Need for Free Public Education, especially for the Poor

KristelTejada’s suicide last March 15, induced by her forced leave of absence from school due to her poor family’s inability to pay for her tuition fee by the deadline at the University of the Philippines – Manila campus, and the  mass student  and youth protests following her suicide depict the sorry state of the present rotten and inutile prevailing system’s provision of education for the benefit of the country’s youth and future.

What was behind what happened to Kristal was practically the same thing that also induced another young student, Marionette Amper, to commit suicide a little more than four years ago. Marionette was then an 11-year old elementary school student in Davao Oriental when she killed herself on Nov. 2, 2007. She left behimd a letter to her parents, bidding farewell and explaining that what she did was because of her inability to accomplish her school-required education project, because of her family’s dire poverty. In sympathy with her and millions of other poor students and youth suffering like she did, masses of others students and youth waged protest actions in Mindanao, Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

Education and the fulfilling of its requirements and support for it are basic human rights and the ruling state has the responsibility and duty to ensure free basic and intermediate education and its adjunct requisites for all at the minimum, as well as free tertiary and higher education based on merit – – and eventually for all.

 The highly inadequate, stingy and declining support by the prevailing state for public education and its requisites for the youth and the needy has long been one of the basic problems of the Filipino youth and people.

Education, however, including the fulfilling of its requisites, is a basic human right and the ruling state bares the responsibility and duty to ensure its delivery, including free elementary and intermediate education for all, as well as free tertiary and higher education, based on merit at the minimum and eventually for all.

Contrary to this, the highly inadequate, stingy and declining free tertiary education on a highly selective basis for the qualified needy youth has been a problem for a great majority among the Filipino youth and their parents, particularly among the more than 90% who are poor and needy.

 The program for the people’s rights, welfare and development, that the National Democratic Front (NDF) and its allied organizations are fighting for, includes the state’s delivery of free quality education for the youth and the needy, especially among the impoverished and deprived.

To avoid the profit motive’s interfering with such basic human right, included in the NDF’s socio-economic program is the state’s eventual assimilation of private schools into the free public education system, including at the tertiary level, and giving full support for it and all its requisites, so that what happened to Kristel, Marionette and others will not happen again to many more of the country’s youth, who want quality education but have only become frustrated because their families are poor and cannot pay for their continuing education and requisites.

This is just one among the many fundamental issues included in the socio-economic reforms agenda of the NDF in formal peace talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH).

 A big problem, however, is that the formal peace talks between the NDF and the GPH has been stalled because the Benegno S. Aquino III regime refuses to release NDF peace consultants and other participants in the peace talks, who were surveilled, arrested, detained and subjected to other antagonistic acts in violation of their supposed protection by virtue of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other standing peace agreements. –  by Alan Jazmines, NDF Peace Consultant detained at the Security Intensive Care Area, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig

(The author is a member of the NDF’s Socio-Economic Committee and is supposed to sit in the meeting of the Reciprocal Working Committee of the NDF and GPH on Socio-Economic Reforms, but was arrested on the eve of the resumption of the long-stalled formal peace talks between the NDF and the GPH on Februart 14,2011 and continues to be detained up to now – – in violation of the JASIG.  Because of the GPH’s refusal to release him and other NDF peace consultants and JASIG protection holders, the formal peace talks between the NDF and the GPH continues to be suspended).

What “Rising Tiger” are the World Bank and Aquino regime talking about?

The Benigno S. Aquino III regime is self-congratulatory about government statistics portraying an unusually high (6.6%) growth rate of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2012 building up from to 6.3% in the first half to 7.1% in the later part of the year.

The regime is even more titillated that with such a showing, the World Bank’s Country Director MotooKonishi now all of a sudden calls the Philippines a “rising tiger”.

The regime attributes such “good grades” as a result of its promotion of the “straight road” and of “good governance”.

Closer and more objective and truthful analysis and presentation of data, however, reveal that the supposed “outstanding growth rate” of the country’s economy of late is deceptive and what is more factual and real is that the Philippines remains Asia’s economic laggard, its economic base has only been getting worse and worse, and the mass of its people have all the more been suffering amidst many prettifying cover-ups.

In the first place, last year’s supposed growth should better be referred to as a mirage, as its 6.6% was computed from a low base – – the 3% dismal growth rate of the country’s economy the year before.

Such “growth” of 6.6% in the whole of 2012 (and even 7.1% in the latter part of the year) did not show real industrial growth, even if for the first time in many years a significant “boost” was supposed to have come from the industrial sector.  Bulk of the supposed “industrial growth” was in construction, jumping by an additional 24.3% from a year earlier, due largely to the rush of late in construction activities [- – principally in the raising of new buildings and “property booms” due to the surge of call center and other business process outsourcing (BPO) activities being set up in the country, and in the rise in sales of condominium units boosted principally by the massive inflow of remittances from the now more than 12 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), whose total remittances sent through banks (and not including those sent via other means) have now reached $24 billion a year and have already become the third largest in the world after China and Mexico.

A third major source of supposed “growth” in the last decade or so – – the re-export (after some labor-intensive processing locally) of semi-conductors and other electronic semi manufacturers – – have for the last several years amounted to more than #25 billion annually, and consisted more than 60% of the country’s export.

All these sources of supposed “growth”, however, are characterized by the mere exploitation of cheap labor of Filipinos, whether r locally or abroad.  The windfalls of the benefits from the exploitation of such surplus cheap labor, especially in terms of returns to capital and in terms of economic development and growth, are harvested not by those who perform the cheap labor of their foreign and comprador exploiters.

The most that the performers of cheap labor get are crumbs from the table of their i, that in the case of the Philippines span from increases in consumer purchases (including more purchases of imported or multinational-patented commercial products to the likes of condominium flats). Thus, the big rise in commerce and services plus sales of condominium flats over more solid industrial and agricultural production have been leading the Philippine economy since the surge of re-exports of semi-processed electronic parts, esport of surplus cheap labor and influx of BPOs.

The irony in all this is more clearly seen in the fact that while all such “growth” based on the exploitation of the country’s surplus cheap labor is building up in the trillions, just a few people are covering the country’s wealth and more and more the masses are suffering on the wayside.

This is most notably marked in the continuous rise of unemployment and underemployment (i.e., disguised unemployment) which have already be fallen more than 12 million (now more than 30% and further rising) of the available workforce.  Without the export of labor overseas, the unemployment and underemployment rates would practically double or even be a lot worse,

With such overly large unemployment and underemployment, Philippine labor has become cheaper and cheaper, and even more expendable. The legal minimum wage is less than half the value of the fair living family wage. The actual average wag is even worth much less in present terms, and becoming more less due to inflation.

It is because of all this and more (including the widespread and increasing  landlessness and joglessness of the great majority of peasants) that the mass of the people are getting poorer and poorer.

Indeed, the number of local comprador capitalists who have made it to the Forbe’s list of the world’s billionaires have risen to 40. They have done this to the point of amassing 76% of the Philippine economy. Compare this to Japan where the richest 40 own only 2.8% of the economy, and to Malaysia where the richest 40 own only 5.6% of the economy. The Philippine comprador, bureaucrat and feudal elite and their imperialist masters have been exploiting the people more and more greedy, and in turn have made the people all the more poor and miserable.

What “rising tiger” are the World Bank and the Benigno S. Aquino III regime myopic now talking about?

Drastic fundamental overhaul of the entire bankrupt, rotten and moribund semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system in the country will have to be made to reverse the prevailing socio-economic crisis that has long been overly burdening the Filipino people.


This article was written by Alan Jazmines, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) and a member of the NDF’s Socio-Economic Reform Committee that since the mid-2012, should have been meeting with its counterpart from the side of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) for the second round of the formal NDF-GPH peace talks, which is supposed to center on socio-economic reforms. The meetings, however, have not taken place because of Jasmines’ arrest and continuing detention since February 14,2012, and the arrest and continuing detention of about a dozen other NDF peace consultants,. The NDF-GPH Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) is supposed to protect peace consultants of both parties from surveillance, arrest, detention and other antagonistic acts that would prevent or deter in any way their effective participation and work in the peace process. The NDF and the GPH are, however, at odds in regard to its implementation – – or present non-implementation by the GPH.