By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The country is on the last leg of the presidential campaign but still, there is no indication as to how things would be different if any of the candidates bags the presidency. After suffering for nine years under the Arroyo administration – with the debilitating crisis, worsening joblessness and poverty, its outright puppetry to US interests, rampant corruption, and impunity in human rights violations – the Filipino people want change and an improvement in their lives. However, after two months of campaigning and with one month left till the elections, all the candidates for president have yet to give us an indication of the policy directions of his or her administration.
“Kapag walang korap, walang mahirap,” (If there is no corruption, there would be no poverty) “Sipag at Tiyaga,” (industriousness and perseverance) “Kapag may Erap, may Ginhawa,” (With Erap, there is comfort) “Galing at Talino,” (competence and intelligence) – These slogans of the leading candidates do not give an indication of how they would run the country. At best, these are simplistic solutions to the serious problems confronting the country. These slogans were coined for better recall and not to elucidate.
The candidates fail to articulate even one flagship program. All of them say that they are for quality, accessible education, but with the numerous problems confronting the education system in the country – foremost of which is the serious lack in budget- there is not one single candidate who has elucidated an earth-shaking, radical approach to bring the country’ s education system out of the crisis it is in. Senator NoyNoy Aquino has said that he is for increasing the number of schooling years to equal that of advanced capitalist countries. But that proposal has been put forward before, and with no corresponding increase in the budget, it would merely stretch the already limited resources in the public school system; in the absence of radical measures to improve the quality of education – such as a serious restructuring in the way teachers are trained and paid – it would merely prolong the agony of both students and teachers who struggle to make do with what they have and what they know; with no improvement in the employment situation, parents could not afford another year of paying for the education expenses of their children.
Bulatlat has been attempting to come up with a matrix of the positions of the different candidates on issues affecting the Filipino people – such as the Visiting Forces Agreement and the presence of US troops, the economic policies of deregulation, liberalization and privatization, land reform and social justice, human rights and justice for victims, wage increase and security of tenure of workers and employees, good governance and how to curb corruption – but the dearth in information is hampering our efforts to do so.
Aside from the snippets of information being reported by the dominant media – such as how many among the candidates are for holding the Arroyo government accountable for its crimes against the Filipino people or for the reactivation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant or for charter change – there is practically nothing that would enable the people to make an informed choice. What is being played up in the dominant media are the accusations and rumors being thrown and propagated by the candidates against each other. And these have raised more questions than answers. Nevertheless, these questions are begging for answers.
Let us take the leading candidates.
How would Senator Noynoy Aquino solve the Hacienda Luisita land problem if he wins? His mother Cory was not able to solve it. Would he have the political will to go against the interest of his clan? Would he be willing to dispense justice for the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre? Or would he use his position to shield the hacienda and his clan from its accountabilities and responsibilities? How then could he muster the political will to solve the country’s problems, foremost of which is the problem of landlessness, which affects the majority of the Filipino people and has been keeping the country in a state of backwardness? Given his mediocre performance as representative and senator, how could he solve the country’s problems? Who would be running the government if he wins? How could he solve the systemic corruption if he would be totally dependent on his inner circle of advisers, relatives and supporters to run the government?
Even as all the leading candidates have spent billions in their presidential campaign, Senator Manny Villar has spent the most. Would he try to recoup his expenses if he becomes president? Are the people to believe that Villar would merely consider the money he spent in the campaign as part of his service to the people? Would he not use his position as president to favor his businesses?
Joseph Erap Estrada has been saying that, if he wins, he would continue what he has set out to accomplish as president before it was cut short. However, in the two and a half years that he was president, there were no changes or even glimpses of relief in the people’s lives, especially the poor. In stead, Estrada was preoccupied with answering the scandals that were rocking his administration such as the payoffs and the jueteng (illegal numbers game) scandal, the mansions of his mistresses, and his drinking and gambling habits. If he had shown political will, it was in the total war that he launched against the Bangsa Moro people. If he wins, how would things be different? Would the Filipino people suffer the same?
How would Gilbert Teodoro run the country differently from the much-despised Arroyo government, which is his main patron and supporter? How could he solve corruption when he is relying on the same people who have benefitted from the bribes and corruption scandals involving the Arroyo family? How could he solve the problem of impunity in human rights violations and work for justice for the victims when these happened under his watch as defense secretary? How could he stand against the presence of US troops when he promoted this when he was defense secretary?
There is still nothing clear about the people’s future come May 2010 and beyond. The only thing that appears to have a high probability of occurring is the bungling of the elections by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which would result from its programmed inefficiency. Beyond that, it appears that it would be business as usual for the ruling elite, whichever faction is able to hold the reins of government. As for the people, there is no other recourse but to pursue the struggle for justice, freedom, and democracy. (Bulatlat.com)