Thousands march to bid Aquino ‘good riddance’
No amount of sugar-coating, turn of phrase, or even a “magic mic” can cover for President Benigno Aquino III’s “catastrophic” presidency, youth groups said hours before the president’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“Lest he be mistaken, Aquino can no longer fool the Filipino people with his clever turn of phrase. The people are well aware of how his administration took the nation – not to the straight path – but to the path of disaster, corruption, and the deep quagmire of poverty. Not even a magic mic can make the platitudes in his final SONA sound convincing,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.
Youth and student groups marched along with workers, peasants, women, and other sectors of society in what is expected to be the largest SONA mobilization throughout Aquino’s stint as president.
Straight to jail
The groups, led by Kabataan Partylist, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (KARATULA), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), and Youth Act Now brought along large “Aquino bubble heads,” which portray the president in jail.
“For one last time, the youth and the people will march hand in hand to expose Aquino as a liar who gave in to the fire. Mr. President, we don’t expect you to be honest in your last SONA. With your anti-youth and anti-people policies, you failed and betrayed your bosses big time. So good riddance!” Anakbayan Chair Vencer Crisostomo said.
The youth leaders said that Aquino should go “straight to jail” after his term expires. “That’s where a pork barrel king deserves to be in,” Crisostomo said.
We’ve got bad blood
For LFS, the Aquino administration has “bad blood” with students, especially with the enactment of the K to 12 Law.
“Mr. President, never forget that we got bad blood. Your anti-student policies, including tuition deregulation and the flagship K to 12 program, has caused and exacerbated problems that you and your administration can’t solve. You made a really deep cut in the hearts and minds of the youth, and generations of students will remember you as the president who pushed for the calamitous 12-year education cycle,” LFS Spokesperson Charisse Bañez said.
NUSP and CEGP, meanwhile blasted Aquino’s “legacy of tuition hikes and unemployment.”
According to NUSP, in Aquino’s five years in office, tuition rates increased by an average of 108 percent at the national level, from P257 per unit to P574. The rate of increase is even higher at the National Capital Region, at 143 percent.
Meanwhile, about 1.5 million school-aged Filipino youth are out of school, one of the highest figures in the world.
“Aquino will undoubtedly harp on the supposed achievements of his administration in his last SONA. But one thing that he will omit is how his regime has worsened the education crisis in the country,” NUSP President Sarah Elago said.
Youth leaders also decried the massive youth unemployment in the country, coupled with the extant policy of contractualization and labor export.
Based on conservative official figures from the Philippine Statistical Authority’s (PSA) January 2015 Labor Force Survey released last March 12, about 4.1 million Filipinos are unemployed as of January 2015. Of the total unemployed, the age group 15 to 24 years comprised 47.3 percent or about 2 million, while the age group 25 to 34, 31.6 percent or about 1.3 million.
Taken together, about 3.3 million youths aged 15-34 are unemployed as of January. The PSA also noted that one in five unemployed Filipinos is a college graduate.
“Aquino’s presidency has pushed youth and students deeper into the pit of desperation. The high cost of education, coupled with the stagnant job creation in the country, has resulted to a poverty bonanza for many students and their families. If there was anyone who truly benefitted from Aquino’s regime, that’s his cronies and rich friends, whose wealth not only doubled but tripled,” CEGP President Marc Lino Abila said.
“Today, we condemn the Aquino administration for being satisfied in its mediocre programs, and patting its back for fake reforms that did nothing to improve the situation of our Filipino youth. Mr. President, as you utter your lies in the House podium later, surrounded by your cheerleaders from both houses of Congress, may you come to your senses and realize that all your supposed achievements are mere spins,” Ridon ended.