Cordillera Day 2009 and notes on the national situation

Photo from the Cordillera People's Alliance

Photo from the Cordillera People's Alliance

On April 23-25, 2009, the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) held the 25th Cordillera Day celebrations. Unlike in previous years, this year’s celebrations were decentralized and held simultaneously in the five provinces of the region (Benguet and Baguio, Kalinga and Apayao, Ifugao, Mountain Province and Abra). I was later told this was not the first time that the Cordillera Day celebrations were decentralized. In 1995, simultaneous celebrations were also held in the region’s provinces.

This annual event is a political solidarity activity of the people’s movement in the Cordillera. It is one of those annual events that Filipino and foreign activists alike anticipate as it showcases the rich indigenous culture and inspiring struggles of the people of the region.

The Cordillera Day commemorates the death of Macliing Dulag, a respected pangat (tribal chieftain) of the Butbut tribe. Macliing was a prominent leader of the Cordillera people’s campaign to stop the construction of the World Bank-funded Chico Dam project during the Marcos dictatorship. On April 24, 1980, Macliing was assassinated by soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division. The annual commemoration of his martyrdom eventually evolved into the Cordillera Day.

Below is the keynote speech and input on the national situation that I presented, in behalf of Bayan, in the Cordillera Day’s celebrations in Bokiawan, Ifugao.

25TH CORDILLERA DAY KEYNOTE SPEECH AND NOTES ON THE NATIONAL SITUATION

By Arnold Padilla, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)
Bokyawan, Hungduan, Ifugao
April 24-25, 2009

In behalf of the national leadership of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), I congratulate the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) – our regional chapter here in the Cordillera – and the Bokyawan Farmers Organization (BFO), the host organization for the celebration of Cordillera Day here in Ifugao – for successfully organizing the 25th Cordillera Day in Ifugao and in four other provinces of the region.

The central theme of the 25th Cordillera Day, “Strengthen People’s Solidarity. Intensify the Struggle for Land, Life and Rights”, fittingly captures the urgent challenges and tasks that the people not only of Cordillera but of the entire nation face today. The raging global financial and economic crisis, the worsening backwardness, poverty and oppression that we face everyday while the despised and anti-people Arroyo administration ceaselessly maneuvers to cling to power beyond 2010, compel us to defend with even greater resolve and with even stronger solidarity our land, our life, and our rights as a people.

Looming “Greater Depression”

Today we are in the midst of what some experts called a looming Greater Depression. The housing bubble in the US, which started to burst in 2006, has caused the collapse of some of the biggest and most prominent figures of US imperialism, among them some of its oldest financial giants. Expectedly, the crisis has quickly spread from the financial sector to the real economy. The giant American automakers, the remaining huge investment banks, and the rest of the monopoly corporations in the US have managed to keep afloat only because of the bailout money that Presidents Barrack Obama and George Bush Jr. have squeezed from the American working class. Latest estimates say that the Obama and Bush administrations have already spent an amount that is equivalent to almost 30% of the US gross domestic product (GDP) to stimulate recovery in the world’s largest economy. That amount is about 12 times more than the stimulus spending during the Great Depression.

The current global financial and economic crisis has exposed the deep-seated flaws of capitalism, in particular neoliberal free market fundamentalism that has dominated national economic policies and thinking around the world in the last three decades. Even some of the most ardent supporters of neoliberal economics have began to acknowledge the “excesses” of unregulated markets like the US financial market.

In its recent summit last April 2, the Group of 20 (G20) richest nations said in a communiqué that “major failures in the financial sector and in financial regulation and supervision were fundamental causes of the crisis”. And they want to remedy the crisis by extending “regulation and oversight to all systematically important financial institutions, instruments and markets” including, for the first time, “systematically important hedge funds”. In effect, the richest nations want to moderate the greed of their corporations and banks. But as history has taught us, capitalist greed for profits could never be moderated.

This is because while the mortgage meltdown set off the financial crunch, at the heart of the crisis is capitalism’s nature to overproduce. The ceaseless need of the monopoly bourgeoisie to extract surplus value from the working class and to increase superprofits through further depression of incomes have continuously and progressively undermined the capacity of society to absorb capitalist production. Capitalism tries to correct this through, among others, creating the illusion of wealth such as the housing loans and other forms of credit. But as the mortgage meltdown showed, such an illusion is simply that – an illusion.

Indeed, in reality, the American working class is in its most miserable state. US households are deeply in debt and millions are being economically displaced. US household debt, in the last few years, has stayed close at around 100% of the GDP – the average throughout the 1900s is 40-70% – and the last time it reached 100% was in 1929, the year that the Great Depression started. Meanwhile, the US unemployment rate is pegged at 8.5% as of March, the highest since 1983, and is expected to reach more than 9% this year, with an additional 2.4 million jobless Americans.

The crisis is felt throughout the industrial world that even imperialist institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are forced to recognize its gravity, of course only to use the crisis as a pretext to impose more conditionalities and policy dictates on the Third World. Bankruptcies and bailouts of financial and industrial firms and record joblessness and economic dislocations are also unfolding from Europe to Japan. Media reports noted that this will be the first time since the 1974-75 oil price shock that the centers of global capitalism will enter into a recession around the same time. Unprecedented as well is the collective decline in economic output of the member-countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an organization of the world’s largest economies, since the group started keeping records in 1970.

Overall, the World Bank projected that the global economy will contract by as much as 2% this year, while the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that global unemployment will increase by 40 million.

Deepening Permanent Crisis, Worsening Poverty

Amid the global financial and economic crisis, the Philippine economy faces deepening backwardness as it continues to rely on the export of raw materials and low-value added semi-manufactures, such as garments and electronics, which are also mainly assembled from imported inputs. For more than a century, the Philippines has been dependent on the US for market and capital as a result of colonial and neocolonial policies designed to make the domestic economy serve the needs of the huge US economy.

Such subservience explains the permanence of the crisis in the Philippines, which has remained backward and pre-industrial and where the great majority of the people are in perpetual and worsening poverty. Neoliberal globalization in the last three decades has further opened up the domestic economy and deepened its links to the global economy, especially with the US.  Thus, the Philippines is vulnerable more than ever to the impact of the economic crisis raging in the US and other industrialized countries.

The US remains the biggest trading partner of the Philippines, directly accounting for around 17% of the country’s exports (as of Feb 2009), of which garments and electronics comprise about 62 percent. Meanwhile, the US absorbs 78% of the country’s garments exports and 13% of electronics exports. The importance of the US market for Philippine exports becomes bigger when its exports to East Asian countries that are ultimately shipped to the US, through the vast network of American affiliates and subcontractors in the region, are factored in. Because of declining consumption in the US, garment exports fell by 15% and electronic exports, by 8 percent.

For Filipino workers, of whom more than 30% are directly employed in the export sector, this translates to massive economic dislocation. Based on the latest estimates of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), there are 50,353 workers displaced by the global crisis with a huge portion coming from the export firms in the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (Calabarzon) region, particularly in Laguna, where more than 31,000 workers have been retrenched. Meanwhile, 59,149 workers are also affected by flexible work arrangements such as job rotation, work day reduction and compressed work week as firms try to cope with the crisis.

These workers will add up to the already huge army of jobless Filipino workers officially pegged at a record 4 million yearly. Note that under the Arroyo administration, the country has already been experiencing its worst jobs crisis even before the recent wave of massive displacements, with the annual unemployment rate pegged at 11.3 percent. The semi-feudal and semi-colonial economy has perpetually failed to create domestic jobs and livelihood for the people. Lack of national industrialization has stunted the country’s domestic industries while lack of genuine land reform has continuously deprived 7 out of 10 Filipino farmers ownership of land and source of livelihood.

The most recent Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the National Statistics Office (NSO) conducted last January shows that the total number of jobless has jumped by 170,000. The industrial sector lost 170,000 jobs, wherein manufacturing lost 120,000 jobs. Overall, if the first quarter trend in dislocations persists according to DOLE, the number of Filipino workers who may be displaced by the crisis could reach 300,000 by midyear – equivalent to 1,643 workers who would be displaced every day. Such volume is more than 10 times the average volume of workers who are losing their jobs daily from 2000 to 2008.

The domestic job situation will further worsen as overseas employment, which in the last three decades has mitigated the domestic jobs crisis, also feels the pinch of the global economic crunch. Note that Arroyo is the first Philippine president who has declared labor export as an official government policy and job generation program. Deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) under the Arroyo administration has already reached 1 million per year, or almost three times the volume of annual deployment during the Aquino administration.

OFW deployment today is also equivalent to almost 3% of the combined labor force and deployment, compared with only 2% in the late 1980s, which shows the increasing dependence of the country on labor export for jobs. This of course is expected in an economy with a shrinking productive base that hampers sustainable domestic job creation. The huge and still increasing size of Filipino migrant workers is directly proportional to the intensifying destruction of local industry and agriculture, which could not provide jobs for new entrants in the labor force and whose displaced workers could no longer be accommodated by an overstretched service sector.

Aside from providing employment, labor export has also become the most important source of foreign exchange earnings for the bankrupt economy and a source of much needed cash by households for consumption. From 2000 to 2008, remittances from overseas Filipinos have been expanding by almost 14% per year and reached $16.43 billion last year. Remittances from overseas Filipinos is the single largest factor that sustains the Balance of Payments (BOP) position, which measures the foreign exchange transactions between the domestic economy and the rest of the world.

But the raging global crisis, especially in the US, also seriously threatens the viability of labor export for jobs and foreign exchange earnings. Of the 8.7 million overseas Filipinos at any given time, more than 32% are based in the US and are thus immediately vulnerable to the crisis. Meanwhile, almost 48% of total remittances in 2008 also came from the US.

Based on the latest estimates of the DOLE, almost 6,500 OFWs have been sent home due to the global crisis. A huge portion of this number, around 2,500, came from export factories in Taiwan that have closed shop due to falling global demand. But in a separate monitoring by Migrante International, a group of Filipino migrant workers, the total number of displaced OFWs due to the crisis could already reach almost 20,000 from 17 countries as of end-February. DOLE estimates that almost 100,000 OFWs may be sent home as the crisis intensifies, although half a million overseas Filipinos are directly vulnerable. While migrant workers may continue to find employment as a ready source of cheap labor, this will entail even more oppression and exploitation.

On the other hand, remittances from overseas Filipinos remained flat in January 2009 from a 15% expansion in the same month last year. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has earlier said that remittances will likely not grow in 2009, but independent estimates predict that remittances would fall by a minimum of 3% to as high as 11% this year.

In response, the Arroyo administration has come up with its Economic Resiliency Plan (ERP) worth PhP330 billion. The ERP aims among others to create more than 800,000 emergency jobs, expand social security and protection, and assist displaced workers in finding a new source of livelihood and income. Publicized as a “stimulus package”, the ERP is criticized even by neoliberal economists as severely lacking in funds to stimulate economic activity amid the global downturn. According to them, a real stimulus package needs significant additional resources on top of what the government has already planned to spend.

But while the ERP is severely wanting in funding and scope to be a real stimulus package, it must be stressed that the program is still framed within the same, flawed economic policies and priorities of the Arroyo administration and thus will not offer even temporary relief for people. For instance, more than 61% of the target job generation of the ERP are from infrastructure projects of the so-called Super Regions. The Super Regions – unveiled by Arroyo in her 2006 SONA – aim to expand foreign investment in agribusiness, tourism, export zones, BPOs, etc. These are the same national policies and strategies that have destroyed millions of jobs and livelihood in the past.

Furthermore, the funding issues confronting Arroyo’s stimulus plan are aggravated by the perennial shortfall in government revenues to support its expenditures. The budget deficit this year is expected to jump to P177.2 billion to as much as P257 billion, which some analysts predicted as not even the worst case scenario. Such high budget deficit is not entirely due to government’s pump priming efforts, which could not even be considered real pump priming. Revenues will surely fall this year as corporate incomes drop and the number of wage earners decline because of the global crisis, adding to the already significant number of businesses that have been folding up and displacing workers even before the recession of the world economy. Already, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) have both lowered their collection targets for this year by P44.4 billion and P39.8 billion, respectively.

The Arroyo administration then will have to further increase its borrowing. This year, it plans to increase its foreign debt by $500 million and its domestic debt by P55.45 billion. But borrowing from domestic banks will further worsen the situation for local businesses scrambling for much needed capital as they will need to compete with government for loans and raise interest rates in the process. Government thus would have to turn more to foreign creditors and has already announced its intention to do so by the second half of 2009. But the question is will the foreign loans be available? According to the Institute of International Finance (IIF), net bank lending to emerging economies this year will see a negative swing of $227 billion (i.e. more outflows than inflows) as investors become more risk averse amid the deepening global crisis. With a tight supply of credit from foreign sources, government would be forced to accept even more onerous terms, including more burdensome conditionalities such as liberalization, deregulation and privatization, tied to these foreign loans.

To fund these debts, government is pushing for more onerous taxes on consumers already heavily burdened by the regressive 12% value added tax (VAT). Proposals to impose a tax on text messaging have been revived in Congress aside from plans to enforce new taxes on so-called sin products, soft drinks, and other consumer items. These additional taxes on ordinary consumers amid massive displacements and worsening poverty become even more outrageous considering that at the same time, proposals to provide new tax perks for big business are also being pushed in Congress while fresh liberalization commitments – reducing or eliminating tariffs on imports – through free trade deals are also in the offing.

They include House Bill (HB) 6073 of Speaker Prospero Nograles which intends to attract more agribusiness firms in the country by giving them a host of tax incentives, implementation of new liberalization commitments under the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), as well as negotiations for new deals such as the Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the European Union (EU). All these will deprive the country of billions of pesos in potential revenues, which the Arroyo administration plans to compensate as usual by burdening consumers and ordinary income earners with more taxes.

Aside from paying for the additional debt that government will surely incur to fund the ERP, ordinary income earners and taxpayers will also directly shoulder a significant amount of the Arroyo administration’s stimulus package. The supposed added benefits to members of social security institutions apparently would come from their extra contributions, and not from government funds. Meanwhile, the cash subsidies under the stimulus package will also come from the pockets of ordinary income earners such as through the so-called “Katas ng VAT”. Furthermore, these cash subsidies are also meaningless amid skyrocketing cost of living, deteriorating jobs crisis and worsening poverty in the country that remain unaddressed and are even aggravated by liberalization, deregulation and privatization.

Meanwhile, the education and health components of Arroyo’s stimulus package will not have an impact on the social protection needs of the people as long as the overall policy direction of government is to privatize and commercialize the country’s public hospitals and schools such as House Bill (HB) 3287, which intends to corporatize 68 public hospitals nationwide. The health and education programs under stimulus package are also lip service in the context of meager and declining national budget for social services. In fact, compared to the Aquino, Ramos and Estrada administrations, the Arroyo administration posts the lowest annual budget allocation for health (1.7% of the national budget), education (15.2%, second lowest behind Aquino’s 12.3%) and housing (0.4%).

Clinging to Power

With the accelerating economic decay that the country faces, brought about by the permanent crisis of a semi-feudal and semi-colonial economy and made worse by globalization and the global depression, factional conflicts among the various cliques of the local political elite to control state power and protect their wealth and further enrich themselves could only but intensify. The never-ending political instability that has pestered the Arroyo administration and has expressed itself in endless political conflicts, factional strife and bickering among the elite, and widespread social unrest is an unmistakable manifestation of the unprecedented level of systemic crisis that characterizes our national situation today.

The Arroyo clique of the political elite has managed to stay in power through tremendous repression, opportunism, corruption and patronage politics. Leaders and members of legitimate progressive people’s organizations continue to fall prey to the Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo administration. Human rights group Karapatan noted an upsurge in extra-judicial killings in the Bicol region and in Mindanao. Abduction, illegal arrest, torture and prolonged detention continue and in some regions are on the rise in intensity and scale. In one case, 72 people, including all prominent mass leaders, have been illegally charged in a local court in Southern Tagalog – resulting in the detention of some of them and the forced hiding of the rest.

Cronyism has become increasingly pronounced under Arroyo, whose cronies have partnered with big foreign businesses to corner government contracts, investment deals and privatization projects. Her former chief of staff Mike Defensor, who now sits as director of Geograce Resources Philippines Inc. and chair of Nihao Mineral Resources together with the brothers of Arroyo’s Interior secretary and her adviser on trade and investments, has bagged mining exploration deals with two Chinese mining companies worth $150 million through government facilitation. Enrique Razon, who served as treasurer and financier of Arroyo’s Team Unity ticket in the 2007 senatorial elections, has bagged the 25-year concession contract to operate the National Transmission Corp. (Transco) for $3.95 billion through Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp. through Arroyo’s pet program – the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). Malacañang has also repeatedly attempted to take over Meralco, the country’s largest power distributor, first through the GSIS and now through the San Miguel Corp. of Danding Cojuangco.

In the face of even more dwindling wealth available in the domestic economy as the global crisis worsens, Arroyo and her cronies are expectedly more aggressive to consolidate and expand their control of whatever wealth is left in the domestic economy, and prolong their control over government through various schemes such as Charter change (Cha-cha). This, of course, is on top of the immediate objective to avoid accountability and the numerous charges Arroyo will surely face for massive corruption, electoral fraud and human rights violations once she is stripped of presidential immunity and effective control of government. Despite strong public opinion and opposition against Cha-cha, Arroyo’s lackeys in the House of Representatives have decided to push through with the resolutions of Speaker Prospero Nograles and Kampi president Luis Villafuerte. This week, Nograles’s House Resolution (HR) 737 calling for economic amendments, in particular on allowing 100% foreign ownership of lands in the country, and Villafuerte’s HR 1109, which intends to convene Congress into a constituent assembly (Con-ass) with the House and Senate voting jointly, have been officially introduced in the lower chamber.

Despite repeated assurances that the initiatives do not intend to prolong the term of Arroyo and all incumbent officials and that the 2010 elections will push through as scheduled – in fact Villafuerte’s resolution even contains these provisions – many people are still averse to the idea of Cha-cha especially as long as Arroyo is in power. Even if their terms were not extended and elections do push through, Cha-cha still creates conditions for the Arroyo clique to stay in power. One scenario is for Arroyo to run as representative in a Pampanga congressional district and later become Prime Minister in a Parliament that they will establish through Cha-cha. In this context, prospects for clean and peaceful elections in 2010 remain dim despite the automation program of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which incidentally has been reinforced in the past months by new Arroyo people who have been appointed under questionable circumstances.

Total Sellout of National Patrimony and Sovereignty

Arroyo has earned the notorious distinction of being the most reliable puppet of US imperialism in the Philippines as US support has been crucial in undermining efforts to oust the unpopular Arroyo administration. She has maintained very close ties with the Bush administration through her unwavering support to the widely discredited US-led war on terrorism, which Arroyo used to repress her most vocal, active and relentless opponent – the progressive mass movement – and equip and train the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), where she bought the loyalty of certain generals through political patronage.

Arroyo has shamelessly attempted many times, but to no avail, to set a meeting with US Pres. Obama apparently to ensure that her administration will still enjoy the same support it had under the Bush administration. It took a serious challenge and snowballing public opposition to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) – triggered by the continued resistance of the US Embassy to turn over rape convict American soldier Daniel Smith to the Philippines – for the new US government to take notice of Arroyo. With increasing competition and sharpening contradictions among imperialist powers today to protect their spheres of influence amid the global crisis and with US hegemony seriously being challenged by other imperialist powers, the Obama administration could not afford to lose strategic military access to the Philippines through the VFA and weaken its military presence and position in the Asia Pacific region.

This puppetry of Arroyo has resulted in the grave abuse and violation of our national sovereignty and patrimony, and caused tremendous harm to the Filipino people’s basic human rights. The case of “Nicole”, the Filipina raped by Smith, concretely illustrates how ordinary Filipinos become victims and denied of justice by their own government in order to protect US interests. Malacañang’s eager conspiracy with the US Embassy to pressure “Nicole” to issue her second affidavit clearly shows to what extent that the Arroyo administration will go just to remain in the good graces of its long-time colonial master. “Nicole’s” second affidavit had the effect of casting doubts to the conviction of Smith, and in the process derailed calls to junk the patently unconstitutional and one-sided VFA. Fortunately, the Supreme Court (SC) acting on a petition by Bayan and others decided that the questionable circumstances surrounding the said petition be investigated.

The Arroyo administration knows that it could not maintain its hold to power, detached as it is from the people and perennially bankrupt due to corruption and neoliberal policies, without the indispensable patronage of the US and other rich countries. As such, it has vigorously facilitated the increased imperialist plunder of the country’s natural resources, such as through FTAs like the JPEPA and others, making Arroyo a steady and reliable agent for the imperialist powers which are scrambling to expand their access to Third World markets and resources. Arroyo’s push for Cha-cha should also be appreciated in this context.

Existing policies such as the Long-Term Lease Act, which already practically allows foreign firms to own land in the Philippines, are no longer enough for the transnational corporations as the ever-worsening crisis of overproduction compels them to look for the most favorable conditions to extract more surplus value such as permanent land ownership. Riding on this imperialist agenda and to conceal their narrow political interests, Arroyo’s clique has repeatedly claimed that the more important and urgent motive behind Cha-cha is the liberalization of the economy such as the proposal of Nograles in his HR 737. Aside from the support of imperialist powers, Arroyo also hoped to generate and consolidate the support of the biggest local landlords and bourgeois compradors that also stand to benefit from the increased liberalization.

The Challenges We Face and Our Response

Prof. Jose Maria Sison, in a recent speech, noted that “US imperialism is already anticipating the upsurge of people’s resistance on a global scale”. US authorities recognize that that the deepening economic crisis poses the greatest danger to the stability and security of the world capitalist system. Prof. Sison said that “Wall Street has brought about the crisis that is pushing state terrorism and imperialist war as well as inciting the people of the world to wage revolution.”

The worst crisis of global monopoly capitalism and the intensifying permanent crisis of the semi-feudal, semi-colonial Philippine economy present favorable objective conditions for exposing the decaying economic and political system and propose genuine alternatives. The raging crisis only serves to affirm the legitimacy and correctness of the Filipino people’s struggle to build a progressive and self-reliant economy through national industrialization and genuine land reform. But these crucial reforms will not happen without a people’s movement clamoring for fundamental change. The raging crisis confronting the country and the world is providing unparalleled openings for progressive social movements and people’s organizations to struggle for alternative policy frameworks and programs, rally the people, especially the exploited and oppressed, around these, and seriously challenge the current failed models of economic development.

This broad, grassroots-based, people’s movement for meaningful socio-economic reforms, and the political changes that necessarily go with it, must continue to enlighten the biggest possible number of people on the roots and nature of the crisis. The displaced workers and farmers, government employees, office workers, small- and medium-scale Filipino businesses, the youth, women, the urban poor, the indigenous peoples and other sectors most affected by the crisis will only pour out in hundreds of thousands and even millions clamoring for meaningful reform if they can comprehend the historical and current roots of the crisis and not be swayed by deceptive explanations by the government and vested interests.

The intensity of the crisis and its still-unfolding destructive effects on our people’s well-being, challenges us to face the situation with even greater resolve to struggle, not just to mitigate the crisis, but to work for a resetting of the policy framework and actual direction of the economy for the benefit of our people. We must build upon our ongoing campaigns to help bring about an even bigger and broader people’s movement that will resolutely struggle for this kind of change. Towards this, Bayan has initiated the process of putting together what we call the People’s Fighting Demands for Economic Relief and Long-Term Reforms. A product of consultations with our member organizations, the Fighting Demands is a package of short-term or immediate relief measures to the medium to long-term pro-people, pro-Filipino and nationalist economic reforms that need to be supported by the people and undertaken by government.

We are challenged to further intensify our struggles against US imperialism and its puppet Arroyo administration, to oppose and bring an end to the various expressions of imperialist intervention and domination in the country such as the VFA and the various agreements and legislations that have allowed the wanton abuse and plunder of our natural resources and the exploitation of our people. We must remain vigilant in the never ending schemes of the detested and corrupt Arroyo administration to stay in power such as through Cha-cha and electoral fraud.

We welcome the formation of new coalitions and movements such as the Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan), initiated by progressive party-list groups in Congress, which will bring to a new and higher level the people’s electoral struggle based on a patriotic and progressive platform. By next month, we expect the formal public launching of Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change which gathers together progressive and reform-oriented individuals, including those who have been active in the campaign to oust Arroyo. This movement intends to carry a more comprehensive reform program and not simply issue-based; a movement that intends to contribute in addressing the underlying problems of Philippine society and resonates with the people’s basic demands and most deeply-held aspirations.

All of these efforts build on decades of untiring struggle and gains of the Filipino people – including the struggles and victories of the people of Cordillera against exploitation, plunder and state terrorism – for national freedom and genuine democracy. Let the theme of the 25th Cordillera Day celebrations – of strengthening the people’s solidarity, of intensifying the people’s struggle for land, life and rights – reverberate and be heard not only in Cordillera. Let it echo throughout the country and let it help rally the entire nation towards greater solidarity, struggle and resistance.

Mabuhay ang mamamayang lumalaban ng Ifugao at ng Cordillera!

Mabuhay ang lumalabang sambayanang Pilipino!

Thank you.

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