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July 25, 2008

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Social unrest is rapidly deepening, triggered by unhampered and striking increases in oil prices and basic commodities. The rice problem is still burdening the people and social services have become inaccessible. While the people grumble in economic distress, the GMA regime takes comfort in conscious blindness. GMA escapes the crisis with impunity like what she has always done with her grave cases of corruption and human rights violations.

Oil prices have increased 20 times, from January to July 2008. Oil companies implemented weekly increases of P1.50 per liter of diesel for the month of June; P2 increase in July 5 and in July 19 the highest P3 increase!

This scenario would not stop as oil companies invoke their under-recovery excuse despite accumulation of billions of profits last year as tabulated below.

Striking oil price increases brought about by global speculations of oil cartels demonstrated the extreme vulnerability of the nation due to deregulation. Due to this globalization policy, oil companies are implementing these increases - like vultures brazenly attacking the already impoverished motorists and consumers.

The Expanded Value-Added Tax (E-VAT) in oil products also adds up to the burden. As oil prices continue to rise and so does the VAT in oil products. Removing the VAT on petroleum could immediately bring down the pump price of diesel by more than P6.00 a liter and gasoline by more than P7.00 a liter, yet GMA still ignores this valid proposition. Even the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has directly questioned the E-VAT.
The people are feeling the 'domino effect' of oil price hikes. Everything is going up - fare, food, goods and services. Even the double-digit inflation rate is evident of the sharp increases in prices. As prices soar, these basic commodities and services are becoming too inaccessible.

Education and health services fall down in the rank of priorities of the impoverished Filipinos. At the start of the school year, tuition fee increases have become too expensive robbing the youth of the right to education.

Similarly, the unresolved rice problem continues to rob the Filipino people of access to this staple food. In interior Mindanao, the price of commercial rice even reached P50.00 - P100.00 per kilo - a big irony for an agricultural country. This crisis has resulted to intense hunger for the poor Filipinos.

In particular, indigenous peoples suffer twice from the political and economic crisis due to the systematic violations of their collective human rights. Corporate interests in connivance with the State increasingly drive away indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands as they plunder resources found therein. GMA has virtually offered the Cordillera for imperialist plunder while calling it "development"-66% of the total Cordillera land of 1.8 million hectares is applied for with various mining applications, and five of government's 23 priority mining areas are located in the Cordillera, with flashpoint areas in the provinces of Kalinga, Abra, Benguet and Apayao. The government, the military and the mining companies involved violate the Indigenous communities' right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Government has responded to community opposition to destructive projects by heavily militarizing indigenous territories resulting to massive violations of individual and collective rights and even extrajudicial killings, such as in Baay Licuan and Tubo in Abra. GMA's 2007 SONA further defined the Cordillera for extractive industries and a resource base with her Northern Luzon Growth Quadrangle. A year after, with more ancestral territories opened to large mines and collective rights of IPs blatantly violated, ethnocide has only worsened, further marginalizing indigenous peoples.

However, the GMA regime is too numb and consciously blind to see the real state of the nation. She may have dole-out subsidies like the one-time electricity subsidy, oil subsidy, jeepney conversion to LPG, fertilizer subsidy and educational loans, but the funding for such also came from the E-VAT, paid by the end-consumers. These subsidies are also temporary, aimed at appeasing the people to avert another uprising but not in resolving the root of the crisis. She is not also scrapping the E-VAT in oil and power and still deaf in the calls to reverse the globalization policy.

While the people withstand the worst of hunger and poverty, the GMA regime escapes corruption with impunity. This year, Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy survey ranked the Philippines, as the most corrupt economy among thirteen (13) countries and territories across Asia. In October last year, Pulse Asia Survey ranked GMA as the most corrupt president in the Philippines.

Who will forget the NBN-ZTE, the PIATCO-NAIA Terminal 3, Fertilizer Scam, Jose Pedal, Poll Automation, Diosdado Macapagal Highway and other grand corruption cases? Who will forget the cases that the people directly filed against the president, the first family and their allies?

Impunity also describes the human rights situation in the country. The campaign of this fascist regime to cripple progressive organizations and her critiques has resulted to more than 1,000 victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances from 2001-2008. Anti-GMA protesters face harassments and violent dispersals while leaders of progressive organizations are facing trumped-up charges.

Indeed, what we have is a corrupt and fascist regime, distant and consciously blind of the people's misery.

The state of the nation serves as a fertile ground for the people's legitimate uprising. In times of crisis, political maturity and participation should happen. In times of crisis, the call for immediate economic relief and meaningful social change shall reverberate.

Hunger should not be limited to the physical aspect. The people shall transform this towards the hunger for change. GMA's stay in power means more economic hardship, more corruption and violations of people's rights. Her ouster is evidently necessary!

The removal of the Arroyo regime followed by special elections presided over by a Transition Council aims to resolve the acute leadership crisis brought about by an illegitimate and morally bankrupt government. While this will not completely resolve the deeper and longer standing economic, social and political crisis afflicting Philippine society, it is an important and necessary step that will pave the way for introducing reforms in that direction.

The only way the country can move forward is to make the GMA regime accountable for all its crimes against the Filipino people.

Enough is enough! Oust GMA!

Tongtongan Ti Umili-Cordillera Peoples Alliance

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