The Rhetoric-Reality Divide

by Benjie Oliveros

President Benigno Aquino III reportedly called a Cabinet meeting after the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released the result of its recent survey showing that the unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent, affecting an estimated 12.1 million Filipinos. Around 2.5 million Filipinos lost their jobs between September and December last year. President Aquino was reportedly baffled that while the economy grew by 7.2 percent, unemployment increased.

This belied the Aquino government’s claim of pursuing “inclusive growth.” This is not surprising at all.

In the more than three years of the Aquino presidency, there are a lot of issues where the government’s actions contradict the president’s rhetoric. Here are some of the more important issues where the rhetoric-reality divide is most obvious.

1. The Aquino government has been repeatedly saying that it is pursuing “inclusive growth” and that the Filipino people will feel the benefits of this growth soon. How could this happen when the major sectors that contributed significantly to this growth – real estate, renting and other business activities, including business process outsourcing – resulted in a mere eight percent increase in employment? Ibon Foundation revealed [1] that: “Employment in real estate only increased by 2,000 (or 1.2% growth, which is probably statistically insignificant), in construction by 131,000 (5.9% growth) and in manufacturing as a whole by 38,000 (or 1.2%).”

The Aquino government refuses to pursue an economic path that builds on the country’s industrial/manufacturing and agricultural base – through a combination of national industrialization, genuine agrarian reform and rural industrialization – to strengthen the economic foundation of the country and generate long-term employment. Instead, the Aquino government refuses to deviate from the export-oriented, import and foreign investment-dependent orientation of the economy.

Adding to the woes of the Filipino people are the policies of the Aquino government that press-down wages and attack job security, as well as the privatization, deregulation, and liberalization program resulting in spikes in prices of basic goods, services, and utilities.

2. President Aquino has been delivering fiery speeches against corrupt officials from the previous administration to show its seriousness in stamping out corruption. Why does the Aquino government not run after its own officials who were suspected of being involved in irregularities? Why do those close to President Aquino merely receive reminders and are allowed to just leave government service instead of being investigated and held accountable?

Why does the Aquino government reject calls to abolish the pork barrel system, which has been a source of corruption and a tool for patronage politics? President Aquino refuses to give up his own discretionary funds and the much-hated pork barrel still remains, albeit hidden, in the 2014 budget.

3. The Aquino government claims that it has been instituting measures to bring an end to impunity. Why do extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations against political activists and human rights defenders continue to be committed? Why do killings of journalists persist? Why has there been no conviction of high-ranking officials of the military and the government who were involved in these abhorrent acts?

Why is the Aquino government dragging its feet in indemnifying victims of the Marcos dictatorship?

4. The Aquino government is accusing China of being like Hitler as it bullies other countries asserting claims to islands along the West Philippines Sea. At the same time, in President Aquino’s own backyard, the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita who have supposedly been awarded the land are being forcibly displaced from the land they have been tilling and are being harassed and attacked by security guards of the Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corporation, the police and soldiers of the 3rd Mechanized Battalion of the Philippine Army.

President Aquino is also supposedly asserting the country’s sovereign claims to the Spratly Islands and Scarborough shoal against China but has been pushing for the increased presence and intervention of US troops in the internal affairs of the country.

5. When the public was beginning to react to the power rate hike, the high prices of basic goods and services, and the impending LRT-MRT fare hike, the Aquino government said it has been looking after the people’s welfare. However, it has been privatizing government hospitals such as the Philippine Orthopedic Center and the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital making health care services more inaccessible to the poor majority. The Aquino government has also been essentially taking the side of power generators and Meralco [2] in the power rate hike even as it makes a show of opposing it.

We could add more issues to the list. The point is, the Aquino government has been saying one thing and doing the opposite. And after more than three years into the Aquino administration, the rhetoric–reality divide has become more glaring. (bulatlat.com)

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