Unmasking, Unmaking Aquino

Of thieves and buffoons, Noynoy Aquino’s depiction rather falls short in illustrating an unpopular public official. But intersperse thieves and clowns with rabid dogs and marionettes, and bring in ample deceit. Voila, the Philippine president comes to flesh.

Not at all an unkind caricature, if one discerns events alongside the guts and wisdom of the poor and the oppressed, who bear the brunt of Aquino’s agenda. Indeed, such grotesque approximation of Aquino’s repute spells out the people’s censure of his anti-national, anti-people, and vicious regime.

And this dissent has developed into intensified clamors for Aquino’s ouster. In Bicol alone, the number of folks expressing outrage towards Noynoy continues to swell toward tens of thousands, with frequent mobilizations linking scores of the region’s protest centers. Theft of public funds, skyrocketing prices of goods and services, widespread loss of employment and livelihoods, and militarization are only a few of the slogans’ uproars. Add to these the glaring ineptitude displayed by Aquino in taking the reins while he directs vital tasks such as leading his government to make ready for natural disasters and recover from them, neglect of the migrant workers’ plights, and tragically mishandling the Mamasapano operation. More than four years under Aquino’s rule had him committing grave crimes and incompetence against the people. It is therefore prudent to expect that Aquino’s further criminality will come the people’s way before he ends his term, is forced to resign, or is expelled from his palace.

And rightly so, it is just and beneficial for a beleaguered nation that the people persevere in causing the overthrow of a despised president and his regime.

While the many charges against Aquino spew in staccato manner – from being king of pork to war freak to dictator – it is a matter of methodization that these be synthesized in order to expose the systemic, structured aggression behind the Philippine president’s seemingly obtuse, freaky portrayal. The grounds for Aquino’s ouster may be summed up into a handful, and any one reason is sound enough.

  1. Imposition of Neoliberal Policies

The country is mired in being backward, agrarian, and pre-industrial because Aquino rejects the program for a genuinely nationalist industrialization, which would establish a progressive and self-reliant economy. The president undermines local industries and instead steers his government to submit to the neoliberal policies of the US, impairing the country’s authentic economic advance by remaining import-dependent and export-oriented.

Aquino’s obedience to neoliberal designs includes every aspect of the economy being geared to fall for the Globalization mantra, with policymakers appealing to the “competitiveness” (nothing more than cheap raw materials and cheap labor) of the local market. But what is Globalization if nothing but the imposition of unjust trade relations by highly-armed and by far industrialized but crisis-stricken nations (in this case the US) to dominate and control the host country’s backward economy?

With neoliberalism, Aquino abandons state responsibility and auctions away public utilities and services to big foreign capitalists and their local cohorts, particularly the Cojuangco-Aquino clan and the presidential clique. From mining to public transportation, to energy and healthcare, Aquino’s Public-Private Partnership scheme unfolds a bonanza of the country’s assets for his family, business partners, and patrons.  And so, just as Albay Electric Cooperative has become Danding Cojuangco’s cash machine, so will the rest of the region’s electric distributors be up for grabs to profiteers, with Cojuangco clinching the lion’s share. And similarly, just as the Philippine Orthopaedic Hospital has been allocated to boost Henry Sy’s profiteering, so too will 71 other public hospitals be squeezed of profit by big businesses, including the Bicol Medical Center and the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital.

Even constitutional revisions being pushed by pork barrel-bolstered allies of Aquino in Congress likewise accede to neoliberal policies. Efforts to alter the 1986 Charter ultimately intend to pave the way for the unrestricted foreign ownership of lands and businesses in the country. This of course principally favors the US, being the Philippines’ major power broker. What may be viewed as US “recolonization” aims to restore economic provisions in the constitution to the status of the 1946 Parity Rights Amendment and the 1955 Laurel-Langley Agreement, which allowed the US limitless exploitation of the country’s riches, and access to 100 percent ownership in all areas of the economy.

  1. Massive Poverty and Social Injustice

Without genuine industrialization and agrarian reform, the people are driven to be enslaved by unjust wages and conditions servicing landlords, big compradors, bureaucrat capitalists, and big foreign businesses. Millions are forced to leave their homes and families and work overseas under cruel circumstances. Even more, tens of millions go hungry, are without employment, evicted from their jobs, without homes, squatters in their own country, abandoned calamity victims, deprived of social services, and denied of their democratic rights.

Particularly, millions of peasants are impoverished as they are either stripped of their lands, or evicted from their homes. In Bicol alone, the bogus CARP and CARP-ER continue to dispossess farmers of their lands through widespread cancellations of Certificates of Land Transfer, Certificates of Land Ownership Award, and Emancipation Patents. More so, the Php83 Billion Coco Levy Funds and assets brought about by forced taxation from coconut farmers during the Marcos dictatorial regime are now being denied just transfer to their rightful owners. Aquino’s order to privatize said funds and assets stirs the landlord-comprador in him to plunder farmers’ funds and bestow these for profit to the presidential clique.

Equally deplorable is that whatever meager income the people toil for, these are drained off to skyrocketing prices of goods and commodities, services, and to high taxes that fill the pockets of a corrupt government. The glorified 7% average increase in the national economy simply means the increase in wealth of big compradors, landlords, bureaucrat capitalists, and their foreign business partners. Poverty alleviation programs such as the 4Ps, Cash for Work, and other conditional cash transfer plans prove to be empty and corrupt. Poverty has become more and more extensive as latest surveys present that 7 out of 10 Filipinos consider themselves poor.

  1. Absolute Puppetry and Surrender of National Sovereignty to US Imperialism

Prolonged economic crisis plaguing the US economy has drawn its policymakers’ attention to the Asia-Pacific in the hope of attaining recovery from the region’s market for US surplus goods and capital. The region is economically significant for the US, having the world’s three largest economies and the three largest countries by population. Control of Asia-Pacific means authority over the trade that passes through the region, wherein one-third of the world’s bulk cargo and two-thirds of oil shipments pass. Include also the commerce that transacts in the region’s nine of the world’s 10 largest ports. Thus, the US has projected having shifted 60% of its overseas military naval and air assets to the region by 2020. Unfortunately for the Philippines, the US sees the country as its strategic forward military base in securing US economic interests towards its so-called “New Pacific Century” and “Pacific Pivot”.

And behold, Aquino displays his brazen puppetry to US imperialism as he surrenders Philippine sovereignty to his foreign master.  In blatant disregard of the 1987 Constitution, he unequivocally welcomes US intensification of its military presence in the country in order for the US to establish military supremacy in the region. Instead of abrogating interventionist military pacts that the Philippines has entered with the US such as the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, Aquino further submits the country to US hegemony as he signed with the US the unconstitutional Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Under this agreement, Aquino has allowed the US military complete freedom over the lands, seas, and airspace of the country for US war exercises and intelligence operations. The whole of the Philippines has become a virtual military base for the US as EDCA offers any of the Philippine military camps for US utilization, and may even provide for new areas that the US targets for exploitation. One case in point is the erstwhile Long Range Navigation transmitting station in Panay Island in Bagamanoc, Catanduanes that the US Navy occupied during the 1950’s – 1970’s. Prompted by EDCA, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang, along with Catanduanes governor and Regional Peace and Order Council chairperson Araceli Wong, identified the facility for another US tenure.

Needless to say, US military presence has only brought about misfortunes for the Filipino people. Philippine history bewails the deaths of 1.4 million Filipinos by American colonizers during the Filipino-American War. Abuses against women and children by American soldiers have been documented during the era of pre-1991 US military bases, including corruption of the people’s culture through proliferation of illegal drugs and prostitution, and other abuses against ordinary citizens. Under the VFA period, a Filipina was raped by US Marine Daniel Smith. Another case, Jennifer Laude’s murder by another US marine, is being downplayed as a mere gender issue rather than a heinous crime against a Filipino citizen. Recently in Mamasapano, damning evidences point to the US military employing the Philippine National Police Special Action Force as pawns in its so-called “war against terrorism”. In view of these transgressions, it shall be to Aquino’s charge that he allows further US military intervention and consequent crimes to prevail.

  1. Rotten and Anti-people Politics

Under the US-Aquino regime, the vast majority of the people are powerless. Those who are genuine representatives of the people are suppressed in politics in all manners and are prevented from running the government. Instead, Aquino upholds the dominance of his class in a state run by landlords and big businessmen, and encourages the thriving of political dynasties.

Aquino’s government of the few intensifies the rotten and anti-people politics, and engages in utmost corruption that runs through the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Correspondingly, military and police factions that are maintained by the ruling clique likewise enjoy their share of the loot from blown up military and police appropriations.

The US-Aquino regime has aggravated the societal problem that is bureaucrat capitalism, otherwise known as the system of exploiting state privilege and power in order to benefit big business interests specifically of those allied with the ruling faction. Aquino trots at the forefront of corruption as the pork barrel king, arbitrarily disbursing public funds in lump sums to his cabinet members, party mates, and family members in violation of the constitutional stipulation of Congress’ approval. This presidential clique is yet more tied up to anomalous distributions of pork barrel funds, business and infrastructure contracts under the Public-Private Partnership scheme, conditional cash transfer funds, rehabilitation funds for calamity victims, and so on. Despite widespread outrage over the pork barrel system, the president has allowed the 2015 national budget to be still-pork laden, and by an increase at that. Progressive lawmakers exposed that pork barrel allocations for congressmen is up by 32-percent from P20.76 billion ($461.7 M) in 2014 to P27.39 billion ($609.2 M) in 2015.

Congruent to his regime’s immorality, Aquino churns out his empty “Daang Matuwid” (Righteous Path) mantra in order to conceal the grand-scale corruption by his pork barrel kingpins, smuggling-lords, and business contract-fixers, and deflect attacks against him by persecuting those fellow bureaucrat capitalists who are political rivals. Facilitating this deception is the army of paid media practitioners specifically tasked to parry condemnations and launch counterattacks. Finally, the landlord-comprador class’ foremost agent attempts to appeal to the people with his “Kayo ang Boss ko” (You are my bosses) rhetoric while keeping up with his anti-national and anti-people actions and policies.

  1. Fascism and Brutality

Instead of pursuing peace with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the aim of resolving the roots of armed opposition of the people, the US-Aquino regime instead inflicts various forms of fascism upon the people. The counter-insurgency campaign that is Oplan Bayanihan, as designed in accordance with the US Counterinsurgency Guide of 2009, targets both the legal progressive forces and revolutionary forces as well. It has resulted in massive armed and psywar attacks of communities by the AFP and the PNP, including those damaged by natural calamities.

The regime carries on with extra-judicial killings, abductions and enforced disappearances of activists, ordinary citizens, and those accused of being New People’s Army members, and many other violations of human rights in the countryside and the cities. The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ incessant militarization and brutal operations result to widespread human rights violations, loss of livelihoods, disruption of production, and forced evacuations of communities of peasants, settlers, and indigenous peoples.

The people of Mindanao suffer the main brunt of Oplan Bayanihan, being its priority area since 2014, and enduring attacks by around 50-60% of total AFP combat strength, reinforced by PNP and paramilitary forces. Meanwhile, Bicol provinces are not spared. Continuing militarization hounds the region, particularly Sorsogon, Masbate, Albay, and Camarines Sur.

After-Aquino Prospects

A nation with Aquino ousted indicates a people’s determination to end their current oppression and exploitation, and bring to justice a liable regime. However, there are those who hesitate to take part in this just struggle, having been disenchanted with the failed promises of previous regime changes that merely replaced personalities into the same social system. Nonetheless, such anxiety underscores the people’s desire to remove Aquino from office, and struggle to achieve genuine change for majority of the Filipinos who are poor and oppressed. After Aquino, the people do not want another political system dominated and ruled by the greedy elite and political dynasties that are servile to big foreign business interests.

Hence, the country could march from the US-Aquino regime to a transition council for unity, accountability, and reform. This provisional body would be composed of representatives of the various groups and forces involved in Aquino’s ouster and would also include personalities recognized for their integrity and competence. More importantly, the transition council’s primary task is to run the affairs of the state while initiating immediate reforms in preparation for a more permanent government.

A caveat: to prevent it from becoming merely another hail of rhetoric, this council must have the widest support and participation of the public. Either empty talk, or a mutation towards a military junta will be the transition council’s fate if it does not draw strong political backing from the people, and would instead be more dependent on the armed forces.

But rather than remaining defeated and allowing Aquino’s ills to persist, the impetus of a people triumphing over Aquino’s ouster thrusts them to gladly take hold of governance – a promise both EDSA 1 & 2 were bereft of. Indeed, the transition council would call for the people will as it ensures peace and order and continued government services. Likewise, the people will provide crucial support to the council when it introduces key economic policies that would later on guarantee food sufficiency, national industrialization, and higher incomes for the poor and middle class. Still more, how else could the transition council clean up the Commission on Elections and put in order clean and credible elections, or clean up the judiciary to ensure the accountability of the Aquino regime’s crimes, if not through the same political force that accomplished a massive endeavour as Aquino’s ouster? This same people power will keep a close watch on a constitutional change, if needed. This same people power will urge the rest of the country to support peace negotiations with various armed groups.

Unmaking Aquino is not about merely ousting Aquino after all. Beyond this, it puts forward a historic opportunity for the people to decisively resolve their worsening circumstances. Winning the fight to oust Aquino is bringing the Filipino people a step closer to liberating themselves from an exploitative and oppressive social system, and collectively marching towards the threshold of a genuinely independent, just, and progressive nation.

Dan Balucio
Head, Popular Struggle Committee (PSC)