By ROCKY NGALOB
BAGUIO CITY — “What good governance?” harped the militant groups spearheaded by Tongtongan Ti Umili (TTU) that picketed outside the venue of a regional forum and a dialogue on open government and the national budget. Armed with placards and paper mache pig face masks, militants voiced out their issues and condemnation of the ‘pork barrel system’ on the recent visit of Department of Budget Management (DBM) secretary Florencio B. Abad, who was the forum’s main speaker.
Branding him the architect of the infamous Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), militant groups demanded for his immediate resignation and held him accountable along with the executive department of corruption through the DAP. Though forbidden to enter the venue of the dialogue which was guarded by a number of armed policemen at the entrance, the militant groups led by TTU conducted a short peaceful program along the street.
During the program, they enumerated why DBM secretary Florencio Abad and the executive department of BS Aquino’s administration must be held liable and resposible for the rise of tuition fees in both public and private schools, abandonment and neglect of millions of calamity victims, unyielding export of migrant labor, rise of military violence in the rural areas of Cordillera and others.
On the state’s neglect of education
DBM secretary on a presentation he made during the dialogue said that the P249.2 billion budget on education helped the Filipino students nationwide from the primary and secondary level.
Contrary to the claims of Abad, a student from Saint Louis University (SLU) Marvin Palasigui and the coordinator National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) said that the practice of an annual ‘Brigada Eskwela’ before the start of every school year is a clear indication that state subsidy for education is still very low.
“The burden of fixing armchairs, cementing school pathways, painting school walls among others which is supposed to be addressed by our national government, is being passed on to the shoulders of our students’ parents”, underscored Palasigui.
Palasigui added further that on the tertiary level tuition and other fees from public and private higher educational institutions continues to skyrocket under the BS Aquino administration.
“The statement of the DBM secretary early this year that only the primary and secondary level of education are considered a right, this makes the tertiary level as a privilege only to the ones who can afford, is an insult to our intellect. This is because merely achieving the secondary level of education would not guarantee food on the table”, Palasigui pointed out.
On the unyielding export of migrant labor
Palasigui added, if students are lucky, achieving a bachelors degree does not guarantee them a job after graduation and many graduates and other professionals are forced to seek employment overseas.
Statistics presented by the Abolish Pork Barrel Movement stated that 4.5 million Filipinos are unemployed and 7.3 million are underemployed. Of Filipinos leaving the Philippines is a 10.6 percent unemployment rate. Due to the alarming growth of unemployment and the relentless increase of the prices of basic commodities and social services in the country, most Filipinos are pressured to go abroad to seek greener pastures, expounded Perry John Mendoza chairperson of TTU and member of the Abolish Pork Barrel Movement.
“As of 2013 there are estimated 12 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) scattered globally. This is likely a 5,031 Filipino workers deployed daily”, said Mendoza.
Mendoza added that the growing number of OFWs clearly indicates that there is an alarming problem in our national employment which needs an immediate solution. “If only DAP was appropriated properly to the basic needs of the Filipino masses then most Filipinos like our nurses and health workers probably would not risk and sacrifice to go overseas and would have probably stayed in our country and even served the needy”, said Mendoza
On privatization health care
As of now, Baguio General Hospital (BGH) and other public hospitals all over the country are threatened to be privatized under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) program of the BS Aquino administration.
According to the Coordinator of Health for the People’s Brigade Marc Mendiola said, “if only funds taken by DAP were appropriately channeled to basic social services like health care, then our public hospitals wound not be subject for privatization”. He added tax payers money was pocketed by BS Aquino and his co-conspirators which could have subsidized health care and supported our health workers in their clamor for increase in salaries.
Last month during annual of celebration of the Nursing Week, health workers decried the state’s lack of concern for the health workers, as they marched down Session road. “If the said dialogue is for good governance then health institutions and their services should be affordable and accessible to the Filipino masses and not privatized and more expensive, sadly its contrary to the claims of Abad”, said Mendiola.
Cordillera, accorded the least budget
With an amount of 33,127,533 million, Cordillera region was once again accorded the least budget among the regions in the 2015 budget proposal filed by the DBM in Congress for approval. Benguet as one of the provinces of the region which supplies most of the demands for temperate vegetables nationwide, clearly needs financial support from the national government will be greatly affected. Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan in an interview said that Cordillerans should now push for regional autonomy to aid the low budget being appropriated by the national government.
However, during the press conference DBM secretary Abad stressed the need for Cordillera to consolidate its people first before pushing for autonomy. He also refuted the plan of converting Cordillera into a special region.
Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) also with the militant groups outside the dialogue earlier expounded their opposition to the pending House Bill 4649 (An Act Establishing Cordillera Autonomous Region). They stressed that the call for Cordillera Autonomy emanates from the grassroots. Autonomy is part of the right to Self Determination to make right the years of injustices and national oppression committed against the indigenous peoples.
The militant groups expressed in their short program the hope to meet the DBM secretary but Abad didn’t entertain them. They dispersed peacefully by mid afternoon. # nordis.net