CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Anakpawis party-list said that more than a century after Andres Bonifacio led the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonialism, the basic sectors in the country remained poor, oppressed and exploited by foreigners and rich and powerful elite.
“Hindi pa rin nakakamit sa bansa ang kalayaang minithi ni Bonifacio para sa mamamayang Pilipino, kung kaya, hanggang ngayon ay nakikibaka ang mga manggagawa, magsasaka, maralitang tagalungsod at iba pang sektor para sa mga pundamental na reporma” (Bonifacio’s aspiration for the Filipino people is yet to be achieved; until now, the workers, farmers, urban poor and other sectors continue to struggle for fundamental reforms), Anakpawis Representative Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap said in a statement.
Hicap also stressed that the present-day Filipino workers live practically the same way as did the “polistas,” Filipinos who were subjected by the Spanish colonialists to “polo y servicio” or forced labor to construct buildings, infrastructures, ships and other needs of the colonial government.
Anakpawis claimed that the present levels of wages could not even support the ordinary worker to return to his job the next day as it would not even be enough to provide for his family’s needs.
“Ang P481 kada araw na minimum wage ay walang debateng kulang para sa manggagawang Pilipino at kanyang pamilya, kaya para makabalik siya sa trabaho, magtitipid ang pamilya sa pagkain, pangangailangang medikal at iba pa, o kaya naman ay mangungutang siya, ang kalagayang ito ay walang pinag-iba sa alipin,” (There is no debate that the P481 minimum wage is inadequate for the Filipino workers and their family; to be able to return to work, they would spend less on food, medical and other needs, or they would borrow money, a predicament very much akin to that of a slave), Hicap said.
Anakpawis is pushing for the enactment of House Bill No. 253 or the P125 minimum wage hike, across the regional wage boards and nationwide, and House Bill No. 3015 that pushes for a P6,000 increase in monthly salary of government employees.
Anakpawis is also backing the House Bill 5401 or the Personal Income Tax Reform that proposes exemption for those earning P33,000 monthly and House Bill No. 5842 that pushes for a P2,000 increase in pension of members of Social Security System (SSS) filed by Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares.
Aquino has expressed opposition to the tax reform bill, while the increase in pension is only waiting for his affirmation.
“Panahon pa ng lider-manggagawa si Ka Crispin Beltran ang P125 wage hike, across the board, nationwide, pero inuuna pa ni Aquino ang Salary Standardization Law of 2015 kung saan tataas ang sahod ng presidente mula P120,000 tungong kulang-kulang P161,000 sa 2016. Kinokontra niya rin ang tax reform which is widely supported by the public at natutulog sa opisina niya ang proposal na itaas ang pension ng SSS members,” (The P125 wage hike bill was filed since the term of the late labor leader Crispin Beltran, but Aquino is more excited about his more than P40,000 salary increase in 2016; Aquino is also opposing the tax reform which is widely supported by the public and the increase in pension of SSS members is gathering dust at his office), Hicap said.
Anakpawis also opposed Aquino’s subservience to foreign dictates such as keeping the minimum wages to low levels. Aquino has in fact said in his last state of the nation address that low levels of wages are “advantageous” for the country.
“Mabuti sa mga dayuhang negosyante ang mababang sahod, pero pahirap ito sa mga manggagawang Pilipino, kaya mismong si Aquino ang nagbubuking sa sarili niya na ang tunay niyang boss ay mga mayayaman at dayuhan, hindi ang mahihirap na Pilipino” (Low wages are attractive to foreign business, but it is detrimental to the Filipino workers; Aquino has exposed himself that his real bosses are the rich and foreign businesses, not the poor Filipinos), Hicap said.
Anakpawis has also stressed that Aquino’s promotion of special economic zones (SEZs) literally makes Filipino workers modern slaves, oppressed and exploited by foreign monopoly.
In these areas, the rights of workers to form unions, wage strikes, express grievances and demand for wage increases are totally trampled upon as these zones adhere to the “no union, no strike” policy.
Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) data show that in 2012, there were 277 operating economic zones even as 108 more were proclaimed duly certified to operate as such.
In 2010, the number of Filipinos working in these areas has reached 735,000.
“Ang mga negosyante sa mga eco-zones ay pawang mga dayuhan tulad ng Amerikano, Hapon, pati Intsik, at nakikinabang ito sa napakalaking tubo bunga ng napakabababang sahod ng mga manggagawang Pilipino, dagdag pa ang tadtad na incentives tulad ng mga tax holiday at tax exemption” (Businesses in eco-zones are usually operated by Americans, Japanese, even Chinese, and they rake gigantic profits due to low wages of Filipino workers, while enjoying countless incentives such as tax holidays and tax exemptions), Hicap said.
“Kaya si Aquino, kapag interes ng dayuhan ay todo-bigay, ngunit kung interes na ng mamamayan ay todong kontra ito, kaya siya ang tagapamandila ng pang-aalipin ng dayuhan sa Pilipino” (When it comes to the interes of foreign businesses, Aquino is very much obliging, when it concerns the interest of the people, he totally opposes; he clearly champions the modern-day slavery of Filipinos), Hicap said.
Anakpawis asserts that the Philippine Revolution aimed to confiscate friar lands and haciendas or vast tracts agricultural land controlled by the Spanish colonialists and collaborating local principalia class.
At present, many farmers decry that the past and present agrarian reform programs did not realize genuine land reform, but only served as an instrument for the preservation of landlords’ control over the land. Anakpawis is basing its claim to a data by Land Bank of the Philippines that after nearly three decades of implementation of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) since 1988, only 9.7% of the farmer-beneficiaries were able to fully pay amortization.
“Lumalang siyam sa kada sampung magsasaka ang walang sariling lupa. Sa ating agrikultural na bansa, ang kawalang lupa sa malawak na kanayunan ay walang ibang kahulugan kundi kahirapan, kagutuman at kamatayan,” (It has worsened to as 9 out 10 farmers do not have lands. In our country that is agricultural, landlessness in an enormous countryside could only mean poverty, hunger and death) Hicap said.
Hicap cited the issue of Hacienda Luisita, where Aquino’s family continues to control over thousands of hectares of land.
Despite the landmark Supreme Court decision in 2012 that Hacienda Luisita lands should be distributed to the farm workers, the Aquino administration has sabotaged this through the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) bogus land distribution. At present, aside from the hundreds of hectares of land seized by the Cojuangco-Aquino-controlled Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco), a solar power project is being constructed on a 50-hectare land which is a subject of a petition of revocation of a conversion order issued by DAR.
“Kung noong panahon ng Kastila ay nilalatigo ang mga magsasaka para hindi tumigil sa kakatrabaho sa lupa, sa Hacienda Luisita, pinapatay ang mga magsasaka at mamamayang nakibaka para sa karapatan sa lupa, tulad ng mga biktima sa Hacienda Luisita Massacre at serye ng extra-judicial killings na sumunod rito,” (During the Spanish colonial times, farmers were being whipped to continue working on the land, in Hacienda Luisita, farmers and their supporters who fight for their rights to land are being killed such as the victims of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre and the series of extra-judicial killings that followed), Hicap said.
Anakpawis said that agricultural lands in the country are reserved by the past and present regimes not for the benefit of the Filipino people but for foreign interests.
It has been historical fact that the hacienda formations in the countryside operated under export-orientation such as haciendas of sugarcane in Central Luzon and Negros, coconut in Quezon, Bicol and Eastern Visayas, banana, pineapple and other fruit plantation in Mindanao and at present, the increasing expansion of oil palm plantation in Palawan, Visayas and Mindanao.
In Mindanao, about 500,000 hectares or 12% of the island’s agricultural land are covered by plantations that cultivate export products. The Aquino administration’s oil palm industry roadmap is also planning to convert 1 million hectares of land for oil palm plantation.
“Dahil ang mismong agrikultura ay nagsisilbi sa interes ng dayuhan, kongkreto nating nararanasan ang malawakang kagutuman sa bansa dahil nawawala na ang mga palayan, gulayan at iba pang sakahan natin para sa pagkain,” (As agriculture is intended to serve foreign interests, we are forced to endure widespread hunger as our productive rice lands, vegetable and other farms for our food requirements are being wiped out), Hicap said.
Anakpawis is pushing for the enactment of House Bill No. 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) that proposes free land distribution to poor farmers.
Anakpawis is firm that the past and present Aquino administration have opposed the realization of genuine land reform in the countryside and the establishment of a nationalist industrialization as backbones of real national and economic development. Instead, they adhered to the neo-liberal policies of privatization, deregulation and liberalization.
With no opportunities for Filipinos in the countryside as they were displaced from their lands, they are being driven to migrate to the urban centers with the hope of finding sources of livelihood. The government reported that 27% or 4.6 million families, roughly 23 million families live below the poverty treshold of P15,057 per month or P501 per day.
“Conservative pa ang datos ng gubyerno dahil itinuturing lang na poor kung ang pamilya ay nabubuhay nang mas mababa sa P500 kada araw, na kung P550 o P600 ay hindi na ito mahirap, kaya siguradong mas malaki pa ito,” (Government data is conservative as it considers only those living under P500 as poor, as if families living with P550 or P600 are already not poor), Hicap said.
Anakpawis said that the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) family income and expenditure survey (FIES) of 2012 is more believable as this revealed that 55% or 11.7 million of the total 21.4 million families have an average income of P222 per day.
The group said that this very financial status of Filipino families constrain them to reside in urban poor communities as they prioritize to spend on food and other basic needs.
“Nagtitiis ang mga mahihirap na pamilya sa mga urban poor communities, dahil nga wala silang pang-upa sa mga mas maayos na bahay, ngunit, biktima naman sila ng mga demolisyon dahil isinusulong ni Aquino ang privatization ng mga public lands at ibinebenta ito sa mga malalaking negosyante at dayuhan,” (The poor families endure living in urban poor communities as they have no capacity to rent houses, but they fall victims to violent demolitions as Aquino is privatizing public lands and selling them to big and foreign businesses), Hicap said.
Anakpawis said demolition of urban poor communities is symptomatic of the neo-liberal policy to privatize government lands in Metro Manila and raise up the rates of real estate thorough infrastructure projects and promotion of commercial-business districts.
Common victims of demolitions are those communities adjacent or near infrastructure projects such as highways and roads.
“Itinuturing ni Aquino na insekto ang mga urban poor na winawalis-walis lang para makapasok ang mga business ventures ng mga malalaki at foreign investors, itinatapon ang mga mahihirap sa labas ng Metro Manila,” (Aquino treats the urban poor like insects that could be mercilessly displaced to facilitate the entry of business ventures of big and foreign investors, they are relocated outside Metro Manila) Hicap said.
Anakpawis urged that the sacrifice and inspiration of Andres Bonifacio should always be commemorated as he courageously opposed the oppression and exploitation of Filipinos, especially by foreign countries.
The present Philippine society is comparable to the Spanish colonial times, when it is now the US, a global superpower, that dictates the policies of poor countries, and ruling class that used to be Spanish colonialists themselves were only replaced by those who belonged to the then-principalia class, which is now substituted by big comprador and landlord classes, the likes of the Cojuangco-Aquino family.
“Wala namang nagbago mula sa panahon ni Bonifacio hanggang sa ngayon, api at alipin pa rin ang Pilipino, ang mga traydor noon sa bayan ay pinalitan lang ng mga nakaupo sa gubyerno, at ang tunay na amo nila ay ang imperyalismong US,” (There is no fundamental difference between Bonifacio’s time and the present, the Filipinos remain oppressed and enslaved, the traitors during his time were replaced by those in government positions, their true boss is US imperialism,) Hicap said.