November 8, 2010
Various youth groups protesting what they call an ‘anti-youth’ 2011 national budget marched to the House of Representatives to coincide with the re-opening of the session of the 15th Congress.
“In a time where the livelihood of many sectors are being attacked, President Aquino should invest more in social services so that they can lessen the negative impacts on these sectors, such as their increasing inability to send their children to school” said Anakbayan spokesperson Charisse Bañez.
Among the ‘hardships’ mentioned by the youth leader are: various price hikes, such as the recent electricity charge increase and the proposed MRT & LRT fare hikes; the continuing prevalent landlessness in rural areas, such as in Hacienda Luisita; inhumanely low wage levels as shown by the strike of workers in the Agusan del Sur-based Filipinas Palm Oil plantation who were offered a mere P4 wage hike by their bosses; and the attack on the sources of livelihood of the urban poor, as shown by the partial demolition of the San Roque urban poor community in Quezon City and the crackdown on the ‘kuliglig’ drivers in Manila.
“However, this is not the case with Aquino. He has given insufficient funding for many social services, and actually reduced the funding in other cases” said Bañez.
NUSP chairperson Einstein Recedes noted that the Dept. of Education (DepEd) was only given an ‘nominal’ additional P30 billion, leaving P100 billion worth of resources’ shortages, while the maintenance and other operating (MOOE) budget of State Universities & Colleges (SUCs) was slashed by P1.1 billion. He also mentioned that the funding of the 55 government-owned hospitals nationwide was reduced by P364 million.
For her part, CEGP chairperson Trina Federis called the 2011 budget a ‘war chest’ and ‘proof’ of the government’s insincerity in achieving peace in the country which has been torn by internal strife for more than four decades now.
“For all his talk of pursuing the road to peace, Aquino is actually on the warpath. His one hand is waving a white flag, but his other hand is arming the notorious human rights violator that is the AFP” said Federis.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines will receive P104.7 billion next year from its current budget of P96.2 billion. The group has been credited with carrying out more than 1,200 extra-judicial killings under the previous regime.
Meanwhile, LFS chairperson Terry Ridon blasted Aquino for “turning our public funds into a milking cow of foreigners”.
“There is no excuse to give basic social services budget cuts while increasing foreign debt payments” said Ridon. He noted that interest payments alone was increased from P327 billion to P357 billion in next year’s budget.
The groups Anakbayan, LFS (League of Filipino Students), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, CEGP (College Editors Guild of the Philippines), and the NUSP (National Union of the Philippines) have vowed a repeat and escalation of the anti-budget cut protests last September and October should the 2011 budget be passed in its present form.
“Unless Noynoy wants campuses literally going on strike, we advise him to rechannel the likes of foreign debt servicing, military funding, and the pork barrel to education and other social services. If not, then we promise he will go down in history as the very first post-Marcos president to face First Quarter Storm-like protests” said Bañez.
The First Quarter Storm (FQS) was a series of massive street protests during the first quarter of 1970 in response to widespread poverty. Among the said protests is the historic Diliman Commune where students of the University of the Philippines Diliman campus ‘occupied’ their school for several days.