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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The elephant in the room

By Calixto V. Chikiamco

The twenty-first century’s elephant in the room is not population growth, food security, or joblessness. It’s growing income inequality. The Occupy Wall Street protests dramatically called attention to this problem. The wide income disparity between the 99% of the US population and the 1% who control the wealth is bringing a sense of unfairness about the system and with it rising social tensions.

Note that the cry of the Occupy Wall Street protesters is not about joblessness, but unfairness, directed particularly at finance capitalists, whom the people see as privatizing gains and socializing losses.

That the Occupy Wall Street protests have spread globally, if unevenly and fitfully, is not surprising because economists will tell you that growing income inequality is a problem not only in the United States, but almost everywhere else, including booming China and Brazil.

The GINI coefficient (a measure of inequality, with 1 being most unequal and 0 most equal) has worsened for many countries in recent decades. In “socialist” China, the GINI coefficient has gone from .3 a quarter century ago to nearly .5 today, comparable to the Philippines and Russia, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Even egalitarian Scandanavian countries have seen a deterioration in their GINI coefficients, indicating that factors other than culture or national characteristics are at play.

In the Philippines, the GINI coefficient was at .44 in 1986; it’s nearly the same 23 years later. The top 1% of families earn the equivalent of the bottom 30%.

The causes of growing income inequality are due to several factors. One is technology. New communications technology allows “superstars,” whether they be celebrity actors like Tom Cruise or celebrity medical doctors, to reach greater audiences and bigger markets, while the non-celebrities fight over the crumbs. Moreover, the new industries, particularly in ICT, have a winner-take-all characteristic. For example, Microsoft has an unrivaled dominance in PC operating systems while Google enjoys the same position in search.

However, technology has had the most adverse impact on low skilled labor, whose jobs have been eliminated by automation or outsourced to other countries.

Another factor is the movement away from progressive taxation toward “flatter” taxes. Competition among nations to attract investors and highly talented individuals have led governments to offer flatter, less progressive taxes.

Unequal access to education is also a contributing factor to greater income inequality, especially since the pay disparity between high school graduates and college graduates has been increasing, perhaps due to the impact of technology and the greater pool of low-skilled workers caused by migration and globalization.

Whatever the causes, income inequality is now as great as it had been in the United States and Europe before World War II, a period characterized by depression, social instability, and political conflict. For this reason, Karl Marx is making a comeback in intellectual circles, a fact no less observed by business magazines like the Economistand Bloomberg Businessweek. Not the Marx of the withering away of the state or socialist planning or the dictatorship of the proletariat -- because all of that proved incorrect with the totalitarianism and bankruptcy of the former Soviet Union and other socialist states -- but the Marx who saw the internal contradictions of capitalism.

According to Marx, the primary contradiction of capitalism is the contradiction between the social character of production and the private appropriation of the fruits of that production. Simply stated, capitalism leads to the pauperization of the many and the enrichment of the few, which in turn leads to a crisis of overproduction because the masses cannot afford the goods that capitalism must keep on producing.

This is the situation we are seeing today: growing income inequality and massive joblessness led to low consumer spending and oversupply of capital, which lead to low growth and high unemployment, which lead to....you get the picture.

John Maynard Keynes provided a solution to this contradiction by having the state do “tax and spend” policies. If the economy suffers from low consumer demand, the state can do deficit spending -- tax the future to stimulate demand now.

Aside from the political economy problems with this solution (lobbyists steering government spending toward special interest projects and the curtailment of individual liberty by the state, which Frederick August von Hayek calls the Road to Serfdom), the present heavy indebtedness of governments leave little wiggle room to do deficit spending. The highly developed financial markets and informed consumers also act as a brake to government spending because higher interest rates negate the expansionary effect of more government spending, and more informed consumers adjust their behavior in anticipation of higher taxes in the future.

On the other hand, wars as economic stimulus are oversold; Afghanistan and Iraq were economically losing propositions to the US.

There’s another problem in the background: government investment spending in the West may be reaching diminishing returns. According to Tyler Cohen, who’s described as one of the most influential economic thinkers in the US today, the easy gains from investing in education, land, and technology (the internet increases utility but not GDP) in the US are gone. Government spending may not increase GDP much or create job growth. We are facing the Great Stagnation, says Cohen.

The solution to the West’s contradiction, therefore, may lie in investing in developing countries where there’s still plenty of unutilized land and labor and the marginal productivity of capital is still very high. By raising the incomes of developing countries, or lessening the income gap between developed and developing countries through investment, the West may gain by selling more goods and services to increasingly affluent consumers in those countries. This tackles the problems of depressed markets and low marginal productivity of capital in the West, and income disparity between developing and developed markets in one fell swoop.

However, this means that the West may have to export its legal infrastructure and institutions to the emerging markets in order that these places can become more hospitable to foreign investment.

If income inequality is the elephant in the room, the Occupy Wall Street movement is the canary in the coal mine: it may portend increased social tensions, intense political conflict, and even extremism, revolution, and war. Yes, political economy is in and Marx is back. Will there arise a new Keynes?

Calixto V. Chikiamco is a board member of the Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis.

For comments and inquiries, please e-mail us at idea.introspective@gmail.com.

A mental and physical hell

The majority of the world's trafficked people are in Southeast Asia, and about half of those are forced into sex work.

There are as many as 300,000 commercial sex workers in Thailand, many of whom were trafficked from border villages or neighbouring countries after being promised legitimate work [EPA]

The life of a sexually trafficked woman in Southeast Asia is almost unimaginable. The majority are tricked into leaving their homes, even in foreign countries, by the promise of a conventional, well-paying job that would allow them to support their families.

What happens next is something they could probably never expect.

Their identification and travel documents are taken by the traffickers, and the women are told they owe the traffickers for all travel expenses - except they are not going to be serving food or cleaning houses - they are forced into commercial sex work.

Some 1.4 million (or 56 per cent) of people trafficked worldwide are in Southeast Asia, according to the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT).

The majority of victims are between 18 and 24 years old. About half of those trafficked are forced into commercial sex work - of which 98 per cent are women and girls. Sexual trafficking is the most common form of trafficking in this region - UN.GIFT found that "internal displacement due to conflict, unemployment and poverty" all contribute to making them more vulnerable to trafficking.

In many countries in Southeast Asia, it is the girls who are expected to bring in money for the family - and it doesn't matter how.

Mental and physical hell

Sexually trafficked women are often forced to have sex with as many as five to 15 men each night - and in most places they are not allowed to refuse potential "clients" for any reason.

Many of the women become addicted to drugs, so that they can endure what is being done to them - meaning what little money they are given by the club owners is split between drugs and paying for their own food and clothing. Often, they don't earn much from the industry at all.

"Liza", a sexual trafficking survivor from the Philippines, explained that, one night, the owner of the club she worked at forced her to dance on the stage - despite the fact that she had just returned from a trip to the hospital for severe bleeding (which had turned out to be a miscarriage).

"That night there was a Chinese businessman at the club. He was a friend of the owner and told him that he wanted me to be his girlfriend - exclusive to him. I was brought to his apartment and handcuffed to a chair," Liza told Al Jazeera.

"I was brought to his apartment and handcuffed to a chair... he made me his sex slave."

- Liza, sex trafficking survivor

"He made me his sex slave", she continued. "Finally I was able to gain his trust and he began to leave me un-handcuffed. That is when I was able to escape."

"Victims of sexual trafficking are subject to physical and psychological torture. The traffickers will threaten them, that they'll kill their family if they don't work," said Aimee Torres, president and founder of Majestic Dreams Foundation.

These women usually have poor health due to the physical, sexual and emotional abuse; as well as the drugs and poor living conditions. The risks for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy depend on the woman's age and level of exploitation.

The number of adults registered as commercial sex workers is around 70,000, based on reports from the 2009 Human Rights Report: Thailand, produced by the US Department of State. However, many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) believe this is a massive underestimation - they believe that there are probably more than 300,000 engaged in commercial sex work.

Exploited children

The same report estimates that there are as many as 60,000 children involved in prostitution in the country. However, accurate numbers are impossible to get because of the underground and hidden nature of the business.

Child exploitation has recently gone even deeper underground - making it difficult to combat the abuse of these children, according to Patchareeboon Sakulpitakphon, programme officer for End Child Prostitution Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT).

"[The children] now tend to be delivered directly to abusers in hotel rooms through a pre-arranged agreement that may be made by staff of entertainment establishments," explained Sakulpitakphon.

Children end up in this work for different reasons; one of the most common is being trafficked illegally. Or they might be forced into sex work "if there is a burden placed on them to assist in helping the family financially... While the traffickers make a good profit from the selling of children, the child earns hardly anything," said Sakulpitakphon.

Fighting back

The injustice of sexual trafficking is being fought in many ways: Rescue missions, education, rehabilitation, empowerment, the creation of new laws, better coordinated law enforcement and most importantly, prevention.

"That's what we call a 'hard mission' - where we go in and anything could happen."

- John Curtis, president of The Grey Man

The Grey Man, an organisation based in Australia, carries out rescue missions in southeast Asian brothels - looking specifically for children and underage sex workers. The group's president, John Curtis - along with the other members of The Grey Man - has a background as a Special Forces commando in the Australian military.

For raids on brothels suspected to have underage children, they first send in young men from the group to the brothels posing as Western paedophiles looking to have sex with children.

"When they find them, we get all the information on covert cameras and then we let the police know if we're going to do an operation ... That's what we call a 'hard mission' - where we go in and anything could happen," Curtis explained.

A 'soft rescue' is where "we talk to girls and see if we can get them out using a social worker ... or tell them we'll provide them with an education as an alternative," Curtis added.


When Liza escaped from being held as a sex slave, she didn't leave commercial sex work. She went from working in one club to another. "I didn't think I could go back to Iligan (her home village) after everything that had happened," Liza explained.

During this time, Liza found out about the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific, and received support and counselling. This eventually allowed her to help form a new coalition named Bagong Kamalayan ["New Awareness"] with other women who had survived sex trafficking.

"I am happy that I am able to help other women, when before I wasn't even able to help myself," Liza said.

Like many organisations working with sex trafficking survivors, CATW-AP focuses on the "empowerment of survivors ... the focus is on healing and supporting their self-organising," said Executive Director Jean Enriquez. "We focus on a bigger perspective of the problem of trafficking. We support training of the survivors so they can become better leaders and advocate against the roots of the problem - unemployment, sexualisation of women and the power of men over women in society."

Programs like these are essential to keeping survivors from falling back into the same type of work, or deciding never to try to leave in the first place.

"Many of the women and children go back to the brothels because the programmes provide only basic education and job skills - like maybe being a housekeeper. And you think about it ... you're pretty much saying you can either be a prostitute or some other kind of servant," explained Torres.

Tomica Baquet, the vice-president of Majestic Dreams Foundation, continued: "The other difficult thing that comes into play is the number of jobs available to them ... They have to be sure there's another option for them."


Although rescues and rehabilitation are important for those already trafficked, prevention is still the most effective strategy for combatting sexual trafficking as a whole.

"It's more difficult to rescue women than to prevent it in the first place."

- Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of CATW-AP

"We need education in the rural communities - this will lead to prevention on the supply side on a community level ... it's more difficult to rescue women than to prevent it in the first place," Enriquez stressed.

"We also need to educate young men so they don't want to contribute to the market ... and educate young women to reduce vulnerability to being recruited for prostitution."

Curtis also recognises the need for prevention "on the supply side". The Grey Man sends 100 children to school every day, has built a joint shelter in the north of Thailand and is funding families and whole villages that have fallen into debt and are at high risk for trafficking.

"In northern Thailand, in the border villages, there are whole demographics missing ... women and children from 12-25 are just gone. They've all been trafficked," Curtis told Al Jazeera.

Choosing to stay

Of course, there are some women who do choose to partake in commercial sex work. Because of that choice, they suffer from a social stigma and a lack of recognition of their job as valid. This leads to unsafe working conditions, lack of healthcare, lack of fair compensation and social marginalisation.

Liz Hilton, coordinator for Empower - a group formed in 1984 by activists and sex workers from Pat Pong, Thailand, said there needed to be a focus on the "human rights of sex workers, and women in general".

"Sex workers are criminalised and just generally punished on many different legal levels - they can be punished under immigration, trafficking and entertainment laws. Yet they are given no protection under labour law, and get no form of security," Hilton explained.

While the (mostly male) consumers of sexual services are generally not punished, women in southeast Asia are criminalised.

This type of law enforcement has not stopped commercial sex work from continuing - so perhaps the issue should be looked at from a new angle? One example of this is a law enacted in Sweden in 1999 which makes it illegal to buy sexual services, but not to sell them. Since that law was enacted, street prostitution in Sweden was halved.

Support from the law?

Curtis says that when he involves the local police in rescue missions, it becomes obvious that some policemen profit from brothels' continued business.

"We suspect a certain level of corruption ... on one mission the police went into the brothel and came back to report that there were no girls there, that it was actually a grocery store. But we had footage of the girls inside so obviously those guys were being paid off," Curtis said.

Although there are laws against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children, enforcement is a key challenge and uneven, to say the least, in southeast Asia. Officials often have limited capacity, resources and staffing to address the problem.

To make matters worse, some governments fear prioritising the issue and making a real effort to end commerical sex work because they believe it would negatively impact tourism. At the same time, governments in the West fail to help the situation by not monitoring their travelling sex offenders and paedophiles.

In general, there is a significant lack of coordination between local, national and international governmental and policing agencies. On average, only one trafficker was convicted for every 800 people trafficked in 2006 according to UN.GIFT.

"The punishment that is carried out is not nearly strict enough to reflect the grave nature of the crimes committed," stressed Sakulpitakphon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

‘Ampatuans Offer Families of Massacre P1.45B’

“P50K Per Favorable Story Dangled Over Media”

By Artemio A. Dumlao

BAGUIO CITY — Families of the dreaded Maguindanao massacre were offered P25 million each for their withdrawal.

“That sum of money is tempting especially that most of those killed journalists were bread winners,” Rowena Paraan, executive director of the International Federation of Justice Media Safety Office in the Philippines said ahead of Wednesday’s second year commemoration of the mass murder, tagged as the worst single deadliest attack on the press ever.

This as Paraan, also the secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) noted that aside from the snail-paced procedure of running after all 196 suspects that includes 6 members of the powerful Ampatuan clan, 55 witnesses have so far been presented into the court after two years.

Prosecution have prepared 300 witnesses while the Ampatuans have 320 witnesses on their side.

Lamentably, said Paraan, as of this week, there were 104 motions filed by the Ampatuans that needs to be heard by the court that holds three-day a week hearing on that particular case.

At the heels of this tedious process, is the sum of money being offered, admitted Paraan, while the Ampatuans have been doing the best they can to derail, if not to finally junk the case with the use of their money.

The Ampatuans will have to ready P1.45B just for the “withdrawal fund” of the families while their legal team who according to Paraan are apparently “paper mills” who produce lots and lots of motions a day to defend their clients is another huge cost.

Aside from offering journalists P50,000 for every favorable story, the Ampatuans have hired a public relations agency to manage their propaganda, Paraan said.

The support system among the victims’ families and journalists seeking justice have not failed though, Paraan said. “So far, none have been swayed to get the money and forget about it.”

The nationwide and worldwide commemoration on Thursday, Paraan admitted is yet among events that makes the families and the prosecution lawyers firm in pursuing the case.

In Baguio City, journalists to be joined by social activists are planting 58 pine saplings at the Pine Trees of the World, beside the Tower of Peace park in Burnham Park. The pine saplings are live symbols of the memories of the victims, said journalist Day Caluza, president of the local NUJP chapter here.

Last year, 58 pine tree saplings were also planted at the Pine Tree patch beside the Baguio Convention Center to commemorate the victims “rather that cold edifices”.

In Abra, local broadcasters and newspapermen are holding a motorcade around Bangued, the town’s capital, to remember the massacre. “The provincial government will be joining the motorcade to show that our spirit are with the victims and their quest for justice,” said Serafin Alzate, Abra gov. Eustaquio Bersamin’s spokesperson.

Kalinga broadcaster Jerome Tabanganay of the state-run DZRK-Radyo ng Bayan Tabuk who was ganged up by Gov. Jocel Baac and his armed men inside the radio station’s booth June this year said he will remember the second year anniversary of the massacre both in high spirits and despair. High spirits because there are still people fighting for justice, their rights and freedoms, despair because the Aquino government seemed have “slept” on his case.

Gov. Baac who belied hitting Tabanganay, was complained of administrative and criminal cases. “But Baac and other abusive officials like Mayor Duterte are still in power,” the broadcaster blurted out while calling DILG sec. Jesse Robredo to step down “if he cannot discipline abusive officials.”

As the sun sets on Wednesday, journalists and other groups including members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club march down Session Road in their version of New York Wall Street’s “Occupy Session Road”.***Artemio A. Dumlao***

Gloria Arroyo sued for massacre

Source: The Nation

Gloria Arroyo sued for massacre

MANILA (AFP) – Relatives of some of the 57 people killed in the Philippines’ worst political massacre sued then-president Gloria Arroyo on Tuesday for arming and supporting the alleged murderers, their lawyer said. The civil suit seeking 15 million pesos ($345,000) in damages will force Arroyo to fight another tough legal battle, after police charged her last week with conspiring to rig the 2007 senatorial elections. The lawyer for relatives of 15 victims who filed the suit, Harry Roque, said it was filed on Tuesday with a Manila court, deliberately timed to raise public awareness ahead of Wednesday’s two-year anniversary of the massacre.

Government prosecutors allege that leaders of the Ampatuan family, who ruled the southern province of Maguindanao, orchestrated the massacre to stop a political rival from challenging them in local elections.

“She enabled the Ampatuans to do what they did by arming them, by legitimising their private army, by giving them aid and by giving them political support,” Roque told AFP.

The patriarch of the family, Andal Ampatuan Snr, was governor of Maguindanao and a member of Arroyo’s ruling coalition at the time of the massacre.

Arroyo’s government had given the Ampatuans military hardware and allowed them to run their own private army of a few thousand men as a proxy force in the fight against secessionist Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines.

Arroyo was forced to cut all ties with the Ampatuans following the murders.

Ampatuan Snr is in detention and on trial over the murders, along with his son and namesake, who is accused of leading more than 100 gunmen in detaining the victims and massacring them on a secluded rural road in Maguindanao.

The trial is expected to last years and victims’ relatives have expressed growing frustration at the slow pace of the criminal proceedings.

One of Arroyo’s lawyers, Ferdinand Topacio, responded to the lawsuit by insisting his client had no direct link to the killings.

“We firmly believe that former president Arroyo has no responsibility for the Maguindanao massacre,” Topacio said on GMA television.

Arroyo’s legal spokesman, Raul Lambino, also said the civil suit was simply harassment, coming as the ailing ex-president had to face the vote-rigging charges.

“We consider that as the latest of a series of attempts to put the squeeze on the Arroyos,” Lambino said on ABS-CBN television.

President Benigno Aquino, who won presidential elections last year in a landslide after vowing to fight corruption, has made pursuing Arroyo the top priority of his anti-graft campaign.

His aides have said Arroyo will likely have to face many more charges for corrupt acts she allegedly committed while she was president from 2001 to 2010. She has denied all wrongdoing.

Ikaw Ang Dasal, Ang Kanta Ng Puso Ko

(Alay sa mga malayo sa mga minamahal sa buhay)
Isinulat at pagma-may-ari ni Loreto Quevedo Dimaandal
Sa Silicon Valley (Sabado, Nobyembre 25, 2011)

Sa tagal ng panahong di tayo nagkikita
Puwede pa kaya akong umasa
Na pagdating ng araw o panahon
Muli tayong magkikita at magkakasama?

Ikaw ang dasal, ang kanta ng puso ko
Araw-araw, ikaw ang laman ng aking isipan
Nagtataka kung minsan, palaging umaasam-asam
Na sana ay nandiyan ka ding naghihintay lang.

Ikaw ang dasal, ang kanta ng puso ko
Na siyang nagpapalakas sa akin
Lupaypay man sa pagod at pag-iisa
Nagsusumikap pa ring nagtataguyod sa gitna ng kalungkutan.

Ang layo mo, ang layo natin sa isa't-isa at sa pamilya
Kailangan ko talagang bumunot
Sa kailaliman ng aking katauhan
Ng natitirang lakas para makaahon sa kahirapan.

Ngunit kahit ganito ang ating situwasyon
Ikaw pa rin ang nagpapalakas
At ang nagpapa-ngiti sa akin
Ikaw ang dasal, ang kanta ng puso ko.

Maraming salamat sa Diyos at sa iyo!

P.S. I wrote this with Fil-Ams and OFW's in mind who are apart from their families and loved ones, but it is also for everyone. Smile - be of good cheer and courage!...Loreto

A Look Back at Arroyo’s Many Sins and Why She Should Pay

Source: Bulatlat.com

MANILA — After nine years in power, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has left the Malacanang palace. She is no longer cloaked with presidential immunity, which she and her allies had used to shield her from corruption charges, human-rights violations and other alleged crimes against the Filipino people.

Up to her last weeks in office, impunity presented itself. For two consecutive days, journalists Jesiderio Camangyan, radio anchor of Sunrise FM in Davao Oriental, and Joselito Agustin of dzJC Aksyon Radyo in Laoag City, were shot dead. After the elections, human-rights worker Benjamin Bayles of Negros Occidental, union member Edward Panganiban of Laguna and Bayan Muna member Jim Gales of Davao were murdered in separate incidents.

In the past nine years, journalists and activists have become easy targets for assassination. According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), 104 journalists have been murdered under the Arroyo regime. Human-rights group Karapatan recorded 1,190 victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo regime, from January 2001 to March 2010.

There had been 205 victims of enforced disappearances, 1,028 victims of torture, and hundreds of thousands were forcibly displaced in rural areas as a result of military operations.

These killings and other atrocities continue despite international condemnation and local protests. In fact, just this month, a five-member delegation of the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines had gone to Geneva and made oral interventions at the 14th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. They told the world that Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program has been the bloodiest and most vicious since martial law years.

Arroyo, as commander in chief of the armed forces, clearly condoned the killings. The absence of culpability of the known masterminds and the rewards given to the worst violators had emboldened the perpetrators even more to commit abuses.

Such impunity led to one of the greatest tragedies under the Arroyo regime, the Ampatuan massacre.

Closely allied with the Arroyos, the Ampatuans thought they could get away with the murder of 57 individuals, including 31 journalists. Already, the cases filed against the warlords of Maguindanao are at risk of going down the drain.

Impunity also persists in corruption and other scandals.

Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo have also pocketed billions in various anomalous deals in the past nine years.

Deals/ProjectsPocketed Amount
Fertilizer Scam (2004)P728 million
Diosdado Macapagal Blvd.P600 million
Mega Pacific Deal (2004)P500 million
Cash handouts to congressmen and governors (2007)P160 million
Euro Generals (2008)P6.9 million

Deals/ProjectsPocketed Amount
Piatco Deal (2003)USD 20 million
US Real Properties (2003)USD 7.1 million
Northrail Project (2004)USD 50 million
Kuleksyon sa Jueteng (2005)USD 10 million
NBN-ZTE Deal (2007)USD 32.9 million
IMPSA Deal (2009)USD 2 million
World Bank Road Projects (2009)USD 33 million
TotalUSD 145,900,000 million

Data from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

Using money, Arroyo was able to suppress seven impeachment cases filed against her. Using deception and repression, she was able to quell public outrage against her regime.

Following the expose on the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal, Arroyo issued Proclamation 1017 and arrested leaders of the opposition, including the late Anakpawis congressman and labor leader Crispin Beltran. She also issued what was called a calibrated preemptive response (CPR) to break up mass protests.

To cover up for the cases of corruption and other scandals, Arroyo signed Executive Order 464 barring government officials from testifying before public inquiries without her approval.

Just recently, the Ombudsman, a close friend of the First Gentleman and a known ally of the president, absolved Arroyo and her husband from the aborted multimillion national broadband network deal with the Chinese telecom company ZTE.

Doubled Wealth

Arroyo’s declared wealth more than doubled in the past nine years. In 2001, when Arroyo took power, her total wealth was about P67 million. As of July 2009, according to her declared statement of assets and liabilities, her wealth has reached P144 million.

The “Jose Pidal” account that was exposed in 2003 had P321 million and the Arroyos’ real-estate properties in the United States totaled $7.1 million. The profligacy of the Arroyos, highlighted by that $20,000-dinner at Le Cirque in New York in August 2009, has enraged the poor and the hungry.

For how could she stomach the expensive dinner when back home, hunger has reached record numbers, with almost one in four Filipino households going hungry? In a 2009 report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Philippines ranked 34th on a scale of zero to 100 among 84 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI).

The Arroyo government has had the lowest allocation for social services.

Educaton *Health *Housing *
Arroyo15.1 percent1.8 percent0.4 percent
Estrada18.7 percent2.4 percent0.8 percent
Ramos15.5 percent2.6 percent0.6 percent
Aquino12.3 percent3.1 percent0.1 percent

*total allocatin in the national budget, IBON Foundation

In 2010, the Arroyo administration was only spending P7 per Filipino per day on education, P1 on health and 16 centavos on housing – while paying the equivalent of P22 on debt service.

A self-proclaimed economist, Arroyo failed to improve the lives of the Filipino people.

Economic Strategy

The Arroyo government’s economic strategy built on free-market policies has removed trade barriers, has given full control of investments to foreign investors, privatized public utilities and social services deregulation and debt payments.

Under the Arroyo administration, workers have had pittance wage increases.

PresidentWage Increase

IBON Foundation

In 2009, the minimum wage was between P345 and P382. A family of six needs nearly P1,000 to live on every day.

The prices of basic commodities become too expensive.

As of July 2009
Basic Commodities/UtilitiesPrice in 2001Price in 2009
LPG (per 11 kg tank)P192P440 (July 2009)
Diesel (per liter)P12.62P33.29 (July 2009)
Rice (regular milled per kilo)P17.51P30 (July 2009)
Electricity (per KWH, Meralco)P5.13P8.80 (May 2009)
Water (basic, per cubic meter)Manila Water – P2.95

Maynilad – P6.58

Manila Water – P19.64

Maynilad – P23.05 (4th quarter 2008)

Data from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

The Arroyo regime also had the longest period of high unemployment rate, the highest in Philippine history. In January 2010, there were 11.4 million jobless and underemployed Filipinos. It is not surprising, therefore, that more Filipinos were forced to find jobs abroad, with 3,898 leaving the country every day. The exodus of Filipino laborers, including skilled workers and professionals, is a manifestation of an ailing economy.

Instead of implementing genuine agrarian reform and nationalist industrialization to beef up the local economy, the Arroyo government extended the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), neglected the farmers and favored the foreign corporations and big business at the expense of small and medium Filipino entrepreneurs.

Clearly, Arroyo should be made accountable for all these atrocities inflicted on the Filipino people. (By Ronalyn V. Olea with reports from Anne Marxze Umil/bulatlat.com)