IBON Features — The Arroyo government’s human rights record is considered one of the worst in history, not just in violations of civil and political rights but also in the economic, social and cultural realm.
Thirty-five years after the Philippines ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), the rights of millions of Filipinos are increasingly undermined and unmet daily such as the right to food, decent work, health, education, adequate standard of living, protection and assistance of families, among others.
Right to food: Local food production, measured in kilograms per person per year, has fallen by over 30% since 1981. Rice imports increased 280% from 639,000 tons in 2001 to a record 2.4 million tons in 2008. Around 9.3 million households with 46.3 million Filipinos do not meet the 100% dietary energy requirement. Three million children aged 0-5 years are underweight, while three million more children aged 6-10 years old are malnourished.
Right to health: The Arroyo administration has the lowest record of health spending compared to the past three administrations. Since 2001, it allocated an average of only 1.8% for health, compared to 3.1% under the Aquino administration, 2.6% under Ramos, and 2.4% under Estrada. In the 2010 national budget, the allocation for health fell by 7.4% from 2009, or an average of only P1 per Filipino per day.
Right to education: For school year 2008-09, there were 4.7 million out-of-school youth in the country, consisting of 2 million elementary-age children and 2.7 million high school-age youth. Out of every 100 children who enter Grade 1, only 66 will finish elementary school, 43 high school and 14 college. This year, the government spent only P6 per Filipino per day on education while paying the equivalent of P21 on debt service.
Right to decent work: The period of 2001-2008 is the longest period of sustained high unemployment in the country’s history, with an average unemployment rate of 11.3 percent. A record 1.24 million Filipinos were deployed abroad in 2008 or almost 3,400 leaving per day.
Right to adequate standard of living: Latest government data show that some 80% of Filipino families survived on daily incomes of P560 or less, with the poorest 10% of families having incomes of just some P88.Assuming an average family size of five, some 70 million Filipinos each are surviving on P112 per day. It is estimated that even using a low official poverty threshold of P41 per person per day, the number of poor Filipinos is at 27.6 million with at least 13 million urban poor residents in the country. Moreover, around 3.5 million families do not have electricity, 3.4 million families do not have access to safe drinking water, while 2.4 million families do not have sanitary toilets.
Violations of these rights have intensified because of government’s aggressive implementation of neoliberal globalization, which further liberalized the economy’s vital sectors, and privatized public utilities and social services. These have destroyed the livelihood of many Filipinos and resulted in the unparalleled decline in the people’s condition.
International human rights law declares the principle of protecting the full range of human rights required for people to have a full, free, safe, secure and healthy life. It maintains that the right to live a dignified life can never be attained unless all basic necessities of life such as work, food, housing, health care, education and culture are adequately and equitably available to everyone. The 1987 Constitution also recognizes that the national economy exists to serve the needs of the people and that the State has the duty to intervene when needed.
It is the government’s duty to promote and protect these rights, and it should be made accountable for the increasing violations and greater numbers of Filipinos falling into poverty and deepening deprivation. The worsening state of human rights, whether civil and political or economic, social and cultural, only proves government’s lack of seriousness in ensuring the welfare of its people and further reveals that it protects only the interests of the elite. IBON Features