11.2 million adult Filipinos were jobless in the last quarter of 2016, said a recent survey released by the Social Weather Station (SWS). 3.1 million families experienced hunger in the same period, while 673,000 experienced severe hunger (families who experience hunger often or always). If we multiply these numbers by 5 (the average size of a Filipino family), that is s 15.5 million and 3.365 million people respectively. 26 million Filipinos are poor, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. 12 million of them live on less than P200 per day.
These numbers should give us pause. They should not be treated merely as statistics. These numbers represent the lives of Filipinos who work day in and day out to make ends meet. These numbers should guide us in making policy decisions to ensure the full realization of the right to development of each and every Filipino.
Yet it seems the government is keen on continuing previous policies that have proved detrimental to the interests of millions of our countrywomen and men. Instead of setting up industries that benefit the nation, adding income to public coffers, and ensuring the creation of jobs for millions of Filipino workers, the President instead continues to implement neoliberal economic policies that fatten only the purses of large-scale foreign companies. Contractualization, which tramples on the right to jobs, to form trade unions and to social security is still rampant, despite President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign promise to end the practice.
Genuine agrarian reform, which will ensure that farmers can own land which they can till, has yet to be realized. Landed families and plantation-owning companies still dominate the agriculture sector, and their violations in relation to withholding land meant for agrarian reform beneficiaries continue with impunity, gravely affecting the farmers’ right to land. The right to self-determination of Indigenous Peoples still remains a dream, as large-scale mining and energy companies continue to destroy ancestral lands and pollute and destroy the environment.
And instead of focusing on how to reduce poverty, hunger and joblessness and ensure that Filipinos enjoy their rights as a people, the government is more interested in pursuing its all-out war against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP). This anti-insurgency war, which has been going on for nearly five decades, has already cost the country tens of thousands of lives and affected millions of others.
In addition, 39 development workers and activists have already been killed under President Duterte's administration. Add to that the more than 6000 lives lost as a result of the government's so-called anti-drug war, which is fast turning out to be a war against the poor. 43 development workers and activists have been illegally arrested and detained. 114 cases of demolitions without permits have occurred, leaving the lives of those affected in shambles and their right to housing violated. Over 10,000 have been forcibly displaced in just eight months of Duterte's presidency.
The government, instead of forging on with its anti-insurgency and anti-drug war, should instead focus on what should be its top priorities: reducing poverty, hunger and joblessness and securing peace for the Filipino people. Unless President Duterte heeds this call, we are definitely sure that the next statistics to be released by SWS and the PSA--and the lives they represent--will give us more cause for worry and grief.
Renmin Crisanta Abraham Vizconde
3 March 2017
The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network in the Philippines (ASCENT Philippines) is an alliance of civil society organizations working hand-in-hand with grassroots peoples organizations and community members in advocating for the economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino people. ASCENT Philippines looks towards a future wherein the Filipino people fully enjoy their rights as a nation. ASCENT Philippines does not simply build lives alone. With the Filipino people, we build lives together.
RMP-NMR Inc is a member of ASCENT Philippines.