We expect the President, in his SONA (State of the Nation Address), to tell the nation and the whole world about the amazing growth of the Philippine economy, supposedly the highest in Asia, beating China and Japan and leaving behind such ASEAN neighbors Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei and Vietnam. He will most probably talk about the alleged renewed confidence by foreign investors and the brisk trading in our stock market. He is expected to talk about more and more investments coming in, of the so-called stability of our currency and the balance of payment that resulted from financial and economic fundamentals being laid out and well-established. He may even commend his economic team for a job well done. But is this all there is to it? Is this the whole truth?
Will the President tell us about the five million unemployed Filipinos, the 10 million underemployed and the three million child laborers, the hundreds of thousands of women, minors and children who are being trafficked to work as sex slaves and virtual prisoners in dirty, dangerous, difficult, deceptive and degrading work? Will the President discuss the thousands of beggars, including child beggars roaming the streets, right in front of the international airport, giant malls and plush restaurants? Will he tell us about the squatters who are being demolished left and right, about tenants who won their cases before the Supreme Court but who are still waiting for their tilled land to be distributed to them? Will the President present to the nation a comprehensive housing plan for the millions of Filipino homeless?
These are also parts of the state of the nation, the true state that is, not the partial truths being embellished by the Presidential image-builders, speechwriters and sycophants. The whole truth must be told if we are really treading the straight and narrow path of righteousness. The President must tell the nation that more than four thousand Filipinos are leaving every day to seek employment and livelihood abroad. There is simply not enough decent jobs in the domestic labor markets. The President should admit to the people that we can not solve the unemployment problem by holding job fairs ”ad nauseam”, that job fairs do not create jobs, that these are only the modern version of the slave trade in the medieval era where humans are sold like commodities, and human dignity is reduced into a currency at the mercy of recruiters who make a killing in selling Philippine labor.
The President must also tell the people that the labor front is in dire difficulties. The levels of wages are below poverty line. Unions are being busted. Workers are contractualized and made casuals forever. Labor cases are pending for 20 years and no one is providing leadership to address the problems of delay and alleged corruption. Workers who are victims of unfair labor practices are left alone to fend for themselves.
The President must tell the nation that our education sector is in disarray, where some classrooms have 60 to 70 pupils sharing limited space, inadequate textbooks and not enough teachers. The cost ofquality education is affordable only by the expats and well-placed corporate executives and business managers. The poor, even if brilliant, do not have access to quality education.
Medical care for those who are minimum wage earners are paid for by the workers themselves but these care are insufficient and still very high. There are people who are sick and are without means to go to the hospitals. There are children who are roaming the streets half naked and exposed to the elements. Some are sniffing rugby and the DSWD look the other way. Beggars are all around. Prostitution is rampant.The incidence of AIDS and HIV is on the rise. Tourism is packaged to include sex tours and “more fun in the Philippines” includes male and female prostitution.The President may not talk about all these but we all know that all these are truly parts and parcels of the nation. If we continue to ignore the whole truth and look the other way, trying to delude ourselves that all is well and okay, then we may not be treading the straight and narrow path of righteousness, after all.
The people should be told the whole truth, and the truth shall make us truly free.