Once again, our politicians and their patrons are peddling the lie that the only path to the economic salvation of the Philippines is through more intensified foreign intervention in the economy and a more intensified liberalization of “key industries”. It is almost like routine, from the administration of President Fidel Ramos, to Joseph Estrada, to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Benigno Aquino III, every year or two, the leaders of both Houses of Congress peddle the proposal of changing the economic provisions of the Constitution in order to liberalize the remaining sectors of the economy with “nationalist restrictions.” True enough, faithful to tradition, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte comes out today, a few weeks before the State of the Nation Address and the opening of the last session of Congress, to promote “charter change.”
This begs the question, is “free market” liberalization the only path to economic prosperity? A brief look at the economic history of today’s prosperous and developed nations will prove that the path to economic prosperity is paved by national industrialization with strong basis in state intervention through regulation and subsidies, and protectionism–quite the opposite of the neoliberal dogma most of these countries now peddle and force upon the throats of the people of the “third world.”
From Europe to East Asia to the United States, the historical fact is that developed countries from the age of colonialism to the industrial revolution to the post-World War 2 era up until today, violated principles of the “free market” and neoliberal economics to establish and protect their industries and develop into today’s “first world” economies.
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 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.
Our involvement with the issue of the Chief Justice’s impeachment must not degenerate into taking sides from among the warring political factions of the government, for we must remember that what truly matters is the people’s welfare. Beyond all the cacophony of this political circus, the truth remains that both contending ruling cliques have their own vested agenda. The Aquino and the Arroyo groups have taken advantage and exploited this feud in order to portray themselves as heroes and saints while neither of them genuinely address the basic pursuit of social justice in the country.
To take side with either bully of the schoolyard is not a choice, it is a false dichotomy.
On one hand, if we are truly for judicial integrity and independence, we should welcome the opportunity for the Chief Justice to defend himself against allegations of partiality in an impeachment trial. We should caution against those who portray the impeachment of the Chief Justice as an attack against the Judiciary as an institution and paint several personalities as martyrs. Impeachment per se is not a breach of judicial independence. Impeachment is a mechanism for Congress to fulfill its check-and-balance function as representatives of the people. It is not a mere surplusage in our Constitution. Our Supreme Court Justices, highly esteemed by some of us as they may be, are not infallible demigods who are immune from scrutiny and criticism, and they remain to be public officials who are accountable to the people.