August 15, 2017

NUSP calls out Duterte for failed promises; demands free education, pro-people reforms, and just peace

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) joined different youth organizations and multi-sectoral groups in a mobilization on June 30 (Friday) to mark the first anniversary of the Duterte administration. “One year has passed since President Duterte assumed office yet the nation finds itself still far from realizing these aspirations. In fact, neoliberal policies and fascist attacks against the Filipino people remain at all fronts,” sad NUSP National Spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim.

Free Education, Labor, and Social Services

The anti-poor neoliberal economic policies of the last three (3) decades—trade and investment liberalization, deregulation, and privatization of social services and public utilities—remain in full force. Despite his rhetoric against the oligarchs, President Duterte’s neoliberal economic policies favor the rich, powerful, and well-entrenched ruling elite and their foreign partners.

Last year, the radical student movement’s decades-long struggle for free education pushed the Congress to grant the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) an additional budget of P8.3 billion to fund all 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs) in lieu of collecting tuition from 1.4 million students. “Although most students in SUCs have benefitted from the free tuition policy, exorbitant other school fees (OSF) remain in place. Meanwhile, the annual tuition and OSF increases continued,” said Lim.

Meanwhile, workers are particularly disappointed that President Duterte’s promise to end labor contractualization merely resulted in DOLE Department Order 174 that merely reiterated existing prohibitions against labor-only contracting while strengthening various flexible and contractual work arrangements. Equally disappointed are rank and file salary earners who were promised deductions in income taxes but, as contained in the Duterte administration’s tax reform bill, will have to face higher prices of goods and services due to increased consumer taxes. Proposals for a substantial wage hike increase were all turned down.

Human Rights and Peace

With more than 8,000 reported victims of extrajudicial killings in the government’s so-called war on illegal drugs, President Duterte is being accused of tolerating, condoning, if not encouraging, the mass murder of mostly poor drug suspects. Meanwhile, the extrajudicial killings of peasant farmers, indigenous people, and activists suspected of being members or sympathizers of the New People’s Army (NPA) and other armed group continues unabated. These killings escalated following the declaration of an all-out war against the people’s revolutionary movement in February 2017.

In May 2017, armed conflict was ignited after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) raided the city of Marawi, Lanao del Sur. It was part of an operation believed to be run by the U.S. military to capture “foreign terrorist” Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and to pocket the $5 million reward money. Like the botched Mamasapano operation in 2015, the deluge of soldiers in Marawi City was met with resistance by various armed Moro groups who are furious at the U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for meddling in local politics and fueling armed rivalries among clans to divide the Moro community and weaken their resistance.

Following the armed conflict in Marawi City, President Duterte declared Martial Law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire Mindanao. The first month of Martial Law in Mindanao was marred with forced evacuations, human rights violations, and extra-judicial killings. Military operations were heightened not only in Mindanao but also in Visayas.

On the other hand, the militarists and warmongers in the Duterte administration were successful in disrupting the formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) by sidelining the substantive agenda on social and economic reforms and raising unreasonable demands.

“The armed conflict in Marawi City has exposed President Duterte’s vulnerability in the face of U.S. intervention. Allowing U.S. involvement in a raging armed conflict belied all his pronouncements of an independent foreign policy. We call on President Duterte to walk the walk by abrogating lopsided agreements and treaties, ending unequal foreign relations, and upholding our national sovereignty,” said Lim.

“President Duterte should also order the GRP Negotiating Panel to resume peace talks with the NDFP and to discuss the substantive agenda of social and economic reforms. Socio-economic reforms such as democratic access to social services, genuine land reform, and national industrialization are necessary to address the roots of the decades-long poverty and armed conflict in the country, and to achieve just and lasting peace,” said Lim.

Demand accountability and pro-people reforms

“It is high time that we call out the Duterte administration for its failed promises. We should push President Duterte to choose and to act on the national and democratic interests of the Filipino people, and not the impositions of the landlords, oligarchs, fascists, and imperialists,” concluded Lim.

Reference: NUSP National Spokesperson Mark Vincent D. Lim (+63 917 565 4963)

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