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10/04

Calls for Aquino's resignation gaining ground

The number of Filipinos who are calling for their president's resignation due to incompetent governance and callous indifference to their suffering is steadily increasing.

Third World Health Aid Philippine partners Gabriela, Council for Health and Development, Advocates for Community Health and research group Ibon have joined the growing calls for the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III. The calls stem from the growing disillusion of the poor on Aquino's incompetent governance and his continued indifference to their plight.

The call for ouster quickly gains strength following developments in relation to Aquino's direct handling of the botched police operation in Muslim region in Mindanao to arrest a Malaysian national wanted by the United States government for terrorism. The operation led to the death of 44 police forces, 18 soldiers of Moro Islamic Liberation Force (MILF) and eight civilians. The MILF is a Muslim group waging armed struggle against the government for an independent state in Mindanao. It is currently holding peace deals with the Aquino government.

The progressive social movement in the Philippines is leading the campaign to oust Aquino. More than demanding for Aquino's accountability in said tragedy, the movement cites Aquino's failure of leadership and governance and his callous indifference to the suffering of the Filipino people while pursuing his neoliberal economic policies as the bases for the his resignation. In his five years in  office, he has not delivered any significant change and has even been sharply criticized for his incompetence and arrogance.

Social services have continuously been neglected by the government while it aggressively implements the neoliberal policies of privatization and deregulation. Public health care system is quickly going down the drain with the privatization of public hospitals and health services. Health budget is only 3.3 % of the national budget way below World Health Organization's recommendation of 5%.

Poverty incidence continues to rise due to rapid rise in food prices, particularly rice which is a staple food for low-income and vulnerable families, usually accounting for 20 percent of their budget.
A survey of Food and Nutrition Research Institute shows that sixty nine percent (69%) of households fail to achieve their daily energy requirements through their diets.  This means that about 7 in 10 Filipino households are at risk of diseases and reduced productivity due to the lack of required energy.

While the Aquino government is harping on the country's "phenomenal" economic growth, it never able to address the crisis of joblessness and chronic poverty in the country. Ibon estimates the number of unemployed at 4.3 million and the underemployed at 6.9 million. Some 66 million Filipinos or 68% of the population live off some Ph125 or much less per day (2.6 euro).

On the other hand, the net worth of the 40 richest Filipinos rose to $72.2 billion (66.4 billion euro) in 2014. The net income of the top 1,000 firms amounted to $22.59 billion (20.78 billion euro) in 2013, while the net income of the 306 Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE)-listed firms already reached $6.946 billion (6.388 billion euro) by mid-2014.

The government continues to neglect the victims of super typhoon Haiyan. The largest number of survivors remain in unstable conditions with the government offering no livelihood opportunities. Most of the victims are still living in temporary and transitional shelters. Infrastructure building like roads, bridges and classrooms is very slow and is ridden by corruption.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling declaring lump-sum appropriations under the graft-ridden Priority Development Fund and the President's Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional, the Aquino administration through its allies in the Congress inserted cleverly pork barrel funds into the national budget. Many have suspected that these funds will be used in preparation for the 2016 national elections.

Aquino's executive order 79 on mining has reassured foreign mining companies of unhampered entry and encroachment to lands inhabited by small farmers and indigenous peoples. To suppress opposition among mining-affected communities, the military is unleashing intense operations which have caused forcible evacuations of numerous communities and extrajudicial killing of a number of anti-mining activists.

Widespread discontentment of different sectors of society has been manifested by series of protests and various activities to hold the President accountable not only for the tragedy in Mindanao but also for being a burden to the Filipino people.

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