• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines

THE CALL FOR CHANGE REVERBERATES: Statement for GMA’s Last State of the Nation Address

July 27, 2009

A reign of terror and hardship is what describes Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s (GMA) 8-year term as president. For eight years, economic hardship, political turmoil and hunger have beset the Filipino people. For eight years, the Cordillera indigenous peoples’ depressed state was compounded with the aggressive plunder of their ancestral lands and violation of collective rights. This year is GMA’s last SONA, and we expect the best of lies and falsehoods from a corrupt and terrorist regime. On her final SONA, GMA must be made accountable for the real state of the nation--the hunger, the corruption, the lives taken, and the human rights violated amidst the culture of impunity.

Economic Crisis

In the wake of the global economic crisis, GMA said that we will not be affected. Months after, we have witnessed the exodus of Overseas Filipino Workers from their host countries. In January 2008, more than 5,000 OFWs in Taiwan, Australia, Brunei, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Macau, Russia, Poland and Canada were affected.

Similarly, workers in the country have experienced retrenchment and worsening situation in the workplace. In Lepanto mines, 3,000 workers were forced under the company’s work-rotation scheme, working only for 10 days per month. In Baguio City Export Processing Zone, 411 were retrenched in Texas Instruments, 203 were victims of forced leave in Moog and 500 dealt with work-rotation scheme in Adriste, Ampang Industries and Tara Designs, all of these happened in the 1st quarter of 2008. This year, 393 were retrenched in Moog; there were also cases of retrenchments in Ampang Industries.

The mass lay-off of workers, the reeling hunger and poverty would persist not only because of the global crisis, also with the government’s continued subservience to imperialist globalization. The globalization agenda (privatization, liberalization, and deregulation) have weakened the domestic economy, making it dependent to the economy of imperialist countries. Thus, more vulnerable to external factors.

Development Aggression and Militarization

Extractive industries, specifically large mines, have ravaged ancestral lands in Mankayan and Itogon, Benguet with a century of mining plunder. There is no end to the loss of properties and lives due to the environmental disasters brought about by profit-driven mining. In spite of indigenous people’s protests, large mining is forced into communities, with the use of the military to strike down those who oppose such projects, such as the 50th IB’s deployment in Mankayan, Benguet.

To date, Benguet Corporation and Lepanto Mining have not compensated for the loss of properties due to landslides and ground subsidence resulting from their bulk mining operations in October 2008 and June 2009, respectively. Indigenous peoples’ rights to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, ancestral land and territories are violated. The whole region is up for sale to foreign mining entities (Royalco-Australia, Olympus-Canada, Anvil-Australia, Ivanhoe-Canada, Zijen-China and Cordillera Exploration/Anglo-UK) with the liberalization of the mining industry--66% of the Cordillera’s 1.8 million hectares is applied for with various mining applications, on top of the ongoing operations of Lepanto, Philex and Benguet Corporation in Benguet.

Thirty four cases of extrajudicial killings in the Cordillera were documented since 2001, where most of the victims are farmer-hunters from Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga. Our indigenous communities continue to be heavily militarized, and innocent civilians are branded “NPA surrenderees” to make it appear that GMA’s anti-insurgency campaign is successful. This has concretely happened in Kalinga and Mt. Province. Cordillera Peoples Alliance founding member, educator and researcher James Balao remains missing to this date in spite of the outrage and concerned from local to international communities and even with the issuance of a Writ of Amparo granted by the Court in James’ favor. State terrorism remains GMA’s formula to subdue people’s assertion of their democratic rights. The unspeakable terror of this regime must be ended.

Charter Change

What GMA is sure to harp about on her last SONA is Charter Change--historically pushed since the Ramos administration and equally met with successful opposition by the people on the very basis of Charter Change being an outright, total sellout of our national patrimony and sovereignty. Cha-cha aims to permanently change the fundamental law of the land that protects our patrimony as a people.

Aside from extending the term of the current president, it also contains the following contentious recommendations: allowing 100% foreign-owned corporations to own land and exploit our natural resources, public utilities, education institutions and even the mass media, removing or amending provisions on civil liberties, removing provisions that limit the martial law powers of the president and removing or amending provisions on nuclear weapons and foreign troops. Cha-cha is a surefire formula for national regression.

For indigenous peoples, Cha-cha weakens and eradicates the remaining provisions of the current constitution which protect indigenous peoples’ rights to ancestral land, resources and territories. Even without cha-cha, indigenous peoples’ are already worst off. Amending the constitution now under such intention heightens national oppression of indigenous peoples and further plunges the Filipino people into deeper hardship and unrest. Cha-cha must be frustrated by all means, and every patriotic Filipino must join the snowballing movement against it.

Enough of GMA!

In the course of holding Arroyo accountable for state terrorism, human rights violations and plunder, we affirm that this is her last State of the Nation Address (SONA). Amid the worsening state of the nation, we cannot allow this regime to remain in power. The call is clear: GMA must go!

In the nearing 2010 national and local elections, the Filipino people deserve a change. We have to make our verdict in the coming elections by denouncing anti-people politicians and by voting for those who truly uphold and respect the people’s will. It is our responsibility to guard our votes against fraudulent acts. It is our right to have a clean and honest election.

But fundamental social change would not happen by only changing the people in the government. Meaningful social change lies in the people’s collective effort. It is through the people’s daily struggle for social justice, economic sovereignty and good governance that change can be nurtured.