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A Call to Strike Against Education Budget Cut

A Call to Strike Against Education Budget CutAquino is leading the country to roads that could all end to a deadly ravine, but “straight way”.

The Aquino government has spoken of “straight way”, rhetoric of reform and different state of affairs under his new government contrary to Arroyo government. Aquino’s predecessor, Arroyo’s regime has been characterized by grave human rights violations, corruption, and rabid servility to the US economic and political agenda.

At this early however, it can be seen that Aquino has towed the line of “neo-liberal globalization” championed by Arroyo. It is clear in the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT), that these central socio-economic policies of Aquino will only worsen the chronic crisis that beset the country and benefit mostly foreign interests and monopoly capital.

Like the previous governments, Philippine economic and national policies are sealed at the empire’s headquarters. The United States as a primary hegemonic power, dictates the policies of liberalization, privatization, denationalization and deregulation that further worsened unemployment, agrarian unrest and poverty of the Filipino people. These policies are also the guide of the policies being included in the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2011-2016 of the new regime.

Imperialist blueprint in Aquino policies

Aquino’s first state visit was in the US and could tell no less than the prevailing “special relations” (read as master and servile) between Philippines and the US. While Aquino flaunts so-called Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) “granted” by the Millennium Challenge Corporation with a sum of US$434 million for the Philippine government, it is without doubt that in exchange the US will be cementing its economic, military, and geo-political hold on the country.

The MCA subterfuges as an aid to push for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2015 as targeted by the United Nations. According to the IBON Foundation however, the MCA obliges Philippines and other recipient countries to implement in exchange neo-liberal policies like opening of trade, economic liberalism, and requisites of “good governance” and “adherence to human rights standards” even if the latter two standards were as good only if these make the US economic interests prosper. Simultaneous with globalization, Aquino pushed for “fiscal adjustment” or the fixing of budget based on the priorities dictated by the imperialists. This fiscal adjustment has been proven to be inimical to the nation’s genuine development and in essence is refurbishing the unjust Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPS) pushed by the International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) in the 1980’s.

Meanwhile the CCT program which has been beefed up with 29.2 billion pesos is intended as an artificial eradication of poverty or dole-out. This is done at the same time that the social services, including education are starkly sidelined and reduced with budget. Aquino is wishful-thinking that through CCT program, the poverty of millions of Filipinos will be ended by handing cash to selected poor families via a US$400 million loan from the Asian Development Bank.

An enlarged CCT under the Aquino government, which was double the scope of Arroyo’s World Bank funded CCT, will surely be a source of big corruption and foreign indebtedness. Aquino is wishful-thinking that thru dole-outs poverty will end, even if there is wanton disregard for social services and education, health, demolition of urban poor, high unemployment, landlessness and unrest in the countryside.

Aquino’s project like the CCT reflects the shallow analysis, with his propaganda slogan “If there are no corrupt, there are no poor people.” It covers the structural roots of poverty and basic problems in the Philippines: absence of genuine land reform program and industrial backwardness which could not create gainful jobs at home, scarce social services, human rights violations and the domination of US and local elites. In a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country like ours, these have been the ensuing reasons for social strife and unrest.

The CCT is also an ideological offensive of the establishment in the guise of “welfare program” of the government and propagandized by neo-liberal apologists like the pseudo-progressive group Akbayan.

Even the military which is involved in systematic violations of human rights is awarded with 2.43 billion pesos in the budget under an item called “support to national development”.

This is part of image building of the military, which is based on the “Winning of Hearts and Mind” doctrine of the US counter-insurgency manual.

War and foreign-debt budget, not education and social service

Similar to the IMF-WB dictates of implementing “austerity measures”, which had recently ignited the giant protests and strikes in Europe, the 1.645 trillion peso budget ($37.63 million) for 2011 by the Philippine government is one such measure. In short, this is to ensure the yearly foreign debt servicing and “stability” thru the bolstering of budget for the military.

In terms of the elementary and secondary education, there is only a “nominal” budget increase and still lags in covering for the insufficiency of millions of books, school chairs and tables, schoolrooms, thousands of needed teachers with enough salary and benefits. It is possible that in the government’s priority and poverty, the already huge number of 4.69 million youth aged 7-16 years that are out-of school will be increased.

In the college, the budget slash is phenomenally the biggest in history of the state universities and colleges (SUCs) with 1.1 billion cut for operations and maintenance. There is also no budget delegated for improvement of school facilities. Among the biggest cut was received by the University of the Philippines system with 1.39 billion or 20% of the budget (and 114 million pesos for the Philippine General Hospital), the Philippine Normal University (PNU) with 92million cut and the Bicol University with 88 million pesos cut.

Aquino reasoned that cuts could be solved anyway with income generating projects by the SUCs, including raising of tuition and fees. From the studies conducted, in the last decade there are 1.5 billion were drawn thru the pockets of students, however the projected income this 2011 is increased to 7.7 billions or 22.1% of the total budget of SUCs from only 8.3% only last 2011. This is clear government abandonment of its responsibility to provide education to its youth and citizen.

The direction of Aquino’s program is clearly adherent to the imperialist globalization framed Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2004-2010 and Long Term Higher Education Development Plan (LTHEDP). The MTPDP and LTHEDP is based on the IMF-WB dictates where education especially higher education is treated as a commodity and not anymore as a responsibility of government. The MTPDP and LTHEDP impose for semi-corporatization of state universities of colleges, self-sustenance and financing of SUCs and marketization (collaboration with big corporations, MNCs/TNCs and industries).

Meanwhile, the capitalist-educators of private schools will pursue their plans of raising tuition and various schemes to impose exorbitant and unjust fees. These capitalist-educators exploit the Education Act of 1982, a law that deregulates tuition, and make use of a tooth-less regulatory body called Commission on Higher Education. Students are preparing to defy these impositions and Aquino regimes policies that are anti-people and anti-youth engender the strongest rationale for a youth and peoples strike. The youth cannot expect for brighter future so long as these policies are in place, but the worsening of Commercialized, Fascist and Colonial education under the Aquino government. There is no solution on the education crisis but the unified action of the youth and people for an accessible mass-oriented, scientific and nationalist education that will serve the interest of the people and not that of foreign, corporate and elite interests.

There is an imminent storm of protest to fight for the rights of the youth and people for education. The students, youth and people are called by the current objective situation to stand and struggle.

Call to Strike

There is an imminent storm of protest to fight for the rights of the youth and people for education, bigger than those of the last months. Like the various periods in our history, we the students, youth and people are called by current objective situation to stand and struggle for our rights. We learn from the historical storm of the First Quarter Storm of 1970, the movement for democratization in and outside our campus to the anti-fascist struggles and People Power in 1983-86, and the youth actions together with the people in ousting the corrupt Estrada regime in 2001.

A strike is a weapon of the oppressed and wretched. We see that in all uprisings the youth’s strength must be merged with the peoples’ strength, in order to be an effective shield to a deaf state and to claim victory, regain our rights and for a meaningful social change.

A strike is a weapon of the oppressed and wretched. Looking through the progressive lens, we see that in all these uprising the youth’s strength must be merged with the peoples’ strength, in order to be an effective shield to a deaf state and in order to claim victory, regain our rights and for a meaningful social change. The honing-ground of strength of the progressive rank, can be seen through the actual struggles and assertion of youth and peoples’ rights.

So our call to our fellow students, teachers, workers and youth, let us build the barricade in our campuses! Let us transform our barricades and streets into democratic schools of struggle. This is an invitation to all, take a stand, act and play a role in the making of history!

This article and the next were published in the November issue of INSIGHTS, the theoretical journal of the Institute for Nationalist Studies, a youth-led research group in the Philippines.