Something I previously wrote for (and on) the party I believe in and the cause I am committed to….
A crisis in governance; a crisis of democracy
Ours is a democracy in hemorrhage. The explosion of the “Hello Garci” controversy two years ago revealed the brazenness and naked ambition of our political leaders, but it was the outcome of the crisis and the manner in which it was addressed that truly revealed the depths that the Philippine political system has sunk. We witnessed the obscenity of a system trying to cover its tracks instead of punishing the guilty. Neither Congress nor COMELEC was able to resolve the controversy with credibility and integrity, while the solutions peddled by administration, such as the government-backed People’s Initiative and the railroaded Constituent Assembly, were merely meant to ensure GMA’s political survival. The attempts to curb civil liberties reflected a backslide in Philippine democracy.
The crisis fuels further the desperation of the people. Material poverty is no longer a question of figures, it has become dehumanizing with the lack of decent jobs and accessible social services. The failure of the political institution to lessen the gap between the rich and the poor or to carry in terms of concrete policies and programs the aspirations of ordinary Filipinos has also deepened the sense of alienation of our people. For many, flight is the only option, thus fueling the massive and unparalleled migration of Filipino workers to different countries.
The crisis, however, is also a source of opportunities. It signals the urgency of modernizing Philippine politics – to make political parties more representative, our political institutions more transparent and accountable, and our system able to deliver immediate relief and strategic solutions to dehumanizing poverty.
Sobra na ang abuso! The struggle for good governance in all spheres of leadership.
AKBAYAN! was created several years after the first EDSA revolution, when it became clear that the restoration of democracy failed to restore opportunities and avenues for genuine development and empowerment. Amidst a system of corruption and traditional politics, with an Armed Left that still persists in its misconceptions and weighed down by the baggage of its historical excesses, AKBAYAN forged its vision: to change the system by engaging it. To break the hold of traditional elites on governance so that the field may be accessible to all. Then as now, we believe that if democracy is to be real, it must be participatory. If governance is to be efficient, it must be transparent.
AKBAYAN! has established itself as fiscalizer in Congress, exposing corruption and the misuse of taxpayers’ money. Though a newcomer to the Lower House in 1998 and a fledgling political party, AKBAYAN! through Rep. Etta Rosales, exposed a national-scale political scandal involving the disbursement of P200,000.00 per Congressman in order to pass the EPIRA Law. More recently, the party exposed the massive fraud of twenty three thousand public school teachers in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) whose GSIS remittances were being deducted from their gross salaries but were not being remitted.
Believing that good governance should permeate local governance, AKBAYAN has likewise spearheaded initiatives in local government units. The solid waste management scheme it initiated in Los Banos, for instance, has met tremendous success and is currently the model for other solid waste management schemes in the country.
Believing moreover that good governance involves community participation if it is to be sustainable, AKBAYAN! has introduced the concept of participatory development planning in all local government units. Community participation and engagement have expanded the notion of public service, and this has been important not only in exacting accountability from the leaders but also in maximizing available human resources.
AKBAYAN! is a member of various international networks, and cooperates with ruling social democratic and labor parties from all over the world. These international networks have made it possible for the party to cull valuable lessons on governance and democracy, as well as to actively engage in global movements, causes and issues. Notably, AKBAYAN! is an active member of the International Parliamentarians’ Union and the Parliamentarians for Global Action.
Our track record and our platform
AKBAYAN has introduced several initiatives that aim to provide concrete changes, and not merely palliative and cosmetic remedies. The need to introduce reforms in our tax system, for instance, was the compelling reason behind the Income Tax Reduction Bill, which aims to protect compensation income earners from the spiraling rate of taxes and to buffer its blow on middle-income households, while at the same time, provide stiffer penalties and stronger regulatory mechanisms against tax fraud.
Another important initiative spearheaded by AKBAYAN is the Cheaper Medicines Bill, designed to lower the cost of essential medicines in the Philippines. Ventolin, for instance, a medicine that is used to treat bronchitis, costs P315 in the Philippines, while in India and Pakistan, where it is sold by the same multinational company, it only costs P132 and P65, respectively.
If enacted into law, the bill will amend the Intellectual Property Code and will allow the State to more actively intervene to regulate the costs of medicine. It will allow parallel importation of cheaper medicines and compulsory licensing to make essential medicines accessible and cheap.
Owing to our bias for human rights and civil liberties, we have come up with legislation upholding human rights values and expanding the democratic space of the individual. AKBAYAN! is the main author of the Marcos Victims Compensation Bill, a measure not only to honor the legacy of the martyrs of Martial Law but also to denounce its horrors. Believing as we do that oppressions must be countered, whatever the source, we also pushed for the prohibition of revolutionary taxes, an oppressive scheme of the New People’s Army that has debilitated legitimate business enterprises and election candidates. Our achievements include the passage of the Juvenile Justice Law and the repeal of the death penalty.
Education, Health and Full Employment: Social Services for All
That we are governed by a system that cannot educate its young properly, nurture its elderly and sick, or provide sustainable livelihood for all speaks of a problem both deeply-rooted and complex. Indeed, it becomes a moral imperative to address these issues at their core. AKBAYAN commits itself to championing the right to quality education, adequate health care and sustainable livelihood for the Filipino people.
AKBAYAN believes that investing in the future means ensuring that concrete educational reforms are in place. It envisions a system wherein education is responsive and accessible. Two of the notable the policy reforms pushed by AKBAYAN include stricter regulatory mechanisms to prevent the unjust and unfettered increase in tuition and other fees and reinvigorating the “Adopt-A-School Act” to encourage more private sector participation and cooperation.
In the area of health, aside from the Cheaper Medicines Bill, we are likewise pushing an intensive breastfeeding campaign to arrest the alarming growth in infant mortality statistics. AKBAYAN also seeks to empower women by equipping them with reproductive health information tools and providing them with access to contraceptives.
Lastly, AKBAYAN’s vision of full employment is that every Filipino who is of working age and who is looking for work is gainfully employed. Making full employment the central target of the country’s development strategy means that decent jobs matter most and everything else must coherently follow suit. Working towards full employment requires a comprehensive and well coordinated policy approach—reversal, in some cases—that would (1) bring down the unemployment rate, (2) absorb the yearly addition to the work force of roughly 1.4 million young Filipinos, and (3) provide adequate jobs to reduce underemployment. Decent work has several dimensions: access to employment, productive and remunerative work, equality at work, rights at work, and social dialogue.
Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel is one of the three incumbent representatives of AKBAYAN. She is a known woman’s rights advocate who has filed several bills in Congress pertaining to the issue of gender. Among them are the Gender Balance Bill, the Reproductive Health Bill and the Anti-Prostitution Bill. Included as one of the 100 Women Nominated to the Nobel, Risa is also known for her commitment to the peace advocacy. Her calm and gentle demeanor belies the strength of her convictions and the fire in her spirit.
Walden Bello is highly regarded not only in academic circles, but in the international community as well. Best-known for his fiery but insightful criticism on US policy and the current model of globalization, he was awarded the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. A dedicated professor, a published writer, a public intellectual, a global Pinoy – Walden is truly a worthy addition to Congress.
Gico Dayanghirang was a former member of the House of Representatives in the ‘80s. He distinguished himself from his colleagues by refusing to use his pork barrel. He was also part of a small group of Congressmen pushing for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform, amid opposition from landed House members. A true-blue promdi from Mindanao, Mindanao issues such as peace and development are close to his heart.
Ibangon ang dangal ng Pilipino!
We are not a traditional party. We have no backers, no rich financiers. We cannot brandish grand promises. Ours is simply a commitment to integrity, to honor and to dignity — a commitment to dangal in all its forms and to reclaiming it and preserving it for our children.
Dangal ng bawat isa. Dangal sa lipunan. Dangal sa halalan. Dangal sa pamahalaan.
Sobra na ang abuso. Ibangon ang dangal ng Pilipino. Reelect AKBAYAN sa Kongreso.