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No saviour from on high delivers

19 April 2012
After two years, the PNoy government has shown its worth, the people should prepare themselves for the worst and strengthen their ranks…
By: Anzelmo Guerrero, RWJM
The government of President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III (PNoy) has yet to reach its second year in office but already it has exposed itself as the protector of the interests of the elite few and as the very opposite of its election promises.
There are non-stop increases of the prices of oil and other basic goods, increases that hit hardest the poor majority of the population but also hurt the middle class. PNoy stubbornly refuses to give in to the demand of these people to implement a short term solution to alleviate their burdens. Of course, long term measures are not even considered. His actions clearly contradict PNoy’s claim that the people are his ‘boss’ (“kayo po ang boss ko” or you are my boss. …and I will always listen to you).
The current energy crisis in Mindanao best exemplifies the situation. The shortage of electricity supplies in this southern part of the country – which is home to hydroelectric and geothermal plants – has been clear to the Secretary of Energy (Sec. Jose Rene Almendras, a member of the inner circle of PNoy) since 2010. But no serious action has been taken. Worse, the government is insisting the remaining state-owned energy-infrastructures and resources should also be privatized. This inaction almost led to uncontrollable situations when daily, unregulated power outages and drops in voltage (brownouts) occurred on the island, affecting the whole population – or at least those who cannot afford to buy their own generators. Even the owners of business establishments have been severely affected, losing millions of pesos.
Local government officials have been at the receiving end of complaints by such people, leading to studies of the energy shortages. One of those showed that the province of North Cotabato, which is home of the Mt. Apo Geothermal plant, needs about 25 megawatts a day. The plant produces 100 megawatts daily, yet the province is one of the provinces in the island hit hardest by the power outages with   disruptions of 4 to 6 hours a day. This geothermal plant has already been privatized and is owned by the Lopez family (owner of MERALCO, the Manila Electric Company, the Philippines’ largest distributor of electrical power and of broadcasting company ABS-CBN). The worsening situation made the governor of North Cotabato conclude that the energy crisis is artificially created to justify to consumers increases in the price of electricity.
Sec. Almendras has encouraged selected investors to build ‘Independent Power Plants’, non-public power generators to supply the island with the ‘needed’ electricity – but this power comes at a much higher price. Members of the country’s elite, like the wealthy Alcantara and Aboitez dynasties, are reaping enormous profits from peoples’ misery. They own power generators, sold to them very cheap by the government, which they now use to produce their own power which they sell for high prices. It is not surprising that Almendras once worked in the Aboitez family corporation, as the treasurer no less.
The greediness of these investors was moderated (at least for a while) after these developments boomeranged on PNoy. A double digit decrease in his popularity rating according to the latest social survey made his administration backtrack a little, specifically the poorest of the poor expressed dissatisfaction about PNoy in the survey. Especially for a president who came to power on an platform of being ‘pro-people and anti-corruption’ this is not a good sign…
The recently concluded Mindanao Energy Summit was supposed to have been a meeting of representatives of all those affected by the energy crisis but was turned into a show for the president who did not even listen to ideas and proposals of people in Mindanao about short and long term solutions. PNoy had already decided and declared that the people in Mindanao have to bite a bullet – which means paying a higher price of energy or face continuous, long brownouts and power interruptions.
The summit was a insult to the people who had been invited only to be told what to do and be treated like their views are irrelevant. The whole thing was typical of  PNoy’s attitude. Again, he went against his own words and promise that he will listen to the people, for ‘they are his bosses’.
Another scheme which is becoming a trademark of PNoy administration is to short cut democratic processes. The PNoy administration, or at least its allies, has proposed that PNoy declare a State of Emergency situation in Mindanao so as to have emergency powers in order to solve the energy crisis on the island. But Pnoy did not need to declare a  State of Emergency, he just used the ‘summit’ to say what the elite investors would want him to say. It should be recalled that earlier democratic processes have been set aside in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a part of Mindanao with a large muslim population that has a degree of political autonomy. PNoy handpicked the Officer in Charge, the highest official in the Region. This Officer in turn also appointed selected friends to almost all the political positions in the ARMM. The reason given by the government for bypassing  democratic channels was that tough measures were needed to combat electoral fraud and corruption in the region. But so far, nothing much has happened in those areas, not one structural reform was made, even though this was the excuse  for depriving the people in the ARMM of their right to freely elect their representatives.
The dismal economic performance of the country has given another picture of the PNoy administration’s framework for development. It should be clear by now that focusing on anti-graft and corruption alone will not solve the growing poverty of the majority of the population. Mobilizing all the government resources to punish and jail former President Gloria M. Arroyo and impeaching Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, an Arroyo ally, will not bring three meals a day to over half of the population. Worse, giving some money to poor families, the so-called Conditional Cash Transfer, is nothing more than a pittance that will just be a incentive for passivity. The structural impoverishment of the people is perpetuated. All the effort put into impeaching and removing Corona so Arroyo can be prosecuted shows that PNoy and his allies are willing to violate the constitutional check and balances in the different branches of government to attack their enemies.
PNoy and his administration do not want to learn the virtue of patience in the country’s governance. He wants the people to think and acts like him. He is most comfortable in the company of his classmates, friends and gunmates. A good example is is the family of Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad; one family-member is in charge of the Budget Management of the government, one is in charge of the Presidential Management Staff, another is second in command in the Government’s Department of Finance and another one is Chair of the Finance Committee and Chairperson of Energy Committee in the House of Representatives. The financial affairs of the country can be discussed in a family dinner and when PNoy is invited decisions can be made very easily. This kind of mentality will lead to destruction as basic values of honesty and truthfulness in government service are lost. Pnoy’s inner circle knows how to please him, even if it displeases the nation and the people.
The worst is when such mentality is applied to the country’s insurgency situation. Knowing or even saying that the best way to address the insurgency situation is to address its root causes like poverty, inequality and lack of popular sovereignty is not enough. Taking concrete, sincere and transparent measures to address the root causes would be the so-called ‘straight path’ Pnoy’s claims to be taking. But for almost two years now, the PNoy administration has clearly manifested an attitude towards the different revolutionary organizations in the country which is divisive and very alarming.
This situation is very pronounced in the case of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its ongoing peace talks with the PNoy government. After so much hope was created by the protocol breaking event in Tokyo, when PNoy personally met with a MILF representative, little has been done. PNoy and his allies have already decided that the solution to the struggle of the Philippine Muslims, the Bangsamoro, led by the MILF, should be within the framework of the current constitution. They ignore that the MILF in essence has been operating outside the Constitution of the Philippines. An inclusive framework has never been on the mind of PNoy and his advisers.
If and when the MILF protests against this approach, the government can claim to be only defending the constitution. In fact one cannot see much difference between the basis of the Estrada administration for the declaration of “all out war” against the MILF in 2000 and the slogan of “all out justice” of PNoy and its allies. Not a few people think that the peace talks are just very good political and diplomatic camouflage for the preparation of the opposite – war. The only constant and common denominator is the victim – the people. The PNoy administration is steadily purchasing military hardware like Naval ships and F16 fighter jets. This is under the guise of territorial defense, especially of the contested Spratly islands, but these weapons could possibly also be used against those who threaten the territorial integrity of the Republic – by for example pushing for the creation of a ‘Sub-State’ like the MILF is doing…. Massive recruitment and military training of MILF combatants in different areas in and outside ARMM territories and the constant growth of its weapons armory are clear signs that the time for peace talks is fast running out.
The picture of the peace talks between PNoy administration and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is not only discouraging but also fast deteriorating. Again, the main stumbling block is the mutual exclusivity in their frameworks. Choosing and putting in charge of the talks people who know the root causes of the national and democratic struggle led by the CPP or even know people who are on the other side is not an assurance of achieving substantial gains for peace. A struggle against poverty and inequality needs to be genuine and revolutionary, it should not be directed against the insurgents as part of a counter-insurgency strategy. The uplifting of the economic, political and cultural well being of the people can only be done with and by the people themselves. Patience and determination are needed and can be decisive in this kind of struggle.
The more peace is seen as only the actual signing of an agreement between the contending parties, the less it becomes genuine and sustainable. The building and gains of peace should be manifested in battles against poverty and taking steps towards achieving substantial victories over social inequality in the country. And these developments can best be seen in the qualitative changes in the peoples’ lives. The reward and fruits of such a peace-process are more on the journey rather than in its nominal end and the signing of an agreement. People’s empowerment is strengthened in the process of improving people’s welfare and well being and this should be the focus and end-view of both negotiating panels and their principals.
Both the PNoy administration and the CPP leadership don’t show positive signs for achieving genuine and substantial peace. They both cannot see that a framework based on the people’s interests is the only genuine and sustainable framework for achieving peace in the country. They are both blind to the small gains and victories made in a community-based and people- centered peace-process because they are more concerned with outmaneuvering each-other. While both of them are talking peace, the people should rather prepare for the outbreak of a war, increase their gains and choose and build their own government.
It has been almost two years since PNoy was elected by a majority of the people but he has already manifested a clear bias for the elite in the country and a willingness to serve the interests of global capital. Just like his mother, President Corazon C. Aquino, who refused to use her vast powers, vested on her by the people who ousted the dictator Marcos, for the people’s interests. She stubbornly honored foreign debts incurred by Marcos and his cronies and made the people pay for them. The development of the country is coming full circle with PNoy but people have shown that they are refusing to accept his kind of subtle dictatorship of the so-called popular President. They are now in the process of canceling this kind of social contract. But they have to make their move fast. The revolutionary organizations have the central role to play in leading the path towards revolutionary solutions for and with the people.

After two years, the PNoy government has shown its worth, the people should prepare themselves for the worst and strengthen their ranks…

15 April 2012

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