PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS
May 13, 2006 Issue
1.Cover: For Better Lives
Workers marched in anger around the world on Monday, demanding better working conditions and higher wages to keep up with the rising cost of living that is threatening to rise even higher as world oil prices soar, pulled up by tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In the Philippines, workers march across the country demanding not only for a P125 raise in the minimum wage, but also for the resignation of the leader they did not elect. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo barricades her palace with barbed wire and giant cargo containers and spends the weekend threatening to reimpose a martial-law-type proclamation should the Filipinos insist on removing her from office, and on Monday tries to court state workers with a promise of a pay raise next year but offers nothing to workers in the industries that will help them cope with increasing prices of basic goods. Instead she offers to cancel penalties and surcharges on social security loans that they have not yet repaid. She also offers tax exemptions to the lowest-paid workers, even though the pay of these workers is not enough to keep body and soul together even without income tax. She offers them scholarships and government health insurance, even though what they need is food on the table every day. Scholarship is not open to all children and government health insurance is good only for one year—if funded. Mrs. Arroyo’s offers are not bad, but having been born rich and privileged, she has not experienced hunger and homelessness. She appeals to workers to ask for a “reasonable” wage increase because employers cannot afford P125. But the P125 the workers are asking for is based on the prices of goods five years ago—before she came to make life harder for the Filipinos. What is reasonable given the threats of higher prices, rent, commuter fares, college tuition? Would pulling her out of office make things better for them?
By Guiller de Guzman, Nati Nuguid, Wendell Vigilia and Butch Serrano
2. Stopping Gloria’s Train
Former president Corazon Aquino, the political opposition and the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference have launched a new movement to counter the Arroyo administration’s attempt to force a shift to parliamentary government. Civic and Catholic lay organizations will help the movement educate the people on the proposal to amend the Constitution and, it is hoped, make those whom the government has duped into signing up for the change take back their signatures. How signatures can be taken back is unclear, but as it may already be too late to take back the signatures the battleground will surely be the plebiscite that seems to be inevitably coming.The opposition has brought suit in local courts against the Commission on Elections to block the verification of signatures gathered by the government and some courts have ordered the Comelec to stop the validation. But can local courts restrain a constitutional body like the Comelec from doing what it believes is its job? Or is it only the Supreme Court that can stop the Comelec from verifying the signatures. Add all blahs.
By Ricky S. Torre and Wendell Vigilia
Malacañang says all the opposition forces combined cannot bring down President Arroyo. Given the apathy that has pulled down the Filipino spirit, the Palace may be right. But Palace officials should not be too confident.
By Guiller de Guzman and Butch Serrano
4. Makati, Let’s Go to the Movies
President Arroyo thinks so low of the people of Makati. The elites are only a fraction of the city’s population. The poor and poorly educated are still the more numerous and they can be won to the administration’s side by putting a movie actor in the city’s mayoralty—Lito Lapid, who has been sleeping in the Senate since his election to that chamber of Congress in 2004. Mayor Jejomar Binay is guffawing at Mrs. Arroyo’s strategy. Lapid has confirmed that Mrs. Arroyo is pushing him to challenge Binay in next year’s election and he is willing to take her up on this one. In fact, he says, he is buying a house in Makati to establish residence there in preparation for his run against Binay.
By Guiller de Guzman and Butch Serrano
5. Hardly Justice
The Presidential Commission on Good Government talks about a settlement with the Marcoses as if a deal were unstoppable. It seems that the ill-gotten wealth watchdog has forgotten that the Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot make a deal with the Marcoses. A settlement will naturallty allow the Marcoses part of their loot and include the dropping of all charges against them. Return some, keep some, and you’re free to go. That’s hardly justice.
By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid