Contrary to her glowing description of her presidency and speakership as she announced her retirement from politics, farmers said House of Representatives (HOR) Speaker and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s legacy are laws detrimental to the people’s interests.
Responding to her valedictory at the last session of the HOR Tuesday, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Arroyo led the approval of an endless string of anti-people policies and legislation, including the rice tarrification law, the lowering of the age of criminal liability, regressive taxes, revival of mandatory military training for minors, among others.
Arroyo said she will retire from politics after three decades after having been elected as senator, vice president, president and Pampanga representative.
Recalling her presidency and career in Congress with world leaders, Arroyo said she does not think she will have as dramatic a legacy as giants of world history such as United States President John Kennedy.
“I think my legacy will center around restoring our country’s fiscal stability after a storm of financial crisis here and abroad. Our fiscal reforms expanded resources for infrastructure and development, after which, as I said earlier, our poverty level went down from 39% to 26%” she said.
The KMP said they welcome Arroyo’s retirement from politics as “good riddance.”
“She will continue to be known as among the most loathed public officials in history. Arroyo and her enabler Rodrigo Duterte deserve condemnation for all the anti-people policies they are implementing,” KMP chairperson emeritus and Anakpawis President Rafael Mariano said.
Mariano recalled that Arroyo’s speakership did nothing but ignore Anakpawis’ landmark bills.
“Under Arroyo’s helm in Congress, pro-people measures such as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill and Php750 national minimum wage hike were snubbed and archived,” Mariano said.
Mariano added that Arroyo also
presided in the railroading of the refilled coco levy bill that reduced the
number of farmer-representatives to the Coconut Farmers and Industry
Development Trust Fund Committee from nine to only three last month.
“The coco levy bill approved by Congress will not guarantee the return of the multibillion coco levy fund and assets to farmers. Duterte and his allies will only gain control of the fund,” Mariano said.
Under the new coco levy bill, the trust fund committee will have an annual capitalization budget of Php10-billion, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee to be appointed by the President will be composed of six representatives from government sector, two representatives from the private coconut industry sector, and only three farmer-representatives.
The coco levy assets will be
privatized under the supervision of the Privatization Management Office, the
“These are not the demands of small coconut farmers. Ito ang gusto ni Duterte kaya ito ang sinunod ng Kongreso,” Mariano said.
“This long and drawn out battle for the return of the coco levy fund has burdened millions of small coconut farmers and their families. Many of them have died without actually benefiting from the coco levy fund,” the peasant leader said.
Estimated to be worth up to 150 billion pesos, the fund was levied from coconut farmers by the Ferdinand Marcos regime that the Supreme Court said belonged to them.
Mariano said small coconut farmers will continue to assert the genuine return of the fund.
Arroyo, daughter of former President Diosdado Macapagal, was the Phillippine president for nine years.
She took over the presidency from Joseph Estrada in 2001 after an uprising.
Her election in 2004 to a presidential term of her own was widely believed to be fraudulent, leading to massive protests and even ouster attempts by rebel soldiers.
During her reign, human rights group Karapatan reported 1,205 victims of extrajudicial killings and 206 victims of enforced disappearances.
She was also elected as Pampanga second district representative in 2010.
She was arrested and jailed for plunder in 2011 but was acquitted and freed in 2016.
In July 2017, she was elected as House Speaker in a controversial maneuver alleged to be orchestrated by Davao City mayor Sara Duterte who was at odds with then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)