Six years hence: Unmasking the legacy of failure of GMA’s 10-point agenda
by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)
June 9, 2010
At the tail end of her nine-year rule, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s propaganda offensive has focused on the supposed “legacy” of her administration. The recently reported growth in first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) of 7.3 percent, for instance, has been hyped as a “great note to end” the so-called “glorious” years under Arroyo. And as if placing an exclamation point on an oft-repeated message, Malacañang will showcase the supposed achievements of the administration through a P10-million Freedom Day parade on June 12. The costly display of the supposed milestones under the outgoing administration will reportedly feature 10 floats to represent Mrs. Arroyo’s 10-point agenda.
Mrs. Arroyo first unveiled her 10-point agenda during her inaugural speech in 2004. She had just clinched a six-year term in what was considered as the most fraudulent presidential elections in Philippine history. The following discussion scrutinizes the supposed achievements of Mrs. Arroyo vis-à-vis her 10-point agenda. The italicized paragraphs are direct quotes lifted from Mrs. Arroyo’s inaugural speech.
“Let me speak plainly. When I step down six years from now this will be my 10-point legacy. I shall have created more than 6 million jobs, perhaps, even 10 million jobs. Mahigit anim na milyong trabaho, kung maaari sampung milyong trabaho. I shall have supported 3 million entrepreneurs by giving them loans and helping them become good managers. That way, we shall be establishing a deep foundation for a broad middle class”.
The nine years of the Arroyo administration is considered as the worst period for the Filipino workers. Instead of an additional 6-10 million new jobs as promised by Arroyo, unemployment in the country turned from bad to worse. From 2001 to 2009, the country posted its most awful jobless record in more than half a century, with the annual unemployment rate averaging an all-time high of more than 11 percent. A simple comparison of the total number of jobless between the January 2001 and January 2010 government’s Labor Force Survey (LFS) shows an increase of more than 620,000 unemployed workers. Such increase only captures a portion of how job scarcity has actually deteriorated as it does not yet account for the quality of jobs available in the domestic labor market. As it is, the absolute number of unemployed under Arroyo, pegged at about 4 million a year, is significantly higher than during the time of Erap (3.17 million); Ramos (2.58 million); and Cory (2.28 million).
“I shall have developed 1 million hectares, if possible 2 million of agribusiness land by making them productive and transporting their products to the markets efficiently”.
According to the 2009 SONA Technical Report, government has developed 1.48 million hectares of new/idle lands for agribusiness from first quarter 2005 to first quarter 2009 that supposedly generated an estimated total of 2.19 million jobs. However, in the context of lack of genuine land reform, agribusiness development in the country has meant the physical and economic displacement of peasants and farm workers. The net increase in the number of unemployed in the country under the Arroyo administration is a clear indicator that whatever claims of jobs creation by the government’s agribusiness development plan has failed to reverse the worsening condition of employment in the country .
“Everyone of school age will be in school in an uncrowded classroom, in surroundings conducive to learning. Hangad kong makapasok sa eskuwela ang bawat bata. Mayroong sapat na lugar sa silid-aralan at may computer sa bawat aralan”.
Free primary and secondary education is a right guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution and thus every administration is mandated to carry out this task. To ensure this, sufficient resources are needed (at least at 5 percent of the GDP, based on international standards) to fund the growing needs of public education in the country. Public spending for education under Arroyo averaged only 2.7 percent of the GDP as compared with 3.7 percent under Erap; Ramos, 3.1 percent; and Cory, 2.7 percent. In the 2010 national budget, per capita allocation for education was pegged at P2,502 while debt servicing was at P7,944. Due to lack of government support amid worsening joblessness and poverty, net enrollment rate for elementary schools declined from 87.11 percent in School Year (SY) 2004-05 to 85.12 percent in SY 2008-09. The environment conducive to learning remains elusive including overcrowded classrooms. The teacher-student ratio for public elementary school remains unchanged at 1:36 ( SY 2004-05 and 2008-09); for public high school, there was no significant improvement . i.e. from 1:41 to 1:39.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers has said that for the incoming school year 2010-2011, there will be a shortage of 54,060 teachers, 4,538 principals, and 6,473 head teachers; 61,343 classrooms, 816,291 seats, and 113,051 water and sanitation facilities.
“I shall have balanced the budget by collecting the right revenues and spending on the right things. The network of transport and digital infrastructure on which my government embarked in the last 3 years will have linked the entire country”.
The full-year budget deficit in 2009 reached P298.5 billion, an all-time high in absolute terms. From 2001 to 2009, the average national budget deficit was pegged at P148.37 billion while the average deficit as a percentage of the GDP was 2.93 percent, both historic highs. Far from collecting the right revenues, the Arroyo administration milked the people dry through onerous taxes such as the 12 percent value added tax (VAT), includingon items as basic as oil, power, water, food, and medicine among others.
Meanwhile, big companies including transnational corporations (TNCs) were spared from paying taxes through liberalization. Total collections from tariffs on imported goods and services under Arroyo accounted for only about 2.8 percent of total revenues and GDP, compared to around 4.5 percent for most of the 1990s. Mrs. Arroyo was the biggest spender on debt servicing but had the lowest spendingfor social services among all Philippine presidents. Every year since 2001, the amount of debt servicing has been equivalent to 42.7 percent of annual government expenditures and 67.4 percent of annual revenues. Meanwhile, combined government spending for education, social security, health, land distribution, and housing did not even account for half of what the Arroyo administration was spending for interest and principal payments on foreign debt, not to mention spending for the armed forces and the police.
“Power and water will be regularly provided to all barangays. Kuryente at tubig para sa lahat ng barangay”.
According to the 2007 Annual Poverty Indicator Survey (APIS) of the NSO, 17.1 percent of all families in the country do not have access to safe drinking water and are forced to get water from unsafe sources such as unprotected well (5.7 percent); developed spring (4.8 percent); undeveloped spring (1.9 percent); river, stream, pond, lake or dam (1.1 percent); rainwater (0.4 percent); tanker truck or peddler (2.3 percent); and other sources (0.8 percent). Access to water is expectedly lower for poor families as the same NSO survey show that 30 percent of the poorest 30 percent of Filipino families do not have access to safe water supply. Continued implementation of privatization has further made access to water a privilege for the affluent – water rates in Metro Manila, for instance, increased by 314 to 643 percent between 2001 and 2009.
Meanwhile, government claims that it has already energized 100 percent of all municipalities/cities and 99 percent of all barangays, yet there are still 30,181 sitios or around 30 percent of the total that do not have electricity. Overall, 27 percent of the country’s potential connections remain unconnected. In the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the country’s poorest region, a huge 62 percent of the total sitios are not energized while 74 percent are unconnected. Power rates increased astronomically due to privatization and deregulation of the power sector under Arroyo’s pet program the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001.
“Metro Manila will be decongested with economic activity growing and spreading to new centers of government business and community in Luzon, in the Visayas and in Mindanao. The Subic-Clark corridor will be the most competitive international service and logistic center in the Southeast Asian Region”.
The idea of decongesting Metro Manila by promoting various growth areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao was detailed by Mrs. Arroyo in her 2006 State of the Nation Address (SONA) when she presented her so-called super-regions concept. This divided the country into four mega-regions – North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle, Metro Luzon Urban Beltway, Central Philippines, and Mindanao plus the so-called Cyber Corridor. The basic strategy, however, did not differ from the old, flawed development strategy of attracting foreign investmentl and catering to the world market by aggressively promoting the country’s rich natural resources and cheap labor. The program was heavy on infrastructure development mainly funded by foreign debt, adding up to the country’s debt burden. But most importantly, it failed to spread out economic activity, much less development, to other regions of the country. Metro Manila, for instance, accounted for 30.9 percent of the GDP in 2000; in 2008 (latest available data), its share even increased to 33.01 percent. On the other hand, the share to GDP of the ARMM, the country’s poorest region remained unchanged at less than 1 percent during the same period. In addition, while overall poverty worsened under Arroyo, the deterioration is more felt in the poorer regions. For instance, poverty incidence in Metro Manila increased by 3.2 percentage points between 2003 and 2006 (survey years for poverty); in ARMM, the increase was 8.5 percentage points.
“Elections will no longer raise a single doubt about their integrity. The electoral process will be completely computerized. Tama na ang manu-manong pagsusuma ng boto”.
The first attempt of the Arroyo administration to implement the automation of the elections in the country was marred by a multibillion-peso corruption scandal. In 2004, the Supreme Court (SC) voided the anomalous P1.2-billion deal between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Mega Pacific citing “reckless disregard of bidding rules and procedure” among other reasons. Poll automation finally pushed through in the May 2010 national elections but with major problems ranging from serious technical glitches and major vulnerabilities and loopholes in the system that cast doubt on the accuracy and intergirty of the resutls. Traditional forms of fraud (vote-buying, harasment) also persisted despite the automated system.
“And long before that, peace will have come to Mindanao. All insurgence shall have turned their swords into plowshares. They will have become so absorbed into one society that the struggles of the past will be just a stuff of legend”.
A just peace in Mindanao and throughout the country is as elusive as ever. The promised final peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at the end of Arroyo’s term did not materialize. Earlier, the Arroyo administration worsened the conflict by negotiating in bad faith — pretending to push, then later withdrawing its support — for the contentious Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008. This triggered fresh skirmishes between government troops and MILF fighters that displaced more than 600,000 people, mostly Moros.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo has totally abandoned the peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Instead, it aggressively implemented the murderous Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) military campaign which escalated urban and rural militaraizaton displacing tens of thousands of civilians and targeted activists and other progressives the regime branded as “communist” for extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance or illegal arrest and detention.
Since 2001, more than 1,000 people have been assassinated, more than 200 have been abducted and remain missing, and hundreds have been illegally arrested and detained such as the Morong 43. Furthermore, the prevailingimpunity for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law carried out by state forces has emboldened political allies of Mrs. Arroyo to commit gruesome crimes such as the Ampatuan massacre in November last year. The deteriorating social conditions brought about by wrong economic policies combined with political repression, abuses, and corruption of the Arroyo administration have only fueled the intensifying armed conflicts in the country.
“The divisive issues generated by EDSA I, II and III will also be just memories shared by friends from every side in those upheavals. Only the lessons of unity, courage and a just closure left alive in their hearts. Dapat wakasan na sa makatarungang paraan ang hidwaang bunsod ng EDSA I, II at III. Higit ang nagbubuklod kaysa naghahati sa atin bilang isang bansa”.
In her nine years as President, Mrs. Arroyo committed serious misdeeds that have isolated her not only from the political groups and forces associated with People Power but more importantly, from ordinary Filipinos. She has heightened the political conflict by repeatedly committing grave abuses; aggressively and blatantly using her vast presidential powers to shun accountability (i.e. derailing four impeachment tries, issuing Executive Order 464 and invoking “executive privilege”, etc.) and get back at her opponents and critics (declaring a state of emergency and imposing Presidential Proclamation 1017, etc.); and constantly maneuvering to consolidate and even prolong her rule (promoting Charter change, declaring Martial Law in Maguindanao, etc.). Up to the very end of her regime, and in an obvious effort to gain political leverage against the incoming administration of President-elect Benigno Aquino III, she continued to stoke conflict through midnight appointments including the Supreme Court Chief Justice. The only just closure to this still raging political conflict is for Mrs. Arroyo to be held accountable for the 2004 Hello Garci electoral fraud that made her clinch the presidency, the numerous corruption issues involving her and her family including the NBN-ZTE scandal and the gross human rights violations committed under her regime.
Sources and references:
- Bayan, The Philippine economic situation: worsening permanent crisis amid the global crunch, November 2008
- Bayan, On the national situation, draft, October 2009
- Office of the President, Inaugural day speech of President Arroyo, June 30, 2004
- Presidential Management Staff (PMS), SONA 2009 Technical Report
- National Statistics Office (NSO), Labor Force Survey (LFS), various rounds
- Department of Education (DepEd), Fact Sheet, Basic Education Statistics
- Department of Budget and Management (DBM)
- Department of Finance (DOF), National government fiscal position
- NSO, Annual Poverty Indicator Survey 2007
- Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) – Regulatory Office
- National Electrification Administration (NEA), Status of electrification as of March 31, 2010
- Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), National government outstanding debt 2000 – 2009
- National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), Gross regional domestic product 2001 and 2008
- NSCB, Philippine poverty statistics
- MILF website
- Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights
Note that since its April 2005 LFS, the National Statistics Office (NSO) started to use a new definition of unemployment, which excluded discouraged workers and those not willing or available for work from the labor force. The redefinition had a net effect of “statistically” reducing the number of unemployed.