Four days ago, Benigno Aquino III pronounced his third State of the Nation Address (SONA). On the same day 22 years ago, on July 23, 1990, Corazon Aquino delivered her 4th SONA and declared the historic eviction of US military bases in the Philippines.
Times may have changed and the people have changed too, if only for the worse. At least, such is the case with the Aquinos.
Both the Lower and Upper Houses resumed sessions on the day of the SONA, promising the legislation of priority bills soliciting the “creation of goods and services in a playing field that is intentionally made fair to all.” This could only mean the possible railroading of charter change (cha-cha) whether through a constituent assembly or constitutional convention.
In recent history, charter change has been met with criticism and dissent by the Filipino people. Both the Ramos and Arroyo administrations’ cha-cha proposed to change the type of government to extend their respective terms. Ramos’ cha-cha also proposed for “socio-economic reform to respond to the higher standards of human development and security promulgated by the United Nations in terms of water, food, health, shelter, income, livelihood, education, environment, opportunity, and safety.” In other words, it aimed to make surgical amendments in the Philippine Constitution to accommodate the imperatives of globalization at the time.
First and foremost a US Command
Talks of amending the Constitution were revived during the first week of July when Senate President Enrile urged the Congress to reconsider the configuration of the national budget to accommodate the demands of war in the context of persistent Chinese incursions. Enrile shamelessly called a review of the budget for education to augment the needs of the military should war come to the fore, while projecting Aquino as indifferent towards the matter.
However, US Ambassador Harry Thomas has already proposed charter change to allow for the full implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in August last year. TPP aims to reduce member countries into a single trading community, making it subservient to US trade dictates towards its culmination of having all trade tariffs removed by 2015.
For five years the US economy has been experiencing a protracted recession after the notorious bank bailout. With its declaration of the American Pacific Century, it is desperate to leech off from the rich reserves of cheap labor, natural resources, and even richer consumer market in the Asia-Pacific.
Intensify hard-selling of country’s economy
Even without the cha-cha, the Aquino government is just as successful in hard-selling the country’s economy. He has done so with his flagship program Public-Private Partnerships and the recently legislated Executive Order 79 more commonly known as the Mining EO.
In his third SONA, Aquino boasted the 6.4% growth rate from the implementation of 1 out 10 PPP projects, owing much of the success of private sector spending. According to DBM Secretary Abad, the government could have added 2 more additional points to this growth if the rest of it were bid out. For 2012, a total of 22 PPP projects will be bid out, but these projects shamelessly include supposed state-funded social services such as health, education, transportation, and power among others.
Recently, Aquino approved the Mining EO which euphemistically boasts of invoking “responsible mining” when in fact, EO 79 is no different from the existing Mining Act of 1995. It brags of a mining moratorium (or prohibits issuance of new mining permits after the EO implementation) while allowing the continued denudation of the environment by 771 mining companies issued with permits, and does not decisively cover those who can do the same with just applying for exploration permits.
Peddling the country’s sovereignty
A day after Aquino’s third SONA, the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) between our country and Australia which legalizes the bilateral defense and military cooperation between the two countries was ratified. It was approved in cognizant with the provision in the Constitution that permits such treaties so long as they are approved by the Senate.
Furthermore, after no less than 5 years of being shelved in the Senate, the SOVFA was railroaded in the context of Chinese incursions and in consideration of Australia as the US’ “deputy partner” in the Asia-Pacific region. The Senate approval of SOVFA follows the narrative of series of US-PH top official engagements for the past 1st quarter, the deployment of troops in Balikatan last April, the deployment and operations of combat drones, possible deployment of spy planes, the construction of a private defense contractor in Subic, and the construction of a coast watch radar to monitor the West Philippine Sea.
For the longest time, US has been hawking the South China Sea, drooling over its economic guarantees assured by its mineral resources and its strategic position in trade. While building its economic leverage against China through forcing TPP among nations in the region, US has found a good military outpost in the Philippines legalized by the Mutual Defense Treaty, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, and Visiting Forces Agreement, among others.
The US$30B military aid coherent with the “modernization” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Defense Capability Upgrade and Sustainment of Equipment Program of AFP is tantamount to US-PH egging China to a war over territorial claims. In his SONA, Aquino meekly appealed to public emotion that this is merely protecting our backyard, but since Aquino has permitted the intervention of US through different disguises in the form of the Balikatan Exercises, ministerial meetings, port calls of US nuclear submarines, his double talk is nothing but warmongering.
Hands Clean, Head above the Clouds, 106 Applauses
Aquino is still elated, with the impeachment of the chief justice, the facade of a “no strong opposition,” that will translate to the alignment of previously contending political parties into a merger, a creditor status—the summation of his two years that was good enough for 1 and a half hour of lying and 106 applauses of his political allies.
Aquino can pretend to be lukewarm towards the issue. Aquino’s cohorts are standing in the line of fire, taking bullet after bullet for the administration’s inutile maneuvers that compromise the welfare of the people. At this point, the US-Aquino regime is whitewashing possible political motives behind amending the constitution by stressing on relaxing the economic provisions.
Aquino’s “daang matuwid” is nothing more but a fast lane of the puppeteers and the profit-driven. It has been used for whoremonging the people and warmongering among the people.
While Aquino keeps his head above the clouds and wipes his hands clean, the people, on the other hand, have their feet flat on the ground, with left fists clenched in the air. Being the basic masses who feel the full brunt of Aquino’s neoliberal puppetry, the LFS enjoins the Filipino youth to link arms with the rest of the Filipino people in taking to the streets and continuing the national democratic struggle to free the nation from the oppressive rule of the US-Aquino regime. ###