Considering that the Aquino administration is sticking to its hard-line stance that there is no money for State Colleges and Universities next year (and advocating the tuition and other fee increases, along with other forms of commercialization of education), youths and students should be watching carefully the growing word war between lawmakers and ‘leftist’ groups regarding the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.
What are CCTs?
According to the World Bank, CCTs aim to “build up the human capital of their children”. How? By giving poor families money in exchange for them doing certain things, like sending their children to school and having them take regular medical check-ups. Theoretically, the families receive additional income while they invest on the future (ex. their children’s health and educational attainment). By making them live longer and attain a diploma, they can lift their families out of poverty.
In the Philippines, the CCT program takes the form of the 4P, or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, which was started under former president Gloria Arroyo. In next year’s proposed national budget, CCT/4P will receive P21 billion in funding, P11 billion more than what it got this year. The proposal immediately drew flak from youth group Anakbayan, as well more than fifty lawmakers led by the seven solons of the Makabayan bloc.
Why is there opposition to the CCTs?
As a Community Development major, we’ve been taught to shun “top-down” models of development, which includes programs and policies imposed at the grass-roots by a central authority which has no awareness on the situation at the former. The CCT/4P is a classic “top-down” example. Why? Because it assumes that problems such as low rate of elementary and high school students’ survival rate (the percentage of students per batch who actually graduate), high infant mortality rates, high maternal mortality rates, etc. are caused by “problems in attitude”. Or to put it simply, elementary and high school students drop out because their parents don’t push them hard enough to go to school.
Yet, in many areas in the country (especially in the countryside), the problem is still a lack of facilities. You can’t enroll your children in a non-existent school, you can’t make sure your uterus is healthy in a non-existent clinic. But that’s exactly the line of reasoning proponents of the CCT/4P are leading us to.
CCT/4P proponents argue that the program is not THE poverty alleviation program. CCT/4P will only work if it is complemented by other programs and policies. But is the Aquino administration complementing it with the construction of new schools and hospitals, as well as the strengthening of existing ones? Definitely not.
Why the insistence on CCTs then?
As noted earlier, CCTs are the ‘in thing’ regarding development for global institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It sounds really good on paper, while avoiding measures like genuine land reform and the allocation of 6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product to education, measures which run counter to the above-mentioned groups’ vision of privatizing and corporatizing anything and everything.
As a side story, the international community recently got together and admitted that it will be hard to achieve the Millenium Development Goals (a set of benchmarks that indicate extreme poverty will be reduced) by 2015. It’s an admission that anything and everything that came out of the IMF-WB’s mouths is nonsense, and ‘rabble-rousers’ like Michael Moore and the Philippines’ National Democratic movement got it right. Of course, they will never openly admit that. That is why they continue to insist on anti-radical schemes like the CCT/4P.
CCT: Crocodile Cash Transfers
Aside from the ‘battle between good and evil’ playing out within the CCT/4P debate, the ‘corrupt politician’ (of which Aquino vowed to defeat to win the presidency) has also played a hand in the CCT issue.
The program is managed by the Dept. of Social Work and Development, headed by one Dinky Soliman who happens to be one of the most ‘rabid’ supporters of the current president from ‘civil society’. She also happened to be implicated in a scam where several people made billions of pesos at the expense of the Filipino taxpayers.
Another agency which will have its fingers dipped in the ‘pie’ that is CCT/4P is the Nat’l Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC). “Coincidentally”, President Aquino has appointed Joel Rocamorra as head of this agency. Who is Rocamorra? Oh, just some top official of a certain Akbayan Partylist, which “coincidentally” was one of the fiercest foot-soldiers of the Aquino presidential campaign (Fierce is an understatement, seeing that they tag-teamed with Jovito Palparan for the occasion). And in yet another “coincidence”, it is the same partylist which is taking the lead in campaigning for the additional CCT/4P funding, days after it was announced that it will receive P4 billion in pork barrel, on top of the regular amount that it will receive.
(My oh my, what power and money can do to some peoples’ principles, considering they had any in the first place)
Bureaucrat-capitalism, as coined in the landmark work Lipunan at Rebolusyong Pilipino (Phil. Society & Revolution), is the description for the phenomenon of the Philippine government under the current system. Not just the new admin, not just Arroyo, but everyone, stretching back to the very first Philippine Assembly. It joined together “bureaucrat” and “capitalism” to indicate how top gov’t officials treat the government as their personal ‘milking cow’. The dynamics of the CCT/4P under Aquino prove that much.
But the CCT/4P also proves another, and more important, point about bureaucrat-capitalism: that it co-exists with two other social phenomena in the Philippines today, imperialism (U.S dominance) and feudalism (landlord dominance). The former, as proven by the administration’s insistence on U.S-‘suggested’ policies like the continuation of the Visiting Forces Agreement, and the latter by ‘untouchable’ Hacienda Luisita.
As it is fast becoming clear that it’s ‘business as usual’ for corrupt politicians and U.S imperialism under the U.S-Aquino Regime II (sounds like a Chuck Norris film, only worse), where will the youth, so-optimistic in the previous elections, turn to? Will it sink towards confusion and eventually apathy? Or will it finally discard corporate media-fed biases about radical solutions, and start studying them like the reasonable ideas that they are?