On the occasion of Filipino Barrio Fiesta in Austria ( Vienna ) on 14 July 2007, we extend our warmest greetings of solidarity to every Pinoy and their community organizations. As this gathering is a commemoration of the Philippine Independence, please allow us to express our views on this historic event.

 

Traditional historians say we became "independent" after close to 400 years of brutal colonization by the Spaniards when Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine Independence on 12 June 1898 .

 

Today, after a century and close to a decade (109 years) since that proclamation, many Filipinos are still raising this big question: Are we really independent?

 

This short piece will not attempt to answer this question, but rather try to guide us to look, analyse and help shape a credible and sound understanding of the so-called Philippine Independence.

 

To give direction in our analysis, let us look into some recent facts and figures - pieces of a national jigsaw puzzle - portraying our country, such as:

 

    * 68 million Filipinos or 83 % household are living with only P96 (2 US dollar) or less a day.

    * Peasants – still landless, 7 out of 10 do not own the land they till.

    * Continuing historic job crises, average (6 years) unemployment rate – 11.3% & underemployment is 18.5% or a total of 29.8% - a direct result of the World Trade Organizations (WTO)-imposed policy of "free market globalization"!

    * Drop-out rate in secondary schools – 15.8% to 30% in 2005-06 due to poverty!

    * There are already ten (10) million migrant Filipinos in over 186 countries; more than 3,200 Filipinos leave the country everyday to work abroad, a dreadful consequence of the government's labor export policy (LEP).

 

·         This phenomenal diaspora of Filipinos also brought gruesome conclusions to many lives like that of Reynaldo Cortez who was beheaded last Wednesday, 13 June 2007 in Saudi Arabia and to many more Filipinos abroad (at least 34 at the moment) who are facing the death penalty for various offenses. The Philippine Government lack programs to fully address pressing migrant concerns.

 

·         OFWs remitted a total of 8.5 billion US dollars or P467.5 billion in 2004. This amount is more than half of the 2005 national budget (P907 billion); and 26 times bigger than the combined total of US military aid to the Philippines in the 1990-2001 period.

 

·         In the last 30 years, the country's economy was every now and then saved from eventual collapse by the   remittances of Filipinos working and residing overseas.  Remittance is part of the country's dollar reserves - collateral in getting new loans from Asian Development Bank (ADB), IMF-World Bank and other international institutions. This is one of the many corners where corruption breeds!

 

    * Since 1 January 2001 (start of Arroyo administration) until March 2007, the State forces have been accused of killing 839 unarmed civilians, forcibly abducted 194 unarmed civilians, tortured 799 (all cases documented), and violently dislocated thousands of families and communities. The human rights violations committed by the regime of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are extensive and systematic and supported by George W. Bush. The "extrajudicial killings are an assault on the rule of law,"…. "an expression of lack of confidence (indictment) in our judicial system."     

 

Based on the above, two points are worth considering:

 

1 . Are we really an independent nation, economically and politically, or still a colonized or semi-colonized territory of another?

Please note that the structural adjustment programs (SAP) of the IMF-World Bank have led to the destruction of local enterprises and farms; loss of livelihoods and jobs; decline in incomes, increasing prices of goods; narrower access to health care, education and decent housing; dislocation of entire communities, especially those of indigenous peoples; widespread damage to the environment; and, erosion of sovereign control over natural resources and development policies.

2. Is the current socio-economic situation in our country a factor that pushed us to migrate in other countries?  

This point was already squarely considered thus, " the loss of hope and scarcity of opportunity to find stable sources of livelihood that is humane and dignified forced million of Filipinos to migrate in other countries." (PINAS FIRST primer).

 

Having said this, we invite you to look into this matter and have a deeper analysis of the socio economic problem in our country as well as how to eventually address it.

 

Moreover, in behalf of Gabriela Women's Party, we take this opportunity   to convey our sincerest thanks to everyone who one way or another, support us in our election campaign last May 2007.  Rest assured that your vote will not go astray. We will continue our efforts to bring progressive change in the Philippine society. Together with Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Kabataan, Bangsa Moro Suara and other patriotic party-list groups, we declare that:

 

·        We embody the yearnings and aspirations of the most oppressed and the least heard, the "common tao" – workers, peasants, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, urban poor and other downtroddens. We also give voice to the concerns of the middle social strata and the cause of women, youth and migrants as well as other various pressing issues.

 

·        We believe that the test of an authentic democracy lies in the empowerment of the people, particularly the toiling majority, and that this can be realized by harnessing their collective creativity and strength, guaranteeing the full exercise of their basic rights.

 

We call on every migrant Pinoy here in Austria to unite and be a part of a patriotic movement to attain genuine freedom, democracy and independence in our Inang Bayan!

 

Pinoy In Austrian Society For Integrity, Reforms & Social Transformation (PINAS FIRST) 14 July 2007  

 

 

**********

References:

 

    * Migrant Orientation Course, Migrante International

    * The Impact of OFWs' Remittances on the Philippine Economy, Lualhati Roque, Executive Director, International Migrant Resource Center

    * The Philippine Labor Export Policy (LEP), PINAS FIRST paper, 6 March 2006

    * 2006: The Economics of Hype, Sonny Africa , IBON Foundation

    * Special Report (16 Years of Agrarian Reform) Lands are Back in the Hands of the Lords, Zelda D.T. Soriano, Bulatlat.com

    * 68 Million Filipinos Struggle with P96 or Less a Day, IBON media, 17 April 2007

    * Guilty: The Verdict of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal Second Session on the Philippines , IBON Foundation (First Printing, 2007)

    * PINAS FIRST Primer

    * GMANews.TV 13 June 2007

    * Chief Justice Ricardo Puno, PDI, 24 June 2007