Special Issue #1
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CONTINUE the STRUGGLE for Higher Salary, Job Security and Union Rights!
OPPOSE the Policies of Privatization and Re-engineering the Bureaucracy!
Analysis and Positions on the Estrada administration
Approved by the COURAGE National Council, July 7, 1998
After more than a decade since the resurgence of public sector unionism, every government employee has learned and appreciated that collective strength and action are proven weapons to protect our interests as public sector workers and advance our cause as public servants.
As a matter of fact, our unions and we have survived and persevered towards growth during the administration of Aquino and matured with the exit of President Ramos. As we enter the auspices of the new Estrada administration, we are sure to move forward, better equipped to face the challenge of real difficulties ahead.
The Ramos' formula of 'Philippines 2000' went to naught:
The sudden devaluation of the Philippine Peso in July 1997 bared obvious the irreversible process of economic crisis in the country. The fundamentally weak economy was exacerbated by the total adherence by the Ramos Administration to the policy-dictates of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization of the foreign monopoly capital.
The Philippines is still being hit by the financial crisis that is still getting worse especially in the "emergent markets" in Asia like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. The downfall of these "emergent markets" which were created by the monopoly capital to ease their crisis of over production has rendered the Ramos formula of "Philippines 2000" a naught.
The Ramos government exited without a single economic indicator to boast of. The Gross National Product (GNP) is down to 2.5% from previous years 5.4%. Likewise, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a low 1.7% also a far cry from former 5.5%.
For the first year in four years (since 1993), deficit in the Balance of Payment (BOP) US$ 3.3 B is uphill compared to US$166 M in 1993. Even the basic economic indicator of Government International Reserve (GIR) dipped by 25% from a high US$ 11.7 B.
The much sought after foreign investment was a bubble that burst because indeed it was a mere hype of economic activities. On the other hand, inflation increased beyond propaganda repair, breaching the single digit level to 10.3, while the purchasing power of the Philippine Peso decreased by 46% such that, the P1.00 in 1988 is only P0.35 in Metro Manila and P0.40 in areas outside Metro Manila.
Moreover, President Ramos left the national coffers in bad shape. Estradas own finance manager predicts a PhP70 B budget deficit by the end of 1998 which will force further cuts in the already lopsided appropriations for social services in favor of debt servicing, pork barrel, and military budget. The deficit may have been aggravated by extravagant centennial celebration that costed over P2.4 B combined with a shortfall in revenues.
The previous year's budget surplus was sourced out of loan and proceeds from the sale of public assets. The Ramos administration was also characterized by a tradition of scams in government deals where the record of legislators was second only to the Office of the President, as well as a militarized bureaucracy that conforms to the unquestioned commands of the Chief Executive.
Meanwhile, the people are experiencing far worse suffering. The massive land grabbing by foreign corporations and local landlords disguised in the government scheme of land conversion continue to dislocate millions of families in the countryside.
After 25 years of implementing the agrarian reform program of government, twelve years after Marcos rule, land distribution was reported at 57.4% mainly covering government land. This does not include revoked Certificate of Land Ownership (CLOA) while 59,071.03 hectares were subject of land conversion.
Deceptive as it is, government data on unemployment rose to 13.3% from 10.4%, although other source estimates unemployment and underemployment at 30%. This means that 4.9 Millions of the labor force is out of job. The policy on cheap labor is no longer contained in low wages but the casualization and contractualization of workers, depriving them of the barest guarantee of secured job.
This situation is worsened by the deregulation of the oil industry that further spawned rise in prices of basic commodities. Over and above, is the additional burden of scarce and higher cost of social and public services due to privatization.
In the end, the Ramos government had to acknowledge publicly the widened gap between the rich and the poor. It was a single statement that summarised the failure of his administration.
"Erap Para sa Mahihirap": Will it Deliver?
President Estrada catapulted to power precisely by capturing the protest of the people against further economic and social suffering and bureaucratic corruption in his populist slogan of Erap para sa Mahihirap (Erap for the Poor), together with his movie star popularity. However, despite serious campaign bickerings that included exchanges of bitter mudslingings, Erap and Ramos united to form a government of national unity right after the elections.
Enough proof to validate that there is no essential difference between the just ended Ramos administration and the new Estrada government. Besides, Ramos had to befriend Erap, aside from being both descendants of the martial rule, various contracts worth billions of Pesos entered by Ramos are due for implementation under the auspices of President Estrada.
In exchange for a smooth transition, General Gregorio Vigilar in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was retained and General Alexander Aguirre was appointed as presidential adviser on national security.
The campaign battle cry of Erap para sa Mahirap is thus an empty promise already exposed even before President Estrada started wasting public funds by having an elaborate and expensive oath taking ceremonies. His inaugural speech was once more mere rhetoric to satisfy the audience and keep his popularity ratings.
Days before the May elections, Estrada cleverly worked for the green signal of Uncle Sam for his presidency. Upon the return of his emissaries from the US, Eraps camp announced to honor the package of policy-dictates by IMF-World Bank for a US $1.2 B loan entered by then President Ramos.
As soon as he was sure of bagging the presidency, Erap lost no time in giving his assurances to the big business sector. Even before taking his oath, President Estrada was quick with pronouncements to repay the favors of the likes of Marcoses, Lucio Tan, and Danding Cojuangco as his benefactors.
The Erap technocrats may be uttering different words in its publicised ten-point action program and change the Ramos battle cry of Philippines 2000. However, the elaboration of the Estrada administration more exactly detailed its true character of servitude to foreign monopoly capital, local big business, and landlords.
It is not essentially new but an adherence to the old and rehashed concepts of free market and civil society' also known as "globalization". A set of policies contrary to economic sovereignty, national industrialization, and genuine land reform.
Estradas action plan is more daring than that of Ramos. True to his reel role in the movies, Erap will outdo Ramos as the champion of foreign capital. He will not only further liberalize, deregulate and privatize, Erap will complete the task of Charter Change (cha-cha) to allow foreigners land ownership, 100% capitalization in banking and finance, and open other areas in investments like media and retail trade to foreign monopolies. Erap is bravado, fearless as he ventures into the sale of our patrimony.
This administration's tendency on fascism is not a wild idea. Aside from retaining some Ramos' appointees like General Vigilar and Aguirre more of their kind a joining the bureaucracy. Not being a military general, Erap is concentrating all military and police powers in himself.
Erap is now the Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), directly supervising the Philippine National Police (PNP) as the concurrent Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and created an anti-crime super task force of police and military to report directly to him.
Personally chosen by Erap to head the task force is General Panfilo Lacson who is under investigation for the Kuratong Baleleng rob-out allegedly committed under Estrada during his stint as chief of the now defunct Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC).
Partaking lunch with picketing farmers cannot allay or diminish the dangers that the people will anticipate under the Estrada administration. His one-liners on the abolition of the pork barrel is of no consolation as its direction is a mere transfer of the graft-ridden scheme to the executive branch, meaning into Eraps own hands.
Erap in the face of peoples outrage backtracked in his decision to bury the much-hated former dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery). However, this is neither the end nor the essence of his loyalty to the Marcoses.
The depth of his being a Marcos loyalist is carved in his action plan to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) at this point when the ill-gotten wealth of the deposed dictator and his cronies remain unrecovered.
Indeed, Erap is a loyal follower that he has to ensure their favors in the action plan of his government. He wants immediate action on the nature of the coconut levy in which Danding Cojuangco has a claim.
Likewise, a tax amnesty program and complete privatization of government investments in the Philippine Airlines (PAL), Philippine National Bank (PNB), Petron, etc. are needed by Lucio Tan and others as partners of foreign investors. Surely, soon the President will face the likes of Atong Ang and other "chinoy" businessmen as they start collecting the return of their favors.
Indeed Erap's inaugural speech was well applauded for promising that 'the day of the masses has come' by solving poverty, graft and corruption, and criminality. The question is: "Can Erap deliver the masses from exploitation and oppression through his ten-point program?"
A strategy that prescribe continued servitude to foreign interests and favoring local big business; a program that does not resolve the basic issue of genuine land reform, and allowing the resurgence of the remaining claws of the hated Marcos dictatorship?