has 470 candidates for municipal mayor and vice mayor positions while UNA has 166.
However, former president Joseph Estrada appears unfazed. He was quoted by the Inquirer article as saying:
In a landmark decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should be held accountable for the enforced disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos. The decision of the Appeals court on the writ of habeas corpus and the writ of amparo petitions filed by the Burgos family also pointed to Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr, who was then assigned to the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as responsible for Jonas’s forcible abduction.
Initially saying that they would cooperate and that the AFP respects human rights and the rule of law, the AFP made a sudden turnaround when, perhaps, it realized the gravity of the impact of the decision that clearly points to their culpability. It is now saying that they are exploring their legal options, which generally means that they are preparing legal counter-measures. The AFP also admitted that Maj. Harry Baliaga is still in active duty.
Ten years ago yesterday March 20, the US led the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The US Bush administration then justified the military action against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein government by claiming that Saddam – who was later executed by the US – has connections with Al Qaeda and therefore, the invasion of Iraq is part of the borderless war on terror. Second, the US intended to replace the Saddam regime with a democratic government. And third, Iraq is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
Well, the US never found any weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. Actually, the biggest stockpile of such weapons of mass destruction are in the US and Israel. Likewise, the link between Al Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein government was never established.
The news that a University of the Philippines – Manila student took her own life after she was forced to take a leave of absence because of her failure to pay the tuition at the state university is very shocking. The 16-year old freshman of Behavioral Science was, according to an interaksyon.com report – which cited the Facebook account of the Manila Collegian as source – the eldest of five children of a taxi driver and a housewife.
Professor Andrea Bautista Martinez of the Department of Behavioral Sciences was quoted as saying, “Malaki talaga ang impact sa buhay niya ang LOA kasi pati pamilya niya naapektuhan. Since February, hindi na siya pumapasok. Lagi siyang nagtetext sa’kin na hindi niya kinakaya ang problema.” (Her being forced to take a leave of absence had a big effect on her. She was not able to attend classes since February. She sent text messages telling me that she could no longer bear her problems.)
Take a moment to consider some of today’s largest, most recognizable companies—“some of them may not be around after the next several years,” says G. Michael Maddock, CEO of Maddock Douglas, which advises Fortune 100 players like GE and Wal-Mart.
As it becomes clear the President Obama is making Medicare a key topic for discussion within the broader context of federal spending, Democrats and Republicans have an opportunity to pursue common-sense reforms that preserve the program while achieving bipartisan support for fixing what isn't working.
Despite ongoing reservations, I believe that some parts of the Affordable Care Act can conceivably be implemented with minimal dislocation, but only if the right policies are embraced by the administration. And that's why I think that the president is making a mistake in proposing potentially damaging changes to arguably the most effective part of Medicare, instead of building on its progress and finding a way to drive long-term cost savings by keeping seniors healthy.
Crocodile tears are flowing again for low-income people. In his State of the Union address, President Obama proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour. A debate is shaping up between those who support the proposal and those who favor keeping the wage where it is today. But there are good grounds — for the sake of the poor — to repeal the minimum wage altogether.