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Arroyo to be tried before People’s Tribunal for violating Filipinos’ economic rights

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Among the charges that initiator organizations filed before the international opinion court Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) against Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is the violation of Filipinos’ economic rights.

The Italy-based Permanent People’s Tribunal, which opens its Second Session on the Philippines today, publicly and analytically examines cases regarding violations of human rights and rights of people.

According to IBON research head Sonny Africa, Arroyo sacrificed Filipinos’ welfare by further implementing neoliberal globalization policies (liberalization, deregulation and privatization) that were started by her predecessors and imposed by multilateral agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO). “She also concealed the negative effects of these policies on the domestic economy and the Filipino people by window-dressing economic statistics,” said Africa .

IBON is one of the initiators of the complaint against Arroyo’s economic crimes, together with other initiators Hustisya (families of victims of extrajudicial killings), Selda, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Peace for Life, Public Interest Law Center, Ecumenical Bishops Forum, and the United Churches of Christ in the Philippines . The other charges in the PPT complaint are the political killings, disappearances and other human rights violations; and crimes under international law.

Africa cited how Arroyo is fast-tracking the privatization of the state-run National Power Corporation (Napocor). In order to make Napocor assets more attractive to potential investors, the government had to absorb the power firm’s massive debts. This meant increased power rates and higher taxes levied on the people. Arroyo also upheld the onerous contracts of the independent power producers which are the root of high electricity costs.

“She also refused to reverse the deregulation of the downstream oil industry despite the widespread outcry for government regulation, thus condemning the people to suffer from constant rounds of oil price hikes,” he said.

Her neoliberal “reform” programs, Africa added, have resulted in massive and widespread bankruptcies in agriculture and industry by opening the economy to cheap imports. Farm closures have reached an unparalleled 9,900 farms a year while factories are closing down at a rate of 8 establishments every day.

In order to conceal the growing extent of poverty in the country due to her policies, and to create a more business-friendly climate, the Arroyo government had also set an unrealistically low poverty threshold figure of P33.72 a day or P202.32 for a family of six. In other words, a Filipino who earned this much would no longer be considered poor. Using this figure, government was able to peg poverty incidence in the country (as of 2003) at 30% of the population, lower than the 33% recorded in 2000. The government was also able to use this figure to justify low wage rates in the country in order to attract foreign investors.

But this figure is clearly a sham, and IBON estimates the daily cost of living for a family of six at P556.40 as of September 2006. IBON estimates that some 80% of Filipino families fall below decent living standards.

Worse is that Arroyo is also sacrificing the future of the country’s children through high borrowings in order to sustain the illusion of economic growth as well as to ensure her political survival, Africa said. Annual net borrowing rose from P175 billion in 2001 to P219.4 billion in 2005 while annual payments jumped from P274 billion in 2001 to a staggering P679 billion in 2005.

Aside from increasing debt service payments in the years to come, the people also suffer from decreased spending on vital social services. Over the past five years, the Arroyo government’s real spending for social services has continually declined: education has fallen by 5% and health is 19% lower.

The worsening poverty and unemployment due to the loss of state-provided social services and the impact of misguided economic policies are also a form of human rights violation, Africa pointed out.

The Second Session in the Philippines , he said, hopes to bring to the attention of the international community crimes inflicted on the Filipino people by the Arroyo regime, the US and other imperialist powers, multinational corporations and banks and multilateral agencies such as the IMF-WB and the WTO.

Africa added, “The PPT second session on the Philippines hopes garner the widest possible support for the people’s struggles towards bringing an end to human rights violations against individuals, groups and local communities.” (end)

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.