Today, we commemorate, Araw ng Kalayaan, the day Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 by raising the Philippine flag. It was the first time the Philippine National Anthem then called “Marcha Nacional Filipina, was performed in public.
The date was later changed in 1946 to July 4. But President Diosdado Macapagal moved it to June 12 which he said was the more appropriate date as it was the birth of the independent Filipino nation.
How does the country fare 123 years later?
A perfunctory answer by many usually is: “400 years in a convent and 50 years in Hollywood.”
But this question requires a lengthy and more thoughtful analysis. At the end of the year, we may be able to gather insights from social scientists who may be examining these concernsas part of the commemoration of the quincentennial.
A quick assessment of gains and losses from the time President Duterte assumed office would show some of these observations from various sources.
On poverty rate, freedom from hunger and right to employment: Although poverty rate had declined from 24.5 percent in 2016 to 19,8 percent in 2020, unemployment rate however had risen to 10.4 percent, highest in 15 years when 4.5 Filipinos lost their jobs (from preliminary results of Philippine Statistics labor survey). The Asian Development Bank forecasts Philippine economy to grow by 4.5 percent in 2021 to 5.5 percent in 2022.
Six out of 10 Filipino families say they suffer from food insecurity due to the pandemic (Department of Science & Technology & Food & Nutrition Research Institute).
On freedom from fear, social justice, and human rights: Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) reports that 5,810 are victims of extrajudicial killings. Human rights groups believe it could triple that figure. But only one case out of thousands has resulted in conviction.
On freedom of expression and association: Human rights groups and those who value freedom of expression fear that the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act would allow the State to go after political opponents. It would silence dissenters and endangers free expression and association.
On quality of human resources: One disquieting observation is the poor performance of our elementary school graduates as shown by the results of an international evaluation. Some fear that unless this is addressed through drastic measures, we may be producing low-level manpower for both national and global human resource requirements. Government may have to increase budgetary requirements for education, and especially focusing on science, technology, and humanities.
On sovereignty: China’s continuing incursion into Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea has been the object of dissent by leaders of Philippine society and a majority of Filipino citizens who see this act as a blatant violation of our sovereignty. Three groups, namely the Maritime Law Association of the Philippines, Inc. (MARLAW), Advocates for National Interest (ANI), a group of retired military and police officers, and 1Sambayan, a new coalition of citizens led by former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
Trustees of MARLAW asks Congress to clearly define the limits of the maritime areas of Philippine archipelago as provided under UNCLOS by passing into law the pending Act to Define the Maritime Zones of the Republic of the Philippines.
ANI, chaired by retired general Edilberto Adan, notes that the conflict with China should unify rather than divide us. Also, the range of diplomatic, legal, and international tools or soft power available can be deftly used.
1Sambayan will challenge the administration’s candidates for the 2022 national election by putting together a credible slate, a political platform that would capture the interest of voters in search of leadership that can inspire and lead.
These are only a few of the several organized groups that have focused their activities and advocacies towards fulfilling the aspirations of our heroes who fought and underwent sacrifices so that we can continue to enjoy freedom, justice and peace.
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