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The Freedom from Debt Coalition, consistent with its drive for economic and social justice and against unjust and anti-people economic policies, join the growing calls for the rejection of President Benigno S. Aquino and his elitist, abusive, and incompetent administration.

Since taking the reins of government and barely a month into office, starting with the bus-hostage taking fiasco, Aquino has stumbled from one debacle to another. One word is most often attached to that hostage incident: “tragedy.” And tragedy continued to haunt the next 4 years of the Aquino administration, and the country’s experience under the presidency.

From 2010-2014, the Philippine debt ballooned by 16.52% and has now reached Php 7.65 trillion. Borrowed funds were used to plug perennial revenue shortfalls for the national expenditure program. Aquino continued to prioritize debt-servicing including that of fraudulent loans that hardly benefited the people. The budget was being systematically plundered and misused by government officials and politicians. And. instead of calling for debt cancellation or moratorium of debt servicing in the wake of the devastation caused by Yolanda, Aquino incurred US$ 2 billion in new loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank.

The Aquino regime continues to embrace neo-liberal prescriptions for the economy such as deregulation, privatization, and liberalization. This is illustrated by privatization programs in key sectors such as water through projects like the P24.4 Bulacan Bulk Water Supply project and the P18.7 billion Kaliwa Dam. The results of such directions have been disastrous for the Filipino. Poverty incidence rose to 25.8% and rice prices skyrocketed by 12 percent in the first half of 2014. The Social Weather Stations (SWS) estimated the jobless rate at the end of 2014 at 27% of the labor force, or 12.4 million Filipinos. This has prompted the UN International Labor Organization to warn of social unrest in the midst of increasing unemployment.

The Philippines has the highest residential electricity rates in Asia, while around 2.7 million Filipino households remain deprived of access to electricity. The regime continued to prop up the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) despite its monumental failure for 13 years to deliver on its promise to provide affordable and accessible, steady energy supply to the Filipino people. The public’s intense sufferings over incessant and prohibitive electricity rates, have spawned mass protests and the clamor to repeal or overhaul EPIRA. The power industry remained controlled and manipulated by a few industry players who are the regime’s patrons and main beneficiaries as they continued to rake in billions of profits in collusion with concerned agencies and officials.

The Aquino government’s pretensions as a champion of climate change solutions are easily unmasked by its energy and economic policies that exacerbate climate change, and its dismal record of effectively responding to climate –induced disasters, like Sendong, and recently, its continuing failure to deliver effective relief to millions of victims of typhoon Yolanda/Hyan. The regime’s energy program and power industry is mainly fueled by dirty and harmful energy: around 14 coal plants spewing toxic emissions run the country’s power needs, with at least 38 more being planned for construction in the next few months and years. The government has also abandoned its support for strong southern positions in the COP 14 negotiations in Lima, Peru—which helped weaken the southern countries and might help pave the way for a very bad new global Climate deal in Paris, this coming December.

Agriculture and manufacturing have been all but abandoned in favor of quick-fix programs such as rent-seeking property development, a bloated service sector, OFW remittances, low-value added call centers, and the dole-out scheme of the World Bank and ADB-funded conditional cash transfer (CCT). Key social justice programs have reached an impasse. An incompetent and clueless bureaucracy allowed the agrarian reform program to lapse without completing the land distribution component, misrepresented its achievements, and turned a blind eye to reversals that have taken place such as harassments of land reform beneficiaries, massive land conversions and cancellations of land awards.

Aquino’s term has been characterized by aggressive efforts to weaken democratic institutions. When his own appointees to the Supreme Court spurned his bid to keep the Disbursement Acceleration Program and declared it unconstitutional, he turned on them too and, in an unprecedented move, openly rejected the Supreme Court’s unfavorable ruling. If the president’s initial vacillation on the scrapping of the PDAF was explained away by some as owing to genuine concern about its supposed benefits, his stubborn defense of the DAP unmasked his government’s true nature as just another abusive, elitist, trapo administration.

Hiding behind the cloak of national security, Aquino has reversed the significant gains in our quest for sovereignty and an independent foreign policy with his ill-advised policies. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), secretly hatched both by the US and the Philippine governments, and at the expense of the Philippine Constitutional provisions against war and nuclear weapons on Philippine soil, is a glaring act of betrayal of Philippine sovereignty and national interests. Ironically, the almost permanent stationing of U.S. troops in various areas of the country have only made the country less secure and dependent on foreign assistance.

The Mamasapano tragedy, the responsibility of which both the PNP Board of Inquiry and Senate reports have laid squarely at the doorsteps of Malacanang, have prejudiced not just the fate of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law but has also derailed the quest for peace in Mindanao-Sulu. Aquino’s reaction to this latest tragedy has been to wash his hands of any culpability and pass the blame to his subordinates. This overbearing arrogance and refusal to own up to strategic failures while dismissing all criticism as ill-informed if not malicious has long characterized the Aquino Presidency. This arrogance could only emanate from an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and superiority common among the scions of the rich and powerful.

The facts are as clear as day and they are damning. To sit back and wait till Aquino’s term of office ends is to deliberately ignore his monumental transgressions. We are all morally obligated to speak out and join the fight. At the same time, we deplore the scare tactics being deployed by the Aquino administration and its coterie of court jesters and sycophants who try to obfuscate the issue by diverting it to a pointless discussion on who will take his place. We, likewise, reject the notion that to acquiesce to the swapping of one set of elites for another is the height of democratic participation in this country.

We reject Aquino and the continuation of disastrous elite rule! We reject elitist anti-people policies and programs! We will persevere in our fight for a new economy, new politics and system change!

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