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Sunday, April 21, 2024

A Year into the Marcos Jr Presidency: Parties, Foreign Trips, and Sell out of Sovereignty Amid Worsening Poverty, Rights Violations, and Discontent

by the People’s Summit convened by BAYAN Philippines, June 2023

In the past year, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and his family indulged in lavish parties and junket foreign trips while many Filipinos suffered from poverty and hunger brought about by soaring inflation, low wages, and inadequate social services.

Pandemic recovery has been slow and the country’s economic trajectory remains biased in favor of the local and foreign elite, with Marcos continuing the neoliberal policies of his predecessors. This has led to the continued dependence on importation policies to the detriment of local producers and farmers, privatization and liberalization of services which caused rate increases in public utilities, and the suppression of wages and labor rights.

Marcos pivoted closer to the United States as he allowed the building of four more “agreed locations” under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. It paves the way for greater US military intervention and heightened tension in the region. As Marcos barters away our patrimony and sovereignty, he continued Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal counter-insurgency campaign to stifle dissent and consolidate power.

Marcos spoke about the scourge of “fake news” even if his family was the principal beneficiary of a massive disinformation campaign. He whitewashes the bloody legacy of the Martial Law regime of his dictator father by reviving discredited programs like the Masagana99 while peddling false solutions like the Maharlika Investment Fund.

Ahead of the second State of the Nation Address, the Marcos government is embarking on a roadshow founded on deception and exaggeration. But Marcos and his minions cannot sugarcoat the worsening crisis and the growing discontent in the country.

People’s Summit

After the 2022 elections, we initiated the People’s Summit and drafted a People’s Agenda which challenged the new government to address the urgent demands of the country’s basic sectors. We formed six thematic clusters that monitored the performance of the Marcos presidency. Here’s a summary of the cluster reports.

Economy.

Serving concurrently as Department of Agriculture Secretary, Marcos aggressively pursued importation as a solution to high food prices caused by the long neglect of local agricultural production and price manipulation by entrenched cartels.

Such massive importation hurts our local farmers. Not learning from the disastrous effects of the rice liberalization, Marcos now wants to pursue sugar import liberalization. Meanwhile, smuggling of food and agricultural products has remained rampant. The proposed food stamp program reflects Marcos’ penchant for band aid solutions while obscuring the reduction of the budget for emergency cash assistance.

In the face of record-high inflation, Marcos did nothing to address the demand of workers for a substantial wage hike. His priority bills do not include support for land reform or salary increases. Instead of strengthening domestic agriculture and manufacturing to create sustainable jobs and provide people-centered services, utilities and infrastructure, the Marcos Jr regime touts failed and harmful economic liberalization as the magic bullet for development.

Social services. Neglect, inaction, and repression characterized the response of the Marcos government to the legitimate demands of the people for better delivery of social services such as education, health, and housing. The national budget continue to prioritize debt servicing, military spending, and allotment for the intelligence funds of the president and vice-president instead of expanding the scope of social services.

Marcos has not issued a statement about the demand for an increase in salary and benefits for public school teachers and health workers. Instead, the government has ramped up its red-tagging against unions and leaders of people’s organizations.

Good Governance.

Good governance has not been achieved due to the perpetuation of unacceptable practices like failing to crack the whip on corruption and scandals involving Duterte officials; deciding on appointments based on patronage instead of competence; prioritizing confidential and intelligence funds over social services in the national budget; misusing public funds in the guise of a sovereign wealth fund; awarding contracts like the Malampaya deal to favored cronies; downsizing the bureaucracy; and refusing to overhaul the untransparent automated election system and to implement electoral reforms like enactment of an anti-dynasty law. Marcos Jr’s governance is also marked by his coddling of Duterte to prevent the crumbling of the so-called Team Unity. A major indication of this is Marcos Jr’s refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Court in its investigation of Duterte’s crimes against humanity.

Human Rights and Peace.

Policy-wise, there has been no change with the current regime’s approaches to the “drug war,” counterinsurgency program, just and lasting peace, and human rights. In all these markers, the Marcos regime has committed grave human rights violations at rates alarming enough to put it firmly on the path of mirroring, if not surpassing, the notoriety of the Duterte regime. The government has blocked efforts of the International Criminal Court to investigate Duterte’s crimes against humanity. The number of political prisoners has soared with former Senator Leila de Lima remaining in detention. Marcos is also the first president since 1986 who has yet to appoint a panel that will negotiate for peace with the National Democratic Front. Instead of pursuing a just peace, the regime has stepped up the terrorist labeling of revolutionary groups and intensified IHL violations. The massacre of civilians ranks as among the worst atrocities of this regime.

National Sovereignty.

Marcos established closer ties with the US government which allowed the expansion of US military facilities in at least nine sites, frequent and larger joint military exercises, and the reduction of foreign policy into support for US geopolitical agenda in the region. Marcos, who identifies as a climate justice advocate, has renewed the push for mining liberalization, destruction of waterways and their ecosystems through massive reclamation and mega dams, and the push for foreign investments and ownership of our lands (Charter Change) and its various ecosystems.

Freedom of Expression.

There is continuity in the information policies of the Duterte and Marcos governments. The first law signed by Marcos is the SIM Card Registration Act, which was first passed under Duterte and is a tool for mass surveillance. Media killings have persisted with impunity, security forces continue to red-tag independent media outlets, and repressive libel and cyberlibel laws remain in effect. Marcos has not reversed the arbitrary and baseless blocking of 27 websites, which include the accounts of several independent media and people’s organizations, based on the instigation of the National Security Adviser.

The anti-poor, anti-Filipino, and anti-democratic policies of the Marcos government have driven many to resist, organize, and assert the people’s collective rights. Residents of Sibuyan formed a people’s barricade to block mining activities. This was replicated in Brooke’s Point, Palawan. The transport strike by PUV drivers and operators garnered popular support. Activists pushed back against red-tagging and legal persecution. Farmers in Hacienda Tinang stood their ground and successfully fought for the defense of their lands. Retrenched Wyeth-Nestle workers held protest actions against labor rights violations. The Marcos government is desperate in trying to silence dissent but the people are fighting back. ###

Read also: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-61379915

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-61389684

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