President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation (SONA) speech may have been the longest in history but it falls short on its claim of historic changes under his administration. The changes instituted are merely superficial not thoroughgoing. No social and economic reform has been implemented in the last two years and none forthcoming in the next four years. PNoy even lacks the commitment to push for the Freedom of Information bill which should be a plank of his good governance advocacy.
PNoy asserts that good governance is leading to palpable improvements but only social justice will bring concrete change to ordinary peoples’ lives. Glaringly absent from the tons of numbers and data mentioned in PNoy’s SONA are statistics on poverty and hunger. It is no wonder since despite a decade of so-called GNP growth, the number of poor and hungry have remained intractable.
GNP growth only means increasing numbers of ‘Gutom Na Pilipino’ for workers and the poor. From 2003-2009 the economy grew by an average of 4.8% but the number of poor Filipinos increased from 19.8 million to 23.1 million. Poverty will not be dented no matter how many cases are filed against former president Gloria Arroyo and how many of her minions are jailed together with ex-Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos.
Regular jobs and living wages are needed not the conditional cash transfer which is a band-aid solution at best. Among the ASEAN nations, the Philippines has the most persistent incidence of poverty (defined as living on less than US$1.25 a day). We have the highest percentage of slum residents as a percent of its urban population among six Asian countries.
While the employment rate went up, as PNoy insisted, the number of underemployed—those who have work but are still seeking work—has increased from 7.6 million in April 2011 to 7.8 million in April 2012. Even as PNoy remains hardline in the struggle to bring Arroyo to justice, he is nonetheless is soft on the fight for social justice against entrenched vested interests. He was challenged and found wanting on the issue of outsourcing at Philippine Airlines which is the biggest labor dispute in the country. PNoy may have garnered the confidence of investors for the privatization projects under the Public-Private Partnerhip program, but he has earned the ire of workers for his approval of contractualization at the flag carrier.
Truly the real state of the nation is reflected in the lack of jobs, food, housing and justice for the Filipino masses. To tackle the challenges of destitution and joblessness, the anti-corruption campaign of President Aquino will not suffice. The answer lies in taking a new path of development away from the Aquinomics of privatization, contractualization and globalization.