AS expected, Rep. Neri Colmenares’s alternative state of the nation address, which he delivered for the Makabayan block in Congress, did not get the media mileage it deserved. After all it wasn’t VP Jejomar Binay’s TSONA, nor was it President Mayor Erap’s SOCA. And no, not at all Governor Imee Marcos’s SOPA.
Yet this is the state of the nation that made most sense, that resonated because truthful to the conditions of nation that we live in every day.
That it is the state of the nation that has gotten the least media mileage is telling of mainstream media’s complicity in silencing certain voices, if not of the kind of bias it has against militant lawmakers. It’s a bias that’s sadder for nation really, just because much of what Rep. Colmenares says is what makes for a better understanding of nation and its ills.
And if we don’t talk this deeply and honestly about the state of the nation, then we’re bound to just get the same kind of government we’ve had the past six years. Almost delusional when it comes to its own achievements, removed from how difficult life is for the majority of Filipinos.
The President talked about the decreased number of poor based on the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) pegging the number of poor at 26%. According to Rep. Colmenares, this is based on a poverty threshold of P58 pesos per day.
This is to say that for matuwid na daan, a Filipino can live on P58 pesos per day.
That’s P58 pesos for food and non-food expenses, including electricity, water and housing, transport expenses, and sending one’s children to school.
A more honest assessment would peg the poverty threshold at P125 per day per person. This of course would mean that 66% of Filipinos are actually poor – very far from the 26% that the government likes to celebrate.
Now consider: P125 per day per person is not much given the rising cost of goods and the lack of free basic services. IBON Philippines pegs the threshold at least at P181 per person per day. That of course is not a number that the government wants to hear.
Being in denial about the number of poor after all is part of matuwid na daan’s delusions.
Kung walang corrupt
But of course the President cannot be honest about the real state of poverty in this country. After all, matuwid na daan is premised on the idea that if there is no corruption, then there will be no poverty.
Proving that poverty continues to exist, and is in fact on the rise, would then point to the fact that corruption continues to exist as well.
If anything, this government reminds us that corruption comes in many forms. Including but not limited to the refusal to certify the Freedom of Information Bill as urgent, for example. Or the continued existence of lump sum allocations in the 2016 budget.
And there is just the refusal to truly look at the systemic dysfunctions that have kept the poor impoverished, and have driven an increasing number of people to poverty.
There’s the fact that real land reform is not something that this President can even begin to talk about. And no, it’s not merely about his Hacienda Luisita roots. That is to remove all possibility that a landlord can be educated enough, can know of justice and fairness enough, to actually give up his land for farmers who have tilled it all their lives.
Instead, this is really about this President’s refusal to mete out justice for peasant families and communities who have been victimized in his family’s Hacienda Luisita. This is really about him refusing to deal with these numbers: 2.8 million hectares of land are owned by big landlords, while 70% of farmers do not own land.
And contrary to all those claims that government funds were spent on agricultural irrigation projects, 1.3 million of 3 million hectares of irrigable land have yet to get proper irrigation.
For a government that prides itself in having savings, one wonders why it isn’t spending on the things that matter.
Meron pa ring naghihirap
The government is one to take pride in the glowing reviews about the Philippine economy, the better GDP numbers, the international interest in investing in the country.
Yet one wonders what this translates to in reality.
Rep. Colmenares quotes Forbes Magazine that has pegged the combined wealth of 40 of the richest families in the Philippines at P3.2 trillion pesos.
One wonders how that kind of wealth is just in a country with 66% below the poverty line.
After all, where is the justice in a minimum wage of P481 pesos per day? If workers get that at all, given what we now know to be the crisis of subcontracting and contractual work, with no benefits and no security, and the reckless endangerment of workers’ lives in factories that ignore safety regulations.
Add to that the fact that no matter how little you earn, you are paying taxes to this government. Add to that the fact of unsafe roads and public transport. Add to that the rising cost of basic goods.
One is surprised the President could even deliver his SONA with a straight face.
One is astounded that so many believed it to be true. Apparently blindness and delusion work best together; add to that a good dollop of spin and a complicit media, and you’ve got matuwid na daan.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not deal with this fictional road for another six years.
Data from the Makabayang KontraSona delivered by Senior Deputy Minority Leader Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna, 5 August 2015.