The Aquino administration and Akbayan
Since Aquino came into power in 2010, he has shown himself to be no different from his successor, advancing new neoliberal programs and policies while maintaining old ones from the time of Gloria Arroyo and even earlier.
Among those policies and programs are:
-A national wage cut through a ‘two-tiered wage system’
-Budget cuts to State Colleges and Universities, offering instead a ‘conditional budget’ in exchange for closing up courses and programs that are not ‘global market-oriented’
-Widespread privatization of essential infrastructure and social services through the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) program, including hospitals
-A 100% fare hike for the three main railway systems that service the National Capital Region, as well as toll fee hikes for the expressways connecting the NCR with other parts of the country
-The demolition of dozens of shanty communities to make way for capitalist projects such as malls, displacing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, and the latter’s relocation into disaster-prone parts of the countryside
-Refusal to regulate petroleum prices and electricity and water rates, leading to rising inflation and poverty in the country
-A presidential order giving the national government power to override local governments’ bans against destructive mining operations
-Refusal to rein in abuses and human rights violations of military personnel
-A gradual return of U.S military personnel and facilities despite a Constitutional ban against it
Despite Akbayan’s claim of ‘influencing the government from the inside’, and its much-hyped increase in the number of posts in the Aquino administration, there has been no significant change in the economic and political direction of the country. If anything, it has taken a turn for the worse.
But more damning for Akbayan is its servile stance towards Aquino, refusing to criticize even the most blatantly anti-poor actions of the government, and choosing instead to defend it from critics.
One such case is that of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), an extension of a two-decade failed land reform program that has spanned four administrations. Despite criticisms by peasant groups, and calls for a ‘genuine agrarian reform law’, Akbayan pushed hard for the CARPER in 2008, claiming that the Law would ‘end’ the centuries-old problem of peasant landlessness in the Philippines by 2008.
But with less than two years left before the program expires, even the government has admitted that less than half of the ‘target beneficiaries’ have been served. Even more astonishing is the plan to downsize the manpower and operations of the Department in charge of CARPER.
Yet despite all of this, Akbayan continues to bandy about CARPER as ‘proof’ of its ‘commitment to serve the marginalized’.
Congressman Walden McCarthy
With a call for its disqualification and a general repudiation of its claims to ‘representing the marginalized’, Akbayan has resorted to an argument straight from the dreaded era of the 1950’s United States: ‘red-baiting’.
In the above-mentioned live TV debate, Bello claimed that Anakbayan and the Kilusang Mayo Uno were ‘fronts of the extreme Left’ and were ‘aiming for my physical liquidation’, a not-so-veil reference to the Philippine military’s claims that such legal organizations are ‘fronts’ of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
Bello’s hysterical claim of a ‘vendetta against our leaders’ conveniently overlooks the fact that every last one of its officials remain alive and healthy today, and able to roam the country at will.
Those at the other end of Akbayan’s ‘red-baiting’ accusation are not so lucky, however: under the previous administration, more than 1,200 of their members have been assassinated by military death squads, more than 200 remain missing, while more than 300 were imprisoned on trumped-up charges.
No one echoed Akbayan’s accusation against the Left more than former Philippine Army general Jovito Palparan, a fugitive who is now facing multiple charges for the abduction, rape, and torture of two female student activists from the University of the Philippines. Instead of denying accusations that he ordered the deaths of hundreds of activists wherever he went, he said that those who died ‘deserved’ to because of their affiliation with leftist groups.
Nothing highlighted Akbayan and the Army’s ‘one-two punch’ more than when former Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon called the former ‘an example of a good partylist’. Such a relationship was echoed by peasant groups and human rights organizations all over the country, reporting that members of Akbayan actively spread ‘black propaganda’ against the Left in many communities where the Armed Forces were conducting operations.
Will the real Left please stand up?
Going back to the disqualification issue, the question is very simple: does Akbayan represent the marginalized? From both the definition of Philippine laws and the understanding of the millions of ordinary Filipinos, the answer is a resounding NO.
As a virtual extension or annex of the Aquino administration, Akbayan is legally disqualified from participating in the partylist elections. Its refusal to criticize the government, and its propensity to actually defend it, shows where its loyalty really lies: with the 1% the dominates Philippine society today.
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