The dishrag calling the dust cloth dirty

January 15, 2012. A few days ago, a paper written by ex-President Gloria Arroyo entitled “It’s the economy, student!” was released to the public. In the piece, the ex-President went on great length to champion her economic programs on one hand and to and bash President Aquino for failing to ‘sustain’ the gains she boasts to have accomplished on the other.

What really is the fundamental difference between economic policies of the two? Nothing. President Aquino merely continues the same economic policies of President Arroyo.

Both Presidents’ economic programs adhere to the same dogma of neoliberal globalization. It’s the economy, all right–the economy of big businessmen, foreign investors and their local counterparts. Whether or not ordinary Filipinos benefit from such economic growth is merely incidental. They have a phrase for it–“trickle down” effect. Numbers that proclaim economic growth are rendered meaningless by the fact that poverty has continued to worsen over the decade, so much that the government had to re-define and lower the poverty threshold. The vision of economic prosperity and survival is entirely dependent on foreign investors and all the economic programs of President Aquino and his predecessors are aligned with the agenda of these monopoly capitalists and their local counterparts.

Both Presidents have pushed for the further privatization of public utilities by selling contracts to roads and other public services to private profiteers. Both administrations have strengthened the deregulation of industries imbued with public interest and rejected clamors to repeal the laws that allow such deregulation, from the oil industry (Oil Deregulation Law) to power generation and distribution (EPIRA) to education (Education Act of 1982), which have resulted to public services that are increasingly out of reach to ordinary Filipinos and are increasingly profitable to private corporations.

Both Presidents have continued to bow down to the whims of big businessmen and investors by refusing to increase wages even as their values have tremendously eroded and while prices of commodities have increased incessantly, making life very difficult for vast numbers of Filipinos.

In the same breath, both Presidents adhere to the same bankrupt structural adjustment programs as conditions to foreign loans, pushed by multinational creditors such as the IMF and World Bank that push for the privatization of public utilities and grave cuts in subsidies to public services such as education and health care, and for the erosion of economic protection in favor of domestic industries. In the end, while Filipinos continue to pay increasing taxes, they receive less services from government as foreign creditors drain public coffers dry. And whatever is left of a semblance of domestic manufacturing and agriculture have continued to collapse in favor of multinational industries and the flood of imports.

Both administrations have perpetually rejected an agenda of genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization as fundamental steps to sustainable job creation and equitable economic progress, and have instead allowed foreign capitalists and investors to siphon off and exploit the country’s rich natural resources such as minerals and lumber for the industries of other countries, and have unapologetically refused to repeal laws that allow such plunder (Mining Act of 1995). In the end, we are permanently and increasingly being denied of our hopeful prospect for national industrialization and we are left with ravaged land more vulnerable than ever to climate change, as we’ve seen repeatedly through the tragedies last year.

Both administrations have nothing to offer the youth but the grim prospect of overseas employment or call center jobs, which both have to contend with the crisis of other countries which have themselves taken steps to restrict foreign hiring and reverse outsourcing.

In desperate attempts to temper poverty and unemployment statistics, both administrations have resorted to cash dole outs, food for work programs and technical re-definitions of poverty and unemployment.

The point is, this is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Or a Big Mac mocking a Champ for being greasy and unhealthy. One will certainly be hard-pressed to find any substantial difference between the two. All Aquino has to show for is his tired rhetoric about anti-corruption, the illusion of which is slowly being eroded through the unmasking of his KKK’s (kamag-anak, kaklase, kaibigan). Once such illusion has been fully eroded, nothing–nothing will set him apart from his much-despised predecessor.

This teaches us a valuable lesson. Whoever sits in Malacañang, as long as they belong to the same mold and the same social class who will adhere to their class interest, will never make a difference no matter how they portray themselves as opposite their predecessors. Our social redemption and liberation from poverty lies not in changing Presidents but in decisively and radically shifting economic and political policies. The problem is, the apparatus for change that some of us believe and hope this could be achieved, legislative and electoral, are both arenas controlled by those who perpetuate the rotten order.

The alternative path, then, for social change is clear.

*In reference the Italian idiom “Cencio che dice mal di straccio” or “A rag speaking ill of a cloth,” in Tagalog, “Trapo inaway ang trapo”

(1) “Student, teacher no different”: Aquino like Arroyo insensitive to rising oil prices
(2) Arroyo and Aquino economics are one and the same
(3) PH economy in 2011 (Part 1): Flawed development plan
(4) PH economy in 2011 (Part 2): The elusive “inclusive growth”

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