(Originally posted on August 23, 2009)
We, members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, stand in solidarity with the Filipino people in rejecting the blatant lies and empty boasts shamelessly blurted by the illegitimate president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her ninth and supposedly last State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Over-all Picture: Litany of Lies
While she boasted about the supposed “strong economy” of the country, Filipinos are going hungry and homeless. Millions of our countrymen are living miserable lives – far from the supposed “strong economy” that Gloria is bragging about. Her promises made in previous SONA were all broken. Instead of food security, Arroyo advocated rice importation to the detriment of Filipino farmers who also battle landlessness and a bogus land reform program. Instead of the creation of jobs, the regime has forced more Filipinos to go abroad for dangerous and at times low-paying jobs. Desperate to nominally project a decrease in the unemployment rate, her regime even changed the definition of unemployment by excluding those who no longer look for a job (even as they remain jobless). Instead of a balanced budget, the government is in the verge of bankruptcy due to excessive allotment of funds to humungous foreign debt payments, widespread corruption and lesser tax collection caused by the elimination of tariffs on many imported products.
In the Education Sector: Fantastic Hallucinations
In the education sector, Gloria’s lies are all the more despicable since she ironically professes “partiality” for education as a purported former teacher.
Her boast of building 95,000 classrooms and hiring of 60,000 teachers is pure rhetoric. Realities on the ground will easily debunk and put clouds of doubt over Gloria’s hallucinations: backlog of 50,000 classrooms; 3,000,000 chairs; and 50,000 teachers (in some schools, even principals are also lacking). The inadequate facilities are all the more exposed by the grim statistics of falling academic performance of malnourished students cramped in a 60-person sections on the average, with some schools having as high as 70 for each class.
How can Gloria’s regime be able to achieve anything with its limited funding for the education sector? Instead of following the 6-percent-of-the-GDP standard set by the United Nations, the corrupt regime is contented to allot a paltry 2% of the GDP to education. As in the past, debt payments have the lion share in the national budget, contrary to what the Constitution mandates – that education should be prioritized in the annual appropriations.
Despite the meager budget that the regime apportions for education, it still has the gall to claim that they “assist financially half of all students in private high schools.” This is an outright fabrication! For the past years, enrolment in private schools has sagged while public schools suffer from a ballooning enrolment, proving that government help for students in private institutions is a big lie. Gloria also boasts of having “provided 600,000 college and post-graduate scholarships,” but a scrutiny of college and post-graduate educational institutions will expose the fact that tuition fees, miscellaneous fees and other education-related costs have been steadily increasing under the Arroyo regime.
Dereliction of Duty
As regards the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, specifically the Education For All (EFA) objective, the regime claims that no country will be able to promptly achieve EFA on or before 2015. Thus, impliedly, Gloria uses this as an excuse to disregard the highly vital EFA goal. She claims to make an effort of achieving it by lowering the costs of schooling through bizarre ways such as doing away with uniforms. Just the same, she miserably fails to understand that the Filipino people’s struggle against joblessness, hunger and poverty is related and inseparable with the goal of providing universal access to education. As long as families have no steady income from high-paying jobs, they will experience hunger and poverty. As long as they starve, they won’t be able to send their students to school. To sum it up, as long as the fundamental problems such as the lack of agrarian reform and nationalist industrialization which will provide jobs to all Filipinos, drop out rates will continue to worsen.
Failing Mark: Lack of a Working Development Agenda
Just like the past administrations, the Arroyo regime suffers from a myopic view of Philippine realities. It doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the country’s socio-economic problems can be directly traced to our lack of a genuine development agenda. All they do is build roads and bridges each year, but they build no industries to provide jobs for Filipinos. The government has no interest to institute genuine land reform that will boost our self-sufficiency in food. They fail to see that through real agrarian reform, joblessness in the countryside will be totally wiped out. All we have to do is develop our industries and institute land reform and the rest will follow. Through this twin development schemes, we will be able to maximize the use of the country’s natural resources for our own benefit. If such scenario will be realized, the wealth generated from our effective harnessing of our natural resources will provide us with more funds for education and other basic social services such as health care and housing. Since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo failed in her nine years in office to institute this simple development agenda and in the process failed too in achieving short-term development goals, specifically in the education sector, teachers all over the country gave her a failing mark. She should be ejected from office on or before 2010 if the country is to move forward. #