107th Philippine Indepence Day Speech

By: Ruben M. Manatad-Provincial Manager, NFA Biliran
Guest Speaker-Biliran Independence Day Commemoration
June 12, 2005-Naval, Biliran

107th years ago today, on June 12, 1898, the Philippine flag was hoisted signaling the end of 400 years Spanish colonial rule in the country, with little help from the Americans. But on February 4, 1899, the United States on the excuse that Filipino soldiers fired at American soldiers at the San Juan Bridge, engaged the Philippines in a war. Actually, it was the American soldier named Willie Grayson who fired shots at four Filipinos crossing the bridge. This led to a 15-year war of the US against Filipino freedom fighters.

107th Philippine Indepence Day Speech
Ruben M. Manatad-Provincial Manager, NFA Biliran
Guest Speaker-Biliran Independence Day Commemoration
June 12, 2005-Naval, Biliran

107th years ago today, on June 12, 1898, the Philippine flag was hoisted signaling the end of 400 years Spanish colonial rule in the country, with little help from the Americans. But on February 4, 1899, the United States on the excuse that Filipino soldiers fired at American soldiers at the San Juan Bridge, engaged the Philippines in a war. Actually, it was the American soldier named Willie Grayson who fired shots at four Filipinos crossing the bridge. This led to a 15-year war of the US against Filipino freedom fighters.

To get the Philippines as its colony was already shaped in 1897, as articulated by Senator Albert Beveridge when he said that “American factories are making more than the American people can use. American soil is producing more than they can consume. Fate has written our policy for us : the trade of the world must and shall be ours.”

It is in this context that President McKinley maintained that America’s “Manifest Destiny” was to take up the “White Man’s burden” for their “Little Brown Brothers.” Not to mention that McKinley’s so called “benevolent assimilation” of the Philippines resulted to the slaughter of around 1.5 million Filipinos.

The Americans supposedly handed us our sovereignty from July 4, 1946 to the present, but the fact is, we are still subservient to the United States. Our policies are dictated by the US government and its controlled multilateral institutions. In fact, no President of the Republic can stay a day longer in office without the support of the US government.

This finds parallelism in today’s US war of aggression in Iraq. Ostensibly, it is to topple tyranny with the ouster of Saddam Hussein only to be replaced by a select Iraqi elites beholden to the Americans. A majority of the American people are now against this war believing that the US is there only after oil. Iraq has the second largest reserve of oil in the Middle East. Iraq now is like what the Philippines had gone through in the hands of the US. From 1899 up to the present, we are at the receiving end of lopsided treaties and unequal treatment with the US.

This brings us also on the role played by our veterans. Our brave Filipino soldiers of World War II who were drafted into service by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and our guerillas recognized as such by the US government are entitled to the benefits promised them by the US. They fought side by side with American troops, but after the war ended, the US Congress in 1946, unceremoniously deprived them of veterans’ benefits and veterans’ status.

In the statement of Richard Weidman, of the Vietnam Veterans of America before a House Veterans’ Affairs Sub Committee on Health on June 13, 2002, he said “the long struggle staged by Filipino veterans demanding equity in their treatment by the US has gone on for more than half a century. These aging Filipino soldiers who fought under the US flag in World War II must be helped now, whom it matters most, before they all die.”

And guess who are taking the cudgels of the Filipino veterans in the US? They are the famous Fil-Am actors in the likes of Lou Diamond Philips, who was born here, of “La Bamba” fame; Rob Schneider of “Hot Chick”; and Tia Carrere who played opposite Arnold Schwarzenneger in “True Lies.”

In another congressional Sub Committee hearing, Lou said “ It is my belief that Gen. MacArthur did not mean that he would return empty-handed. It is my hope that he intended to return the loyalty, commitment and respect shown to him and to America by the Filipino people.” He added, “ we have before us an opportunity to uphold this word and to continue to be a shining light of democracy and fairness.”

In 1990, a law was passed by the US Congress, awarding citizenship to Filipinos who had fought on the side of the US in World War II. As a result of that legislation, about 26,000 aging veterans were naturalized as US citizens . But there was nothing in the legislation about veterans’ benefits. The new citizens were only available for welfare payments, if they were poor, like non-veterans.

The real essence of any independence day celebration is the genuine liberation of our country from the bondage of colonial occupation. A little flashback of history would suggest that every colonizer was always met with resistance. But the occupiers advanced a different concept of liberation to hoodwink our people.

The Spaniards came in the pretext to “liberate” us from the enslavement of the devil. The Americans came to “liberate” us from Spanish oppression, the Japanese from American imperialism, and the Americans again from Japanese fascism. But the fact that there was resistance, so something was not right and that the liberation claimed by these colonizers were apparently not the liberation expected by the Filipinos.

Yes, we are still into a parallel important liberation struggle for our people. In our midst is rampant graft and corruption; mounting foreign debt and debt servicing; widespread poverty; worsening education standards and services; deteriorating health and other social services; landlessness; escalating lawlessness; low salaries of public and private workers; rising inflation rate; alarming summary killings of activists and journalists and other human rights violations; high unemployment rate; lingering insurgency; and deepening economic and political stranglehold of foreign interests in our country.

We will dwell some of these issues briefly and their interplay between and among each other. Corruption is a leadership issue. Without a strong political will to minimize if not eradicate it or lack of moral ascendancy on the part of the leadership that would set an example, it cannot be effectively addressed.

It victimizes us all. It is a moral sin against the poor. It breeds the vicious cycles of poverty and underdevelopment. Consider a few statistics: 20%-30% of the General Appropriations Act is lost through kickbacks; P200B-P300B lost to tax leakage and tax collection; $2 B according to the World Bank is lost to corruption every year. Per SWS nationwide survey conducted on January 25 to March 15, 2005, 99% of the people think there is graft in the government. And recent reports indicate that the GSIS is now the number one corrupt agency, overtaking the BIR and the BOC.

That is why, the Philippines is second in Asia in terms of corruption said the Hongkong-based PERK and 11th among 146 countries according to Transparency International, both studies are in 2004. Here, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was fuming mad because we ought to be number one. And some text jokes were even circulated to the effect that the good senator must not worry because President GMA is doing all she can to make the Philippines No. 1. Hahaha, no wonder, we are in such an inextricable mess at present.

But, other Asian countries, except Singapore are as corrupt as the Philippines, but why have we not progressed like them. There is one interesting story I will relay to all of you. That Filipinos are corrupt but cannot deliver, as there are still potholes on the roads, unfinished projects and substandard infrastructure. And that there are also corrupt Indonesians but they can deliver. But the difference is that, the money the Indons acquired through corruption is not salted abroad but invested in the country. The Philippines is therefore doomed because those who are corrupt are likewise not patriotic. And this is a fatal combination.

Very clear. If you don’t love your country, you don’t love your agency, you don’t love your surrounding and you don’t give a damn what is happening around you. In fact, it is not only a culture of corruption but equally the corruption of culture that abet graft and corrupt practices.

Basically, the stability of the government now is undermined by high levels of corruption allegedly involving the First Family to include election fraud. Scandal after scandal is thrown right into their faces. We have a very explosive political crisis at present. The credibility of the government is at stake. The erosion of moral and legal authority to lead is inviting instability of irremediable consequences.

Our foreign debt now is nearly $60B and counting. Our economy is debt-driven. We contract new loans to pay our outstanding loans. The US-controlled multilateral institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank squeezed the Filipinos dry of much needed budget for social services. It is highly immoral for these financial institutions to extract the blood money of the poor by compelling the government to pay them the loans which some did not benefit the people. Approximately, 35% of our national budget is automatically appropriated for debt servicing.

The constitution mandates that education will be the highest priority of the country. For this year, debt payments would reach P600 billion while the allotment of education is only P112B. No wonder, the adverse effects are: increase of number of out-of-school youths; plummeting achievement; growing illiteracy; unprecedented shortage of teachers, classrooms and other basic services; and greater exploitation of teachers. Teachers work more for less pay. There is no increase of their salary, same with other government workers. The increase is only in their working hours and in class size. Imagine from an ideal ratio of 35 pupils in one class, it is currently raised by the DePED to 65 per class. And the news this morning is that the Navotas and Malabon areas have 100 students per class.

And this heart-rending news item in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last June 8. Father Bob Hogain of Ateneo de Davao initiated a “Daily Bread Box” project to provide meals for the school’s students who can afford only one meal to eat. And that one has a problem of failing eyesight due to malnutrition. Yet, they persisted in pursuing their studies. That after the sermon of Fr. Hogain, a young woman approached him, and in tears also told him that she also have one meal a day while in college. She found out that this woman graduated Summa Cum Laude in Ateneo de Manila university.

Another concern is the low pay of those in the public and private sector. Our take home pay cannot even take us home. Our last increase was still in 2001. Our monthly minimum basic pay is only P5,082, while the average monthly pay of government workers is only P8,709. The government now estimates the monthly cost of living at P17,000. Our demand for a P3,000 monthly increase is only to recover our purchasing power that was eroded by inflation. This proposed increase is covered by a House Bill filed by the three Bayan Muna representatives.

Before the election last year, the President said that she will raise the salary of government workers. After the election, she declared that the country is in a financial crisis. Then she ordered to tighten our belts. But the perks of top officials are continuously enjoyed coupled with immoral display of wealth of some of those in power . Two days ago, in the heat of the jueteng scandal, she instructed Secretary Emilia Boncodin to compute how much government workers will receive as pay raise next year. In 2002, the rumblings in the military also resulted to their increase in pay. With a little coup jitter, the take home pay of our brothers and sisters in the military service could increase. But we do not begrudge the uniformed personnel for their salary increase because like us, they well deserve it. In fact, it is easy for us to ask for salary raise with one sector in the bureaucracy already granted pay increase.

And now the continuing insurgency problem. There are militarists in the government who would effect a fully military approach in solving this problem. No matter how superior is the other side, it cannot effectively solve the same. This is the picture in Iraq and the PLO-Israel conflict. The arms superiority of the US and the Israel is no guarantee that the other side would capitulate. The US is now courting the support of the UN and other countries because of the unexpected stiff resistance of the Iraqis, whereas before it sidelined the UN and unilaterally invaded Iraq. It is also a war of attrition between the PLO and Israel. Its “eye for an eye” strategy against Palestinian attacks only aggravated bloodshed on both sides. In fact, Israel now is pulling out its settlements from the occupied Gaza Strip.

Solving the insurgency problem would require a comprehensive social, economic and political change. This is the only way to address the root causes of insurgency to ensure an enduring and just peace. The deepening poverty of the people is the result of liberalization, deregulation and privatization policy of the government in adherence to the globalization agenda of multilateral institutions.

What is needed is a paradigm shift on the part of the government. This is to shun foreign dictates that are inimical to the interest of the greater number of our people and introduce necessary reforms. Some of these could be the: reduction of debt servicing according only to our capacity to pay and rechannel the fund to increase the budget for education, health, agriculture and other social services; provision of ample support to our farmers in the form of farm inputs subsidies, easy access to credit, marketing back up, and provision of irrigation facilities and farm-to-market roads to ensure genuine food security; reverse the deregulation of the oil industry to check immoral series of oil price increases; prosecution of grafters in the government; efficient tax collection so that there is no more need to impose heavier tax burden like the EVAT; and protection of local agriculture and industries.

An honest-to-goodness pursuit of these reforms can effectively liberate our people from the bondage of abject poverty and exploitation. This would unleash the productive forces in the rural and urban areas and raise the purchasing power of the people that would eventually benefit the economy.

It was Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia who proved that the economy can improve by disregarding the prescription of the IMF. During the 1997 Asian financial crisis Malaysia did not swallow the bitter pill imposed by the IMF. He did the opposite. He pegged the ringgit at 3.8 to one dollar, restricted repatriation of profits by foreign businessmen, implemented low interest rates, help the banks, and increase government expenditures. Later on, in 2000, the IMF grudgingly admitted that they were proven wrong. Now, Malaysia is one of the fastest growing economies in East Asia.

In his talk to businessman here last October 2004, Mahathir said that government policies must be aimed at bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. That it is necessary to give direct and indirect subsidies to the poor . And that wealth and economic opportunities must be evenly distributed. We are not doing these because these are against the wishes of the IMF and look at our plight now. Just yesterday, there was a news item that the IMF team is arriving in Manila for a two week review of our financial and economic policies.

I am just touched by the experience of two of our six On-the-Job-Trainees from the NIT, Lynne Jayubo and Wenna Peñaranda. They were part of the Rolling Store team we fielded in Sitio Gubalin, Larrazabal during the Biliran provincehood celebration. They passed by a house of an elderly couple. The old man was sick and the wife approached them to buy a kilo of rice worth P16, but she only had P10. Seeing the predicament of the couple, the two OJTs had to shell out P3 each for the wife to have a kilo of rice. These OJTs kept this to themselves and it was our driver who relayed to me what happened. Theirs was but a simple gesture, but they make a big difference, it saved one poor family of a precious day’s meal. But one important fact is that, its only when the poor have purchasing power, however cheap the price of rice is, that they can be assured of food on their table. Happy Independence Day!

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