MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The first 100 days of the Aquino government were marked by the continuation of many of the policies of previous governments, the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation and the failure to make any headway in the prosecution of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
In his Ulat sa Bayan, President Benigno Aquino III again did not address crucial issues such as human rights violations, the prosecution of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her cohorts, land reform, migrants welfare and the plight of other marginalized sectors. The 20-minute speech was big on rhetoric but falls short of actual meaningful results.
Aquino’s superficial efforts to make himself appear different from Arroyo cannot cover-up the lack of any meaningful reforms in his government. He gets failing marks in many key areas of governance such as justice, human rights, economic reform and foreign policy.
The Aquino government finds comfort in survey results which it believes are unusually high. History however has shown that even the most optimistic survey results are fleeting if there are no fundamental changes in place. Former presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada during their first 100 days had higher scores than Aquino but both ended up as very unpopular regimes.
The president’s first 100 days saw the following developments:
1. The failure to hold Arroyo and her cohorts accountable for gross corruption, human rights violations, and sell-out of national interests. Despite the formation of the so-called Truth Commission, no charges have been filed by the Aquino government against the former president. The TC in fact has slowed down the process of accountability. Even the Department of Justice cannot conduct its own investigations because it will have to defer to the TC. Aquino has gone after some tax-evaders and over-paid officials of the past government, but it has miserable failed to make any headway against GMA.
2. Human rights violations continue with impunity throughout the country. There are now 16 activists who have become victims of extrajudicial killings during Aquino’s first 100 days. There are continuing reports of harassment, abductions, illegal arrests, trumped up charges and torture aimed at critics of government. There have been no charges filed against the known human rights violators of the Arroyo regime. The Aquino government, despite the abuses of the past, has continued the bloody counter-insurgency policy of its predecessor.
3. Aquino has continued the failed neo-liberal economic policies of past governments. Like his predecessors, Aquino has relied on foreign investments, foreign loans and OFW remittances to prop up the ailing economy. He has not shown any plan for genuine land reform and national industrialization as basic requirements for national development. Aquino has slashed the budget for social services (education, health) and plans to impose added burdens on the people such as the MRT fare hike. He has made “conditional cash transfer” (read: dole-out) as the centerpiece program in addressing, nay covering up poverty.
4. The current government has remained subservient to foreign dictates. It has not delivered on its promise of reviewing the VFA. It has expressed unqualified support for the US war on terror and US intervention in Southeast Asia. It has not protested the indefinite stay of US troops in Mindanao.
5. The Aquino government is wracked by internal squabbles and intensifying rifts between different reactionary factions. These warring factions out to corner the spoils of power have severely hampered the functions of government. Aquino remains indecisive in addressing this reality as evidenced by his stubborn refusal to fire his friend and shooting-buddy DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno.
With the current state of affairs, the people must rely on their own strengths, initiatives and struggles in achieving justice and meaningful change.