People’s Agenda

Photo by Jen Guste/ IBON Foundation 2017


We, members of the Educators’ Forum for Development, are alarmed at Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s order to “bomb Lumad schools”. The administration also staunchly defends the extension of Martial Lawin Mindanao which has further disrupted Lumad schools. The safety of the Lumad schoolchildren will only be secured with the immediate withdrawal of the military from community schools and an end to aerial bombardments in the entire island.

The Lumad of Mindanao have overcome the absence of educational facilities in their communities by setting up hundreds of schools with the help of charitable institutions, devoted educators, and missionaries.. Contrary to the President’s misinformed description that they operate illegally, most of these schools have earned official recognition by the Department of Education, while the rest continue to hurdle towards getting the official stamp.

Through volunteers and licensed teachers, some of whom hail from the country’s premiere universities, Lumad schools teach not only Science, Math, English, Filipino and Social Studies, but Culture and Agriculture. They aim to mold Filipino citizens who are not only knowledgeable but also socially conscious and responsible, and who value their indigenous heritage and harness their agricultural empowerment towards nation building.

The government’s militarism is undermining these initiatives . Even prior to the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, Lumad teachers and students have been victimized by counter-insurgency campaigns. They are vilified, forced to evacuate their communities, and their school authorities and community leaders are extrajudicially killed. Since the declaration of Martial Law, government has closed 20 Lumad schools, while instances of military occupation, killings, threats, harassment and intimidation, destruction of property, indiscriminate firing, filing of trumped-up charges, enforced disappearances, and torture have heightened. Last week, three Lumad school teachers who were among the protesters during Congress’ joint session on the extension of Martial Law were illegally detained.

The government has the responsibility to uphold, protect and promote the right to education, particularly of underserved sectors such as indigenous children. We call on the President to order his troops to vacate and stop aiming their guns and bombs at community schools and premises. Ending the militarization of Lumad communities is an immediate doable step that the Duterte government can take to help indigenous groups in Mindanao reclaim their lives and continue their learning.

We also join calls for an end to martial law in Mindanao that has already displaced and disrupted the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands.


Ninia Dela Cruz

Secretary General

Educators Forum for Development


Educators Forum for Development is a network of educators committed to transformative education.



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The Philippines is in a worsening socio-economic crisis. The direction of economic policies under the Duterte administration is alarming and in urgent need of correction. The government’s economic team still uses the anti-development policy framework of past administrations which will mean greater economic distress for the majority of Filipinos.

The economy’s poor performance since June 2016 is due to the neoliberal policies of previous administrations mostly being continued by the current government.

Jobs crisis amid growth. Despite growth reported as among the fastest in the world, the economy actually shed jobs with less employment since April last year. Massive unemployment includes millions of discouraged workers. The quality of work continues to decline with worsening contractualization and informal work, among others, and falling real wages.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported slowing economic growth in the first quarter of 2017 at 6.4% from 6.6% the previous year. Still, a recent World Bank report cited the Philippines as among the 10 fastest growing economies in the globe.

The PSA also reported lower unemployment and underemployment (5.7% and 16.1%, respectively) in April 2017 compared to the previous year. Official figures however also show that the number of employed Filipinos actually fell by 393,000 to 40.3 million in April 2017 from 40.7 million the year before.

A drop in the labor force participation rate (LFPR) was also observed: LFPR fell to 61.4% which is the lowest in 36 years since the country’s severe economic crisis in 1982 under the Marcos dictatorship. This implies that the labor force shrunk by 575,000 in April 17 from the year before despite the 1.4 million increase in the labor force population of 15 years old and over. This is most likely due to ever-growing numbers of discouraged workers dropping out of the labor force after failing to find jobs.

Poor-quality work persisted. IBON estimates that there are still 11.5 million Filipinos who are in without work or still looking for more work because of the poor quality of jobs. There were 24.4 million citizens in low-paying and insecure work with little or no benefits in 2016. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued Department Order (DO) 174 but this does not really address contractualization which will remain prevalent in the country.

Workers’ wages have been eroding. The gap between the National Capital Region (NCR) minimum wage of P491 and the family living wage, estimated by IBON at Php1,119 for a family of six in 2016 also grew from the year before. The two-tiered wage system which assigns a floor wage that is below minimum and a management-determined productivity allowance further devalues the minimum wage.

Weak economic base. The basic reason for the economic slowdown is weak domestic demand from high unemployment and low incomes, backward agriculture, and shallow foreign-dominated manufacturing. These are all the result of neoliberal policies: a cheap-wage economy, agricultural liberalization and minimal rural development, trade liberalization and foreign investor-biased industry, and over-reliance on global markets. The political controversies in the last year only aggravated these weak growth fundamentals.

Even though official poverty statistics appeared lower as of 2015, IBON considers government’s count of 21.9 million poor to be in extreme poverty using the very low threshold of P60. IBON estimates 66 million Filipinos to be struggling on P125 daily or less. Meanwhile, the real value of the average daily basic pay (ADBP) received by workers has fallen in the last 15 years and is lower today than in 2001. Meanwhile, that the net worth of the 40 richest Filipinos grew by 13.8% from 2015-2016 while workers’ real wages grew by -0.1% in the same period indicates how workers do not benefit from reported rapid growth.

The manufacturing sector’s contribution to the economy has been stagnant while that of the agriculture sector has significantly shrunk to a mere 18% by yearend 2016 from more than 40% many decades ago. This shows that economic growth is not happening in the production sectors that could create jobs, raise incomes and can be the basis of local industrialization. Philippine governments have implemented neoliberal policies through the decades in the name of increasing foreign investments to purportedly generate jobs and usher development, but have only succeeded in facilitating growing wealth and profits for the richest few families and biggest corporations at the people’s expense.

Anti-development policies. It is business as usual for foreign capital and oligarchs under the government’s 0+10-point economic agenda and the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022. These prevent real agrarian reform, agricultural development, and national industrialization.

Economic problems were clear even at the start of the Duterte administration. Yet instead of addressing these, its neoliberal economic team is actually deepening the implementation of failed market-based policies. The Duterte government has continued implementing policies that have allowed corporate interests to plunder the country’s natural resources including land and water; privatized and raised the cost of public utilities such as water, power and telecommunications; commercialized and made inaccessible especially to the poor majority social services such as education, health and housing. Business interests looking to build back war-pulverized Marawi are already being observed.

Moreover, the administration’s economic managers have actively opposed reforms that can benefit the people such as proposals for a moratorium on land use conversion and banning large-scale miners. The private sector has also been given the upper hand in rice importation and in the determination of the prices of basic goods and prime commodities contrary to the State’s mandate to ensure the availability and affordability of the people’s most fundamental needs. Correcting these can strategically contribute to solving the proliferation of illegal drugs more than can the bloody war against drugs, which has only led to thousands of casualties mostly from poor, under-served communities.

The government’s so-called comprehensive tax reform package is especially onerous. This reduces taxes paid by wealthy families, foreign investors, and domestic big business and off-sets this with higher consumption taxes paid by the majority of poor Filipinos. Benefits for the poor are made up or grossly exaggerated.

The government is also at the forefront of pushing the China-centric free trade agreement (FTA) Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), especially while chairing ASEAN this year. But the government should be guided by the country’s history in being party to six FTAs, one bilateral FTA, various agreements under the multilateral World Trade Organization (WTO), and at least 31 bilateral investment treaties (BITs). The Philippines’ participation in these and the continued implementation of market-oriented domestic laws and policies have made the country more open than its neighbors in Southeast Asia in many aspects of foreign trade and investment. Hence backward Philippine agriculture and a declining Filipino industry compensated for by the bloating of a largely low value-added and low productivity service sector.

The government is misguided with its ‘Build build build’ infrastructure thrust. More than anything else, this merely aims to stimulate short-term economic growth and maintain the illusion of growth and development. The argument that infrastructure is the economy’s main binding constraint and that growth and development will be spurred by a massive infrastructure drive is appealing but simplistic. The Marcos dictatorship and, more recently, the previous Aquino administration used the same infrastructure-intensive approach but the economy remains backward and the majority are still poor. As it is local oligarchs and their foreign partners are into and further targeting public-private partnership (PPP) tickets for building roads and rails, airports, seaports and parks and the like with government guaranteeing private profits with public funds.

The infrastructure thrust further threatens to increase public debt and other burdens on the people. The prospect of cheap Chinese financing from loans and official development assistance (ODA) is being dangled. Yet there is no transparency in these and the hidden costs and dangers could mean a serious explosion of debt in the future. There is also the problem of tied aid and relying on Chinese contractors which may not mean the right infrastructure at the best price.

Moreover, the administration’s dealings with China and countries other than the United States should not replicate the one-sided terms with the US, Japan and Europe. A more definite framework of national economic development is still needed to ensure that the Philippines is not just shifting from one dependency to another. The nation has not seen the Duterte government more solidly asserting independent foreign economic policy amid an evolving global economy.

The US remains the single-biggest foreign influence on Philippine economic policy making. US geopolitical interests in the Philippines are also unchanged.

Peace and prospects. The peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Government of the Philippines (GRP) is an opportunity to tackle and concretely begin the blueprint for much-needed social and economic reforms. Both sides agreeing on the nature of the country’s agrarian problems and  the need for free land distribution is unprecedented, but overall prospects in the continuation of the talks falter amid various political dynamics. It is unfortunate to observe that the sections of Filipino communities determined in asserting their social economic and cultural rights are among the primary targets of human rights violations.

The economic crisis and the conditions of the people will only worsen unless the Duterte government corrects its misguided, anti-people and anti-development economic policies.


To promote deeper public discussion and greater awareness on needed policy reforms for genuine development and peace in the country, IBON launched its #CASERGoals campaign today.

#CASERGoals is IBON’s attempt to involve and educate the public on these key reforms as the Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) hammer out a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). The two sides are set to negotiate for the fifth time later this month in The Netherlands to end almost five decades of insurgency in the country.

IBON aims to use #CASERGoals as its public information, education and advocacy campaign to advance progressive, pro-people, and nationalist economics as among the necessary foundations of a CASER that government and the NDFP are trying to forge.

Addressing the chronic lack of sustainable and productive jobs and livelihoods for millions of Filipinos should be one of the primary goals of a CASER, IBON stressed. This could only be achieved through building strategic local industries under national industrialization and free land distribution and state support as part of genuine agrarian reform. Reversing decades of liberalization of foreign trade and investment will also help create a favorable environment to revitalize key sectors like manufacturing and agriculture to generate economic opportunities for the people, the group said,.

Another goal should be to provide the basic economic and social services the people need to ensure their decent living and encourage their productivity, added IBON. The group said that among others, this entails rethinking the privatization of infrastructure development such as under public-private partnership (PPP).

The group also said that recent people’s actions such as the occupation by the urban poor of idle public housing units and the occupation by farmers and farmworkers of lands grabbed from them by haciendas and plantations highlight the urgency and legitimacy of demands to review established economic programs and policies and institute meaningful reforms.

The group said that the ongoing peace talks gives an opportune time to engage policy makers and the public on these urgent and long-term social and economic reforms that will finally address the underdevelopment, poverty, and injustice that feed the armed conflict. But IBON pointed out that the campaign for reforms should also be pursued beyond the peace talks through people’s struggles including constant engagement with government to influence policy making and decisions.

To kickoff its #CASERGoals campaign, IBON organized a media forum today with panels from both the Duterte administration and the NDFP negotiating teams to discuss the current proposals on a CASER. The proposed agreement would be the main agenda in the upcoming fifth round of formal peace talks on May 26 to June 2. ###



“… Raising wages – for instance, initially with a Php125 across-the-board increase in the minimum wage and then working towards a Php750 national minimum wage – and ensuring that workers receive this has a wide range of gains. This will improve the welfare of some 10 million families with main income from wages, have spillover effects where the families spend their increased purchasing power such as in the informal sector, expand domestic demand, and drive economic growth. This needs to be complemented by ensuring that workers receive all their due benefits aside from putting an end to contractualization. Wages are unfortunately seen as just a necessary evil that should be kept as low as possible in the name of competitiveness.” Change Underway? 2016 Yearend Birdtalk

From Bicol Today

​As the debate on contractualization continues towards Labor Day,​ research group IBON stated that the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE)’s Department Order (DO) 174 is only an affirmation of the anti-worker practice of contractualization. Despite workers’ demand and President Duterte’s marching order to end all forms of contractualization, the DOLE’s promotion of the “win-win solution” proposed by the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), which simply aims to regulate contractualization, will not stop violations of workers’ rights.

DO 174 lists prohibitions of various employers’ schemes that undermine workers’ right to security of tenure. These include farming out work to a “cabo” or non-regular proxy, contracting through agencies, repeating short-term hiring, and requiring workers to sign labor rights waiver documents. DO 174 also supposedly stresses on workers’ right to labor standards, self -organization, collective bargaining, and security of tenure thereby prohibiting labor only-contracting.

The new DO, however, simply updates the implementation of Article 106 of the Labor Code and rehashes most of the provisions stipulated in DO 18-A of 2011 which both merely seek to regulate contractualization. The amendments merely aim to increase contractors’ registration fee from Php25,000 to Php100,000; shorten the validity of the certificate of registration of contractors and subcontractors from three to two years; and increase substantial capital (needed capitalization) from Php3 million to Php5 million.

The DO also purportedly intends to ensure the regularization of workers upon hiring by third-party manpower agencies and granting them the same rights and benefits as regular employees, including the right to unionize. But rather than repealing existing laws on contracting and subcontracting, the DOLE ordered the strict implementation of these laws thereby affirming the practice of contractualizaton. To ensure this, it will create additional plantilla positions to fortify the existing pool of Labor Laws Compliance Officers, create regional inspection teams and review the enforcement framework of labor law standards.

IBON said that these measures only legitimize the removal of employer-employee relationship between outsourced employees and principal companies. The order absolves principal companies from directly giving the workers their due and leaves the task of respecting labor rights to the agencies. Workers’ rights to just wages and earned benefits and to form unions, negotiate for better work conditions, and to strike are also removed, observed IBON.

Workers seek an end to the prevalence of jobs that are insecure, low-paying, and lacking in benefits, through which capitalists reap profit. According to IBON, however, latest available data from June 2014 shows that one of three (34.5%) rank and file workers are non-regular. IBON also estimates that 63% or 24.4 million Filipinos are non-regular, agency-hired, informal sector or unpaid family workers who are in low-paying and insecure work with poor or no benefits as of 2016. This the new DO as well as the law that it extends do not address, IBON noted. The group underscored the need for more comprehensive economic reforms to end not only contractualization but the country’s cheap labor and anti-union policy that attract investors to do business at the expense of workers and their rights.

Photo by Bulatlat

IBON today urged the Duterte administration to ensure the distribution of the Hacienda Luisita and provide support services to farmers to show its resolve in firming up free land distribution as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform during the last round of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The group said that effectively dismantling the Hacienda Luisita land monopoly should be a top priority and could be implemented even prior to the signing of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), one of the key agreements being negotiated by the government and the NDFP as they seek to end almost five decades of armed conflict mainly caused by widespread rural landlessness.


The group stressed that such urgency is justified considering the long delay in and attempts under the previous Aquino administration to undermine the distribution of Hacienda Luisita, which have unjustly deprived its tillers of effective control over the vast sugarcane estate even after the Supreme Court (SC) has already ruled in their favor. IBON cited the controversial “tambiolo” (raffle) system that resulted in the displacement of long-time tillers in Hacienda Luisita from the land distribution ordered by the SC in 2012 and the disqualification of farmers as beneficiaries of land distribution for refusing to sign the contract on amortization. The group also pointed out that portions of Hacienda Luisita have been exempted from land acquisition and distribution in favor of the Cojuangco family that has controlled the estate for decades even when these have not been really developed for their stated industrial use.


The problematic land reform program of past administrations and the need for a sustained state support for the beneficiaries are further highlighted by reports being verified by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) that as much as 95% of the 6,212 farmer beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita have leased their lands for Php7,000 to 10,000 a year while settling for meager wages, IBON said.


Breaking up large landholdings for free distribution to farmers and providing sufficient and reliable support services to ensure that they keep and make the lands productive is seen as among the necessary first steps towards achieving peace. IBON pointed out that the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita has become the symbol of peasant landlessness and of monopoly control by powerful landlords over land and resources in the country.


IBON also reminded President Duterte that land reform and agricultural support services are among his campaign promises. Fulfilling this will not just address the urgent needs of Filipino farmers but could also boost the CASER discussion and overall peace negotiations with the NDFP.


The group added that since there is already the SC decision as well as ongoing efforts by the DAR to reverse anti-farmer policies previously carried out in the sugarcane estate, the actual transfer of effective control over the Hacienda Luisita to the farmers could be already implemented with strong support from the President even as the CASER has not been finalized yet. But IBON stressed that finalizing a CASER and its provisions for a genuine agrarian reform and rural development program is important to ensure that the distribution of Hacienda Luisita and other large landholdings in the country will be sustained and will truly benefit the farmers. ###



From Top5

Concrete steps to social and economic reforms become ever more urgent amid raging, widespread landlessness, poverty, joblessness and inequality. It is free land distribution, a strong domestic industry and expanded social services that will certainly benefit millions of Filipinos.

Poor Farmersa


Research group IBON today said that the “firmed up” agreement of government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on distribution of land for free as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform is a positive step towards the forging of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and ending the decades-old civil war in the countryside that is mainly fueled by landlessness.

In the Joint Statement released today by the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) as they closed their fourth round of formal peace talks in Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands, both parties also agreed to accelerate the process of concluding a CASER.

IBON said that the two sides concurring on free land distribution as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform is encouraging because it directly goes to the crux of the armed conflict. The group added that agrarian reform and rural development, together with national industrialization and economic development, is the foundation of a CASER that the GRP and NDFP panels are trying to hammer out through the peace talks.

Land amortization is one of the major problems that confront most agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) under government’s flawed land distribution program, IBON stressed. Citing data from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), the research group pointed out that 75% of ARBs are not able to pay land amortization and only 9.7% are already fully-paid.

IBON added that the issue of land amortization is aggravated by government’s continuing failure to actually distribute lands to the farmers. Based on data from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) balance under government’s land reform program is pegged at 621,085 hectares (has.) of which 93% are private agricultural lands, as of January 2016.

This as many large haciendas and other land monopolies of powerful landlords and big oligarchs remain intact. In an earlier statement, the group said that 80% of agricultural lands are controlled by just one third of all landowners.

IBON urged the GRP and NDFP to build on the momentum of the fourth round of peace talks to finalize a CASER that will pave the way for the implementation of free land distribution under a genuine agrarian reform and rural development program. ###


​Noting that seven out of 10 poor Filipinos live in the rural areas where landlessness remains widespread, IBON reiterated today the urgency of doable reforms such as free land distribution. The research group made the statement as various peasant organizations and land reform advocates across the country mark the “Day of the Landless” today.

IBON pointed out that land continues to be heavily concentrated in the hands of big landlords and businesses with less than a third of landowners controlling over 80% of agricultural lands in the country. Meanwhile, half of all farms are under tenancy, lease and other forms of tenurial arrangements.

The group said that government’s past land distribution programs have failed. After almost three decades of implementation, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) reported an 88% accomplishment rate. But 76% of CARP beneficiaries are unable to amortize the land granted to them under CARP and thus are at risk of losing their land.

IBON added that the Philippines can learn from developed countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan that did not require their agrarian reform beneficiaries to amortize and had the lands distributed freely.

Genuine agrarian reform, first and foremost, should involve effectively breaking up land monopolies, the group said. It should be accompanied by support services from government including credit and subsidies as well as agricultural infrastructure such as adequate and accessible farm-to-market roads, irrigation, post-harvest facilities, etc. The program must also be sustained by agricultural science and technology to boost productivity and rural industries.

Despite the many challenges, there are recent developments that are favorable to the prospects of genuine land reform and rural development, IBON said. The ongoing peace negotiations between the Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), for instance, have social and economic reforms that include agrarian reform and rural development as their top agenda.

It is thus crucial for the country’s policy makers and the public to support the peace talks to help address landlessness and chronic poverty that have been long plaguing the country, IBON stressed. ###

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